5 Things to Watch for In Ravens-Rams Joint Practices


The Ravens and Los Angeles Rams will practice with each other for the next two days at the Under Armour Performance Center, and there's no shortage of interesting storylines.

Both teams have very talented rosters. The up-and-coming Rams reached the playoffs last year under first-year Head Coach Sean McVay.

"It's a great test for us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "You want to compete on your one-on-one matchups. You want to handle yourself well. It's a chance to improve against a great, very talented football team."

Here are five things to watch:

1. One-on-one drills between wide receivers and cornerbacks

The Ravens wide receivers have been on fire throughout training camp, even versus Baltimore's talented and deep pool of cornerbacks. John Brown, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore have been making plays every day.

Now it's onto another tough challenge as the Rams have a dynamic cornerback duo of Marcus Peters (two Pro Bowls) and Aqib Talib (five Pro Bowls). Add in Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner and it's a formidable secondary.

"I'm excited," Brown said. "At the end of the day, it's ball. Going against the other guys, it'll just show how competitive you are and just have some fun."

Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram seemed even more amped up, saying, "I love it!"

"I think we're tired of going against each other, to a certain extent," Engram said. "Obviously, [the Rams are] a really good football team. It'll be a good challenge for our guys, in particular our young guys that have only had one game under their belt and didn't get extensive reps."

On the flip side, Baltimore's corners will also get a good test against the Rams' talented wide receiver corps of speedster Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and others.

2. The Crabtree-Talib feud

All other one-on-one battles pale in comparison to the intrigue of the Crabtree-Talib matchup.

When Crabtree signed with the Ravens and Talib was traded to the Rams this offseason, it looked like it would spell the end of their two-year spat. They were out of the same conference, and the Ravens and Rams aren't scheduled to play each other until 2019 in Los Angeles.

However, the joint practices bring them together once again, and it's anybody's guess as to how it will turn out.

As background, the feud started when Talib broke Crabtree’s chain in their regular-season finale of the 2016 season. Why? Talib told the Denver Post that seeing Crabtree wear it was "growing on me." Crabtree responded, saying, "You aren't tough."

The two met again last season and Crabtree wore another chain. As Crabtree was blocking Talib, the cornerback once again ripped off his chain. Crabtree drove him into the sideline and slammed him into the turf, which incited a bigger scrum. Both players threw punches at each other, were ejected and suspended two games (reduced to one)

Can the two squash their beef? Will they be kept apart? Will Crabtree wear his chain?

3. Battle in the trenches

The Rams could help the Ravens sort out their best starting offensive line combination.

Unfortunately, reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is holding out. However, Los Angeles picked up veteran Ndamukong Suh, a five-time Pro Bowler, this offseason in free agency.

The Ravens have had many battles with Suh in recent years. Last season, Suh grabbed backup quarterback Ryan Mallett by the throat. Suh said he's excited to face off against Baltimore again.

"Ultimately, knowing the Ravens and playing them umpteen amount of times — and we had some terrible losses against them the last two years when I was in Miami," Suh said. "But more importantly, I look forward to the ability and pleasure to go against a guy named Marshal Yanda, a guy that I have the ultimate respect for and love going against each and every opportunity that I get a chance."

Yanda (shoulder) will return to the practice field Monday, but he will only participate in individual drills and will not play in Thursday's game, so Suh will be disappointed.

Still, it will be a good battle inside for the Ravens' blockers against Suh and Michael Brockers. Baltimore's coaches are still looking to sort out who their starting center and left guard will be this season.

4. Baltimore's front seven gets tested

More good tests, and this time with a local flavor!

The Rams have the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in running back Todd Gurley, who ran for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 64 passes for 788 yards and six more scores last season.

Gurley was born in Baltimore and grew up here before moving to North Carolina for high school. At 6 years old, he was so dominant in a Baltimore Pop Warner league that he was forced to play on his brother's team against kids aged 9 to 11.

Gurley rooted for the Ravens as a kid, and said his favorite players were safety Ed Reed and running backs Jamal Lewis and Willis McGahee. He's still a big Baltimore Orioles fan.

Rams starting right tackle Rob Havenstein is from Mt. Airy and played at Linganore High School. Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth spent 11 years as a Cincinnati Bengal and is one of the blockers Terrell Suggs respects the most.

Baltimore's run defense and pass rushers will have their hands full in practice.

5. The Harbaugh-McVay connection

Harbaugh and McVay were in close contact orchestrating the joint practices, and they'll undoubtedly chat with each other a bunch over the next couple days. It could be the start of a new friendship.

Harbaugh and McVay both played football at Miami (Ohio). Harbaugh was a defensive back who graduated in 1984. McVay was a wide receiver who graduated in 2008.

Asked Sunday whether they would do any catching up from their college days, Harbaugh laughed.

"We had different days. My days were a little before his days," Harbaugh said.

"I'm sure we'll talk. I'm very impressed with Sean. Obviously, I'm very proud of him being from Miami. … He's done really well, and [Miami (OH)] is 'The Cradle of Coaches.'"

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