The Ravens' first organized team activities this week left plenty to buzz about.
Here are various thoughts on Ravens OTAs in 50 words or less:
Lamar Jackson's absence was unfortunately the biggest story to come out of Owings Mills this week. As Jackson reminded everyone Friday, it's voluntary. Practicing with your teammates, meeting with coaches, etc. is always a positive, but there are thousands of reps and meetings still on the horizon.
It sounds like Jackson is planning to arrive at OTAs soon. It's clear he doesn't appreciate the hubbub. He fired back at NBC Sports' Chris Simms, who said "I just don't get" Jackson's absence. Jackson doesn't like being compared to Tom Brady, saying "Lamar wants to be Lamar."
We haven't seen Kyle Fuller on the field yet and Marcus Peters is still working his way back, but there's a strong argument that the Ravens have the league's best secondary on paper. As Marlon Humphrey put it Wednesday, it now comes down to the players (and health).
Humphrey admitted that his play "got a little sloppy" last year. He gave up too many big plays and touchdowns before his injury. Humphrey getting back to his elite 2019 and 2020 play is critical. Having Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton over the top will help Humphrey too.
Brandon Stephens is now a corner/safety instead of a safety/corner, Head Coach John Harbaugh said. Kevon Seymour, who was re-signed this offseason, had a strong practice. New Giants DC Wink Martindale joked he learned last year "don’t go to DoorDash to find a backup corner." Baltimore's depth is better/versatile.
A major question for the defense is whether the loaded secondary can make up for a lack of pass rush. Baltimore wanted a reunion with Za'Darius Smith, but it fell through. Rookie David Ojabo won't be ready at the start of the season. Tyus Bowser's Achilles return timeline is unknown.
The Ravens should get better pass rush from the interior with the signing of Michael Pierce, another year of growth from Justin Madubuike, and addition of Travis Jones. Baltimore is hopeful that Calais Campbell will have a resurgent season. But the edge rusher room is still a work in progress.
It wouldn't be surprising to see a reunion with Justin Houston this offseason, but most of the improvement (at least until Ojabo is ready) will have to come from a second-year jump from Odafe Oweh. He started hot last year, but a bum shoulder limited (and ultimately shelved) him.
Despite some drops Wednesday, I agree with Harbaugh on giving the young wide receivers a chance to spread their wings. "We all like to cling to the known, the names," Harbaugh said. Practices are for evaluation though, and they'll need to practice well to stiff-arm a veteran addition.
Rashod Bateman came off as a budding star in his "Studio 44" appearance. He's embracing the No. 1 role after the Marquise Brown trade. He studies the tape of route-running artist Davante Adams. Bateman had a frustrating day at Wednesday's OTA practice, but many bright days are ahead.
During the fantastic insider "Wired" episode from rookie minicamp, Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin noted two undrafted wideouts that have impressed him so far: Fort Valley State's Shemar Bridges and Alabama's Slade Bolden. With at least one wide receiver spot up for grabs, they become players to watch.
The running back competition is going to be good this summer as J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards rehab. Veteran addition Mike Davis and rookie Tyler Badie were seen as front-runners, but don't rule out Justice Hill. He seemed to be full speed Wednesday, which is impressive after his Achilles tear.