Impressions and other thoughts (all based on an admittedly brief sample size consisting of last week's open-to-the-media Organized Team Activity practice):
Ravens May Get What They Wished for With Hayden Hurst
From the outset, Hayden Hurst has been the Ravens' '"other" 2018 first-round draft pick, i.e., the one who isn't Lamar Jackson.
Jackson certainly fielded more questions at their shared introductory press conference last month, and not surprisingly, more eyes were focused on the new quarterback, as opposed to the new tight end, when the team practiced before the media at the Under Armour Performance Center last week.
It's easy to forget the Ravens took Hurst before they picked Jackson, anointing him as the top tight end in the 2018 draft when they selected him No. 25 overall.
Watching practice last week, it was easy to see what they like so much about him.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Hurst was a huge target, but he also was fast and agile enough to get downfield and get open, and his hands were the surest of any tight end on the field. I was reminded of the succinct praise offered by Joe Hortiz, the Ravens' director of college scouting, after Hurst was selected: "He catches everything."
With its emphasis on two distinctly different skills – blocking and catching – tight end can be a tough position for rookies. It's not always easy to carve out significant playing time. But the Ravens drafted Hurst, 25, for need, because they lacked a primary tight end. Their hope is he'll be able to contribute right away, and if first impressions count for anything, they might get their wish.
Flacco-Crabtree Off to a Better Start Than Flacco-Maclin
Joe Flacco made it clear in his session with the media that he is enjoying throwing to Michael Crabtree, describing the Ravens' new receiver as a "crafty" and original route runner.
"He knows when to break away from guys and how to get open. He's really good at doing that," said Flacco, who added that throwing to Crabtree in practice would help him learn how the two can connect in games.
That's the sound of a quarterback and receiver developing chemistry, and it struck me that Flacco and Crabtree are getting the opportunity that Flacco and Jeremy Maclin did NOT get in 2017 because Maclin didn't sign until June and Flacco missed all of training camp with a back injury. Their first chance to really work together came in the regular-season opener.
Maclin's single season in Baltimore was disappointing and he remains without employment for 2018, which doesn't reflect well on what scouts think of him now. But an underrated aspect of his time here was the fact that he and the quarterback didn't have enough practice time to develop an on-field rapport.
This year, Crabtree signed in March, Flacco appears healthy and they're off to a much better start.
Time to Stop Overlooking Offensive Lineman Jermaine Eluemunor
Second-year offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor gets overlooked in conversations about his position group, but that might need to change.
With Marshal Yanda still sidelined as he recovers from an ankle injury, Eluemunor ran with the starting O-line last week alongside tackles Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst, guard Alex Lewis and center Matt Skura.
Yanda is expected to reclaim a starting job, likely consigning Eluemunor to a reserve role. But the fact that the 2017 fifth-round pick was a first-teamer in practice last week after starting two games as a rookie indicates that the Ravens see him a viable puzzle piece who could eventually claim a larger role.
Rewarding a Point on Kickoffs Is Not a Bad Idea
Although he was mostly just having fun with the idea, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that the group of special teams coaches and experts who recently helped re-write the kickoff rules actually discussed whether to award a team a point for kicking the ball through the uprights on a kickoff.
That rule is a staple in the Canadian Football League, which I covered for a couple of years in the 1990s when Baltimore had a team. While the CFL's brand of football couldn't compare overall with the NFL's, it was wide-open and exciting. And the kickoff point, known as a "single" or "rouge," was one of those rules that made the CFL interesting.
I'm all for the NFL adopting it.