Eisenberg: Issue or Non-Issue From Ravens OTAs

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It’s time for another edition of that popular game show, Issue or Non-Issue, when I judge whether various Ravens topics are legitimately important or … not.

My list is long so let’s get to it!

Topic: The pass rush without Gerald McCoy

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue

Why: As you know, the Ravens didn’t land McCoy, the star defensive lineman who signed with Carolina instead of Baltimore or Cleveland. But the fact that they pursued him so intently is telling. McCoy’s strength is his ability to generate pressure from the interior. Having lost several of their top pressure-cookers from a year ago, the Ravens are looking for new sources they know they can count on. They have some interesting candidates, but they’re still looking.

Topic: The quality of the defensive interior without Gerald McCoy

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-Issue

Why: Although he would have bolstered the pass rush, McCoy was going to be a bit of a luxury item. The Ravens are already stout up the middle with Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. They’ve got useful rotation pieces such as Chris Wormley and Willie Henry. They drafted a promising run stuffer (Daylon Mack) and signed another (Gerald Willis) as a rookie free agent. A hulking second-year player, Zach Seiler, is angling for more playing time. It’s a solid group.

Topic: Lamar Jackson’s spirals

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-Issue

Why: As expected, Jackson’s passing is receiving heavy scrutiny in open practices. My observation is it’s improved quite a bit. His fundamentals are sounder, and he looks more polished and sure, especially on the short-range passes, the layups, that were a source of trouble at times in 2018. Yes, there’s still an occasional wobbly toss. But even some of those get where they need to go. Frankly, if you watched a practice without knowing Jackson’s passing was such a point of focus, you wouldn’t identify it as a potential trouble spot.

Topic: Any lingering effects of the Lisfranc foot injury that has sidelined wide receiver Marquise (Hollywood) Brown throughout spring practices

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue

Why: The Ravens’ top draft pick is vigorously rehabbing. Watching him walk and run lightly, you would never know he’s injured. The Ravens are optimistic he’ll be on the field at training camp. But he had two screws inserted in his foot, which can cause a setback, as Hayden Hurst, last year’s top pick, can attest. Brown may well be fine once he’s cleared to practice and play. But the Ravens will breathe easier when they see that.

Topic: Gus Edwards’ state of mind after he came out of nowhere to become the No. 1 back and lead the Ravens in rushing last season, only to see the team sign Mark Ingram II to a sizable free agent contract and draft Justice Hill

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-Issue

Why: I wondered about this until I heard Edwards speak to the media after Thursday’s OTA practice. One would think he’d earned a role going forward, but now he really has to battle for playing time with an accomplished veteran ahead of him on the depth chart and a speedy rookie behind him. No matter. Edwards has the same, humble mindset as a year ago. The former undrafted free agent doesn’t believe he’s owed anything. Meanwhile, he has slimmed down in hopes of getting faster and becoming a target in the passing game. It all bodes well for him picking up where he left off in terms of effectiveness, even if he’ll now share his position more.

Topic: Populating the special teams with contributors

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue

Why: Admittedly, it’s an annual challenge for every team to find quality special-teams guys in the lower rungs of their depth chart. But the Ravens could face a tougher-than-usual situation in 2019, albeit for a good reason: the abundance of quality defensive backs, wide receivers and running backs on their 90-man roster. They’re liable to want to hold onto some talented guys (and possibly a third quarterback) regardless if they’re effective on special teams. But they also want to be better on special teams than they were a year ago. It shapes up as quite a tightrope to walk.

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