Eisenberg: Ravens Send Message to Future Opponents, and Six Other Minicamp Thoughts

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Thompson stands out in the undrafted rookie watch.

Some observations from the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp:

1) The Ravens sent a message to future opponents.

Like that famous line about Las Vegas, what happens on the Ravens’ practice field usually stays there.

It’s true for most if not all NFL teams. They zealously guard their tactical inclinations, preferring to keep their opponents in the dark to ratchet up the element of surprise.

But that didn’t happen this week with the two-quarterback plays the Ravens have drawn up that get Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on the field at the same time.

The Ravens rolled them out very publicly at their minicamp practices, giving not only local and national media members a look but also dozens of fans who were invited to practice. The coaches and players then were asked about the plays and discussed them at length in podium interviews.

It amounted to an introduction by trumpet blare, as opposed to the usual “behind closed doors” silence. Not surprisingly given the interest in Jackson, the tantalizing news of him sharing the field with Flacco made waves, sparking prominent stories on major websites and conversations among national talking heads.

My guess is that’s exactly what the Ravens wanted.

There’s no telling how often they’ll pair Flacco and Jackson on the field this fall, but by letting the whole football world in on what they’re thinking, they sent a message to their opponents that game-planning for the Ravens just got more complicated.

At the very least, those opponents now have to start preparing for the possibility of seeing Flacco and Jackson line up together.

No matter what happens going forward, planting that seed is a good idea, if you ask me.

2) We could see a different look along the defensive line.

Although it can be dangerous to read too much into minicamp lineups, the Ravens seemingly are contemplating a change in their starting defensive interior.

A year ago, they used Brandon Williams at tackle, Michael Pierce at nose guard and Brent Urban at end to start the season. Carl Davis stepped in when Urban suffered a season-ending injury.

At this week’s minicamp, the starting three was Urban, Williams and Willie Henry, with Williams manning the “nose” slot and Henry at tackle. Pierce, who made 13 starts in 2017, ran with the backups.

If that’s still the lineup in September, it’s a major promotion for Henry, a 2016 fourth-round draft pick who played little as a rookie but provided energy and athleticism when given a chance last season. He finished tied for third on the team with 3.5 sacks, and it seems the Ravens believe he can bolster the interior pass rush.

This starting alignment also would move Williams back to the position where he developed into one of the league’s better run stuffers. The Ravens moved him last season so he could team with Pierce on what was envisioned as an immovable front wall, but the defense ended up yielding the third-highest single-season rushing total in franchise history.

So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Wink Martindale, the new defensive coordinator, seemingly has a different plan.

3) Young safety moving up. If I’m Chuck Clark, the second-year safety, I’m feeling pretty good after hearing Martindale say this about me: “You’re going to continue to see his role expand.”

4) Good week for Tim White. If I had to single out one on-the-bubble wide receiver whose stock seemingly surged this week, I would go with Tim White. The former undrafted free agent ran routes like a veteran and caught a ton of balls without a glaring drop. He’s also a talented return man, and thus, an increasingly serious candidate for a roster spot.

5) Undrafted rookie watch. Mark Thompson, an undrafted rookie running back from Florida, is very much a longshot candidate to make the team, but he was in the middle of a lot of action this week. Just saying.

6) Cornerback depth. The Ravens are so deep in quality cornerbacks that they could easily trade one. But they should hold on to Tavon Young, who “brings an element we were missing” in 2017, according to safety Eric Weddle. That element, presumably, is a consistently effective slot corner.

7) Monitoring offensive line health. It wasn’t good news that back spasms forced Alex Lewis to sit out the minicamp. Lewis projects as one of the team’s best offensive linemen, but he has struggled to stay healthy. On a happier note, it was encouraging to see Nico Siragusa seemingly able to go all-out, a major step in his recovery from a significant knee injury.

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