John Harbaugh Talks About Players Returning From Injury, Impressions of Lamar Jackson and Wide Receivers
With the Ravens coming off a season in which they had historically bad injury luck, it's no surprise that Head Coach John Harbaugh spent a lot of his interview with SiriusXM's Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan at training camp Tuesday fielding questions about the progress of players who are rehabbing.
When asked about running back J.K. Dobbins, who returned to the practice field this week for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in the final preseason game nearly one year ago, Harbaugh said: "I think we got to the point with the rehab [that] our rehab people felt like he's done as much as he can in here. The next step is to get out there on the field, so how he does in the next week to two weeks, to me, is going to tell the story. You have to get in shape. His leg got real tired yesterday just through the individual period because he's been rehabbing. The range of motion, quickness, all that kind of stuff, extending it when he strides, those are the kinds of things that will tell the story."
Here's what Harbaugh had to say about rehabbing left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (Achilles) and running back Gus Edwards (knee): "Ronnie is looking good. I think he's got a shot for the first [regular season] game. Of course, you want those guys to practice two-three weeks. Tyus, the same thing. Gus, we'll see. Gus is really doing well. He's kind of a patient rehab guy. I don't know that it'll be the first week. But I think before the season's over he's going to be rolling and ready to go."
As for second-round outside linebacker David Ojabo (Achilles), Harbaugh said: "He swears he's going to be back midseason at the latest. He's walking around now, he's starting to move. I told him it's time to get in the weight room; we've got to get rid of those beach legs and get some football legs back underneath you."
Harbaugh also discussed the Ravens' passing game, specifically the team's young receiving corps and how Lamar Jackson has been throwing in training camp.
"I get it. It's an unproven [wide receiver] group, and they're determined to make a name for themself," Harbaugh said. "My goal is that you know about all those guys when the season's over. We're working hard. The timing looks good. I feel good about our passing game in practice. I can't wait for Thursday night just to see who steps up and makes plays in a real game. So we've got a lot to evaluate there."
On Jackson: "He's been great. He's always been a leader. I think he's even more vocal than ever, probably to a whole other level in the way he's carrying himself, and the demands he puts onto himself he's putting on the guys. He's had a great camp. He's throwing the ball great. Yeah, you have to go out and do it in games and everything, but we've seen him in games; it's not like it's too big for him. I'm just very, very happy with him. He's one of my favorite people in the whole world. He's a joy to coach every day. You've got a quarterback like that and you're a head coach, that's what you dream of, a guy like Lamar Jackson. I couldn't be happier with him. I love seeing him every day and I can't wait to see him play this year."
Jackson also talked with Miller and Kirwan on Tuesday, and he noted that, as he enters his fifth season, he's making more suggestions to Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman on plays.
"We did something like that today when [Rashod Bateman] caught that fade in the end zone," Jackson said. "I went to G-Ro and I was like, 'I want to do this right here.' He said, 'All right, go ahead.' And we went for it and we scored."
James Proche, Odafe Oweh Are 'Most Pleasant Surprise' of Training Camp
As Harbaugh said, the Ravens' wide receivers are determined to make a name for themselves, and James Proche II has embodied that mindset.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer said the third-year receiver has been the most pleasant surprise of training camp.
"Proche didn't want to talk much about his camp performance last week, but the numbers speak for themselves," Shaffer wrote. "With injuries sidelining Rashod Bateman for a few recent practices and [Devin] Duvernay for a week, Proche sure seems like the Ravens wide receiver with the most catches in camp. He's torched cornerbacks in one-on-one drills and caught balls at every level in team drills and still made time for droves of fans after each practice. Proche's smaller frame will always make him an imperfect fit in coordinator Greg Roman's 'medieval' offense, but it's hard to imagine him going weeks without seeing the ball this season, as was the case in 2021."
Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh was The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker's choice for the Ravens' most pleasant surprise this summer because the 2021 first-round pick has been exceeding the high expectations for him.
"Pleasant surprise probably isn't the exact phrasing for what we've seen from Odafe Oweh. He showed immense promise as a rookie, and Ravens coaches had not been shy about forecasting a leap to stardom in Year 2," Walker wrote. "But Oweh has outperformed the rosiest projections, flashing as the team's most dominant defensive player one repetition after another. You'd think he was a member of the offensive backfield for how much time he spends there after beating would-be blockers. The Ravens remain perilously thin at outside linebacker, but if Oweh looks this good against other teams, he'll mask that roster deficiency."
Three Trade Proposals to Acquire Roquan Smith
As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, the Ravens have been named a top landing spot for Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith if he's traded.
What would the Ravens have to give up to acquire Smith? Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried came up with three trade proposals:
Ravens trade a second-round pick for Smith.
"There aren't many recent examples of a talented off-ball linebacker on expiring contracts getting traded. The New York Jets traded Jonathan Vilma to the New Orleans Saints for third and fourth-round picks back in 2008. Eight years later, the New England Patriots shipped Pro Bowler Jamie Collins to Cleveland for a third-round pick. It's safe to suggest that the 25-year-old Smith would command more than Vilma and Collins did, but how much more? A second-round pick feels like a good starting point."
Ravens tradeathird, fourth, and fifth-roundpicksfor Smith.
"This would leave the Ravens without a pick in the third and fourth rounds, although they would still possess a fifth-rounder thanks to the Shaun Wade trade from a year ago. On top of that, the Ravens love to stockpile compensatory picks and they could be in line for some again next offseason which would curb those losses. Not to mention, after an 11-player draft class, the Ravens likely aren't looking to make as many picks this time around. The Bears don't land a top-60 pick which would surely leave many fans irate, but they do add three mid-round picks that could be used to bolster a thin and rebuilding roster. Is Smith worth more than this in a vacuum? Absolutely. But the reality of the situation is that the Bears might either have to trade Smith or let him walk for free in the offseason. Any leverage they may have had is gone."
Ravens trade a second-round pick and OG Ben Powers for Smith and a seventh-round pick.
"Ben Powers enters the preseason in competition for the starting left guard job in Baltimore. There's still every chance he beats out the likes of Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland, and Patrick Mekari for the starting job, but he also could start elsewhere. The Bears are set to begin the regular season with former Ravens castoff Michael Schofield as their starting right guard. Schofield was with the Ravens last summer and failed to make the roster or even the practice squad. That's the player the Bears are relying on as their everyday starter at right guard. Powers, while unspectacular, would undoubtedly be an upgrade."
Mike Macdonald's Creativity Is One of the Keys for Defense to Regain Dominance
NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha noted that the Ravens defense is entering this season in the unfamiliar position of having something to prove. After decades of having a dominant defense, the Ravens are looking to show that last year's subpar performance — they were last in the league in passing defense and 19th in scoring defense — was an anomaly that can largely be attributed to injuries.
"In our first (defense) meeting in training camp, we said everybody in the room has something to prove, myself included," said Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, who spent seven seasons on the Ravens' coaching staff before becoming Michigan's defensive coordinator last year. "That's part of our identity this year. It's everybody."
Chadiha said Macdonald's creativity is one of the keys to how quickly the defense returns to form.
"Macdonald turned heads [at Michigan] with his inventive schemes and ability to unlock the potential in star pass rushers like Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, the latter of whom Baltimore selected in the second round of this year's draft," Chadiha wrote. "The best thing he did in that job was realize that it's better to let the talent dictate a defense's personality instead of relying too much on trusted schemes.
"Macdonald came into Michigan thinking he might have to blitz more to harass opposing offenses. He quickly learned that he had two NFL-caliber edge rushers who could provide plenty of pressure on their own. Macdonald is now going through the same feeling-out process with the Ravens. He's seeing the value in not relying on his familiarity with some players who were here before he left or his comfort with the system that his predecessor, Don 'Wink 'Martindale, ran for the previous four seasons."