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Late for Work: Pundits Dreaming of Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry Returning Kicks

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Pundit Lists Lamar Jackson as "Wild" Kick Returner Option

On Friday, pundits discussed protecting kicker Justin Tucker from the new NFL kickoff. Now, others are coming up with the most exciting (and unlikely) returners each NFL team could field.

While CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin knows the vast majority of their list may never happen, they envisioned an entertaining world in which the Ravens' $260 million quarterback lines up to return an NFL kickoff.

According to Dubin, the Ravens have the most excitable options of any NFL team for kickoff return duties, edging out the Miami Dolphins and their track team. Along with Jackson, Dubin listed running backs Derrick Henry and Keaton Mitchell, and wide receiver Zay Flowers as players they'd like to see return a kickoff.

"Remember when I said 'almost' any team about the Dolphins? That's because the Ravens exist, and their options are much more varied than Miami's," Dubin wrote. "Lamar and Henry might be the two most interesting guys on this entire list, given their disparate skill sets and the way they can create in space. Mitchell has the electric speed, and Flowers has the joystick moves."

With Jackson's speed, agility, vision and years of demonstrating he can make the big play, it's a fun thought experiment. Alas, that's where it ends.

But if the new kickoff becomes more on physicality and in a similar vein to running the football, could there be a chance of Henry bulldozing the opening kickoff?

Brian Baldinger Confident in Ravens' Offense, O-Line Changes, and More

NFL Networks' Brian Baldinger joined Glenn Clark Radio to talk all things Ravens, from the addition of Henry to their offensive line movement, and more. The recurring theme from Baldinger was assurance, as Baldinger expressed confidence in everything the Ravens have done this offseason.

On how dynamic the backfield combination of Jackson/Henry can be.

"It could be really dynamic. Lamar's never played with a back like Henry and Derrick Henry's never played with a quarterback like Lamar," Baldinger said. "And then if you add in all of the wrinkles that Todd Monken adds to this run game that he does, which basically – your defense isn't allowed to be right. And if they execute, what they're capable of is really something special. We know they're going to run it more than they throw it and if you get the lead in the fourth quarter, it's going to be very difficult to stop it."

On the Ravens' offensive line changes and confidence in such a big transition in one year.

"Honestly, they replace offensive linemen the way Walmart stocks shelves," Baldinger said. "Andrew Vorhees was drafted last year in the seventh round coming off an ACL [injury]. He's going to step in. … Ben Cleveland's there, Roger Rosengarten was drafted to replace Morgan Moses, maybe [Daniel] Faalele is there, maybe Rosengarten beats him out. … I think when your center is strong, he makes everyone better. … I think they're going to be in pretty good shape. Good offensive line coach, they know how to coach that position, they do things in the run game no one else does, they're still going to be difficult to stop. I think they're going to be pretty good."

On the Ravens' wide receiver depth and the emergence of Isaiah Likely.

"I think they'll be in a lot of two tight end sets for sure," Baldinger said. "Isaiah really stepped up. That was apparent to everybody. I think that will continue. But Zay Flowers was their No. 1 receiver. They haven't had a No. 1 wide receiver in a long, long time. He stepped into that role and he flourished. And I think normally players' biggest jumps [occur] during their first and second year. And I think Zay will do that. Rashod Bateman – they got plenty. They got plenty to work with, and we'll see what Tez does. … But there's no question, the two tight end sets are going to be a big part of this offense."

Tyler Linderbaum, Kyle Hamilton Named Players Who Will 'Explode Into Stardom'

Safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum were first linked on draft night in 2022, both being taken in the first round by Baltimore. What's kept the first-round duo in the same breath has been their play, with both going from good rookie seasons to Pro Bowl sophomore campaigns.

In Year 3, Bleacher Report’s Ryan Fowler expects both to "explode into stardom."


"One of the NFL's most athletic interior offensive linemen, Tyler Linderbaum is everything teams desire in a cornerstone at the pivot," Fowler wrote. "Tasked with identifying the 'Mike' linebacker and relaying protections to either shoulder on each down, Linderbaum has been nothing short of sensational for Baltimore since entering the league as the No. 25 overall picks in 2022. Linderbaum, a fleet-footed pass protector with the unique ability to pull from the center spot in the run game, didn't allow a single sack on 572 pass-protection snaps in 2023, per PFF."


"Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton started only four games as a rookie in 2022, but he burst onto the scene this past season en route to Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro nods," Fowler wrote. "With his 6'4", 220-pound frame, Hamilton's alignment versatility, playmaking and instincts make him a unique weapon. After this season, we might begin to discuss him as one of the premier defenders in all of football, regardless of position. As teams continue to look for ways to counter the high-flying and explosive offenses in today's game, players like Hamilton have become necessities for defenses. He has played more than 800 career snaps in the slot and more than 340 snaps both in the box and at free safety, per PFF. Hamilton's ability to sniff out the run and shut down tight ends up the seam was a key factor in his breakout 2023 campaign. He should be even better in his third NFL season."

Collective OTA Wrap-Up Notes

Voluntary workouts concluded last week, and local media gave their takeaways before mandatory minicamp begins later this week.

Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones: "Given their standing on the depth chart, Devontez Walker and T.J. Tampa have already formed a bit of a rivalry facing off with each rookie winning reps this week. Walker has an easier path to immediate playing time, but both fourth-round picks have flashed their skills. … Charlie Kolar also provided entertainment by punting the ball as hard as he could after fighting through a defensive hold to make a diving catch for a touchdown. Earning snaps behind Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely won't be easy, but the No. 3 tight end has made some nice catches."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Defensive back Tre Swilling, who seems to get his hands on at least one ball in every practice, hauled in his latest interception by just being in the right place at the right time. Trying to get the offense into position for Tucker to kick a field goal, rookie Devin Leary sailed a throw in the middle of the field that hit Swilling right between the numbers. He caught it and immediately went down to the ground. … Fourth-round cornerback T.J. Tampa got some individual coaching from Harbaugh. As the action was headed toward the other end of the field, Harbaugh was giving Tampa a technique demonstration behind the play. Tampa has gotten beat on a few big plays during OTAs. However, he's also made his share of plays, where you can see how he utilizes his length — he's 6-foot-1, 194 pounds — to his advantage. On Thursday, Jackson tried to hit second-year receiver Sean Ryan for a touchdown. Tampa, though, was in good position on Ryan and knocked the ball away."

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer: "Along the defensive line, Broderick Washington has been one of the Ravens' most impressive returners. … Washington's impressive strength has translated better into pass rush success in OTAs, and he should remain a reliable run defender. Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion 'Pepe' Williams have been sticky in coverage, with each grabbing an interception in practice."

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