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Late for Work: Lamar Jackson's 'Voice Lessons' Are a Talking Point at Minicamp 

Team huddle
Team huddle

Lamar Jackson's 'Voice Lessons' Are a Talking Point at Minicamp

Lamar Jackson can beat teams with his arm and his legs. A developing weapon in the two-time MVP's arsenal is his voice, specifically his pre-snap cadence.

"Jackson is perhaps the NFL's most gifted improviser, capable of turning nothing into something on any given play, but the Ravens' focus at organized team activities and this week's mandatory minicamp has been on what more he can do before the snap," The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "So much of what makes Jackson special cannot be taught. His offseason voice lessons are a welcome exception."

A quarterback's cadence can cause defensive players to commit offside penalties, but Shaffer said the value of cadence goes beyond penalty yardage.

"The NFL's best pre-snap operators change plays effectively and efficiently," Shaffer wrote. "They get defenses to show their hand before the snap. They cut through the din of opposing crowds. The Ravens' hope for 2024 is that Jackson can be as hard to pin down before the snap as he is after it."

The Baltimore Sun's Brian Wacker said the focus on cadence this offseason could in part be a response to how the Kansas City Chiefs defense slowed the Ravens offense in the AFC Championship Game.

"Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo mostly baffled the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player with a mix of man and zone coverage, as well as blitzes," Wacker wrote. "According to Next Gen Stats, Kansas City blitzed on 43.5% of Jackson's dropbacks, including four all-out blitzes. … One way to help negate the blitz is to change protection and routes at the line of scrimmage, as well as altering the cadence."

Wacker noted that there have been several false starts during minicamp, but that's to be expected.

"You can't have cadence as a tool unless you do it and go through the growing pains of it," Quarterbacks Coach Tee Martin said. "Guys are going to jump offsides here and there. With the amount of communication we're doing up front, with the amount of play changing we're doing up front, it's going to come with some of that, but we have to have that in our division, especially for home games with the pass rushers that we're facing – not only just in our division, but throughout the AFC – and the guys we're playing when you look at our schedule.

"It has been a tool in the past, and we're just going to continue to take it to the next level. Lamar is outstanding at it, whether we're going non-verbal on the road or whether we're going verbal at home, we have a lot of different ones that gives us an advantage so that people don't know when we're snapping the ball and slowing them down a little bit."

Roquan Smith Says Ravens Are Determined to 'Finish the Deal' This Season

Roquan Smith said the Ravens' AFC Championship Game loss still stings, but the All-Pro inside linebacker and his teammates are using it as motivation to take the next step this season.

"You grind so you can put yourself back in that position but knowing you don't start the year in the AFC Championship Game, you have to grind your way back," Smith said on "The Rich Eisen Show." "I know each and every person in this locker room is very hungry for that, and knowing the type of team that we have and all the potential that we have. But it's about taking that next step and finishing the deal as opposed to coming close.

"There are no moral victories in this game, so you have to go out and take every single thing that you want, and we're gonna do that by any means necessary, and that's why we're preparing the way that we're preparing this offseason. … It's going to be a tough year, but we wouldn't like it any other way but the tough road."

When asked for his thoughts on the Ravens playing at Kansas City in the season-opener, Smith said: "If there's a father or mother taking his or her kid to the game, after that game I want that little kid to say to his mom or dad, 'When I grow up, I want to play the game the way No. 0 plays the game.' That's the mark that I'm trying to leave out there."

Smith also talked about what new teammate Derrick Henry brings to the Ravens.

"I'm excited for him to show the world what he's going to do in our offense and I think it's going to be popcorn season. Get your popcorn ready," Smith said. "… I think a lot of defenses gotta get ready and they gotta put their big boy pads on because it's coming down hill right at you."

In Re-Ranking of 2020 Draft Class, Ravens Got No. 1 Player at Two Positions

The Athletic's Nick Baumgardner looked back at the 2020 draft and ranked the five best players at each position from that class.

Justin Madubuike, the 71st-overall pick and third defensive tackle to come off the board, was No. 1 at his position.

"Madubuike is basically the definition of a Baltimore Ravens draft pick," Baumgardner wrote. "He had every physical trait a DT could need when the Ravens found him in the third round, just without the consistency. His first two seasons were mostly developmental. He's exploded over the last year and a half, producing 18.5 sacks since 2022 (13 last year) and becoming one of football's premier pocket pushers. Just a terrific example of scouting, planning, development and work ethic."

Former Raven Patrick Queen took the top spot at inside linebacker. He was the last of four inside linebackers taken in the first round.

Former Raven Geno Stone was No. 5 at safety. The Ravens landed him in the seventh round.

Trenton Simpson Named to PFF's All-Breakout Team

The Ravens are expecting big things from inside linebacker Trenton Simpson in Year 2, and Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness believes the 2023 third-round pick will deliver.

Simpson was named to McGuinness' 2024 All-Breakout Team.

"Simpson steps into the role vacated by Patrick Queen next to Roquan Smith in the Ravens' defense, and they will hope his Week 18 performance carries over into his first season as a starter," McGuinness wrote. "On 26 snaps against the Pittsburgh Steelers that week, 21 of which came against the run, he registered three tackles resulting in a defensive stop."

Smith said this week that he likes what he's seen from Simpson this offseason.

"I think he's going to surprise a lot of people," Smith said. "He's still learning for sure, but I think the way that he doesn't make the same mistakes over and over every day – he learns from his mistakes, and I think that's crucial when you're young, being able to not make the same mistakes twice. I know he doesn't understand how fast, how explosive and how powerful he is, but once he actually understands that, which I think will be very soon, watch out."

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