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Late for Work 5/21: Lamar Jackson Does Ray Lewis Dance; Hayden Hurst Lets Hair Down; Joe Flacco MVP?


Lamar Jackson Does Ray Lewis Dance; Hayden Hurst Lets Hair Down

I learned this weekend that the Ravens' pair of first-rounders knows how to play to the cameras.

Tight end Hayden Hurst and quarterback Lamar Jackson put some moves on display at the NFL Rookie Premiere, and I hereby request that they bring those moves to M&T Bank Stadium in the form of touchdown celebrations (hopefully sooner than later).

Both dressed in full Ravens uniform at the Panini America trading card photo shoot and jersey reveal, and Jackson did Ray Lewis' famous tunnel dance while Hurst "let his hair down."

The Hall of Famer himself approved, tweeting a fire emoji%20%3ca%20href=%22,%202018%3c/a%3e%3c/blockquote%3e) next to Jackson's version of the iconic dance. Something tells me that Jackson would have a little more Lewis-like intensity should he bust this out in a game.

Meanwhile …

Oh my goodness. Thank you, Hayden. Thank you. Don't be surprised if Hurst is featured in future shampoo commercials. 

Hurst has already been compared to Marvel's superhero, Thor, by former teammates and ESPN, but Hurst's super power has to be in those long flowing red locks instead of a hammer.

Purple suits these guys well.

ESPN Predicts Joe Flacco Will Be Ravens' MVP in 2018

Nothing would be better for the Ravens than if ESPN's prediction comes true.

So much talk since April's NFL Draft has been about when Jackson will get on the field, but the best-case scenario has always been that he develops behind Joe Flacco and doesn't become the starter until at least the 2019 season.

There are plenty who believe Jackson's presence will raise Flacco's game, but ESPN believes it will raise so much that he'll become the Ravens’ MVP this year.

"Sure, the more popular picks would be running back Alex Collins, linebacker Terrell Suggs or even kicker Justin Tucker," the website wrote. "But Flacco has more motivation to produce this season. The Ravens drafted Jackson in the first round, and Flacco needs to get out of his five-year rut if he wants to see that $18.5 million base salary in 2019."

Flacco hasn't played to the level of his 2012 Super Bowl campaign the last few years, partly because of a revolving door at offensive coordinator, a lack of weapons and injuries. But whatever the reason, Flacco has never given excuses and knows that he must improve and help raise everyone around him.

He has always played well under increased pressure, which is partly why he's gotten the nicknames "Joe Cool" and "January Joe." Flacco's 10 playoff wins are the second-most of any NFL quarterback since 2008, only trailing the New England Patriots' Tom Brady (11).

"Here's betting that Flacco plays inspired football," ESPN wrote. "The last time he faced this type of pressure was in 2012, and he responded by being the Super Bowl MVP. No one is predicting that performance, but Flacco will be an MVP again -- this time, the MVP of the Ravens."

CBS Ranks Ravens QB/WR/RB Trio No. 31 in League

ESPN gave the optimistic point of view, while CBS is more pessimistic.

CBS thinks Baltimore has the 31st-ranked quarterback/receiver/running back combination with Flacco, Michael Crabtree and Alex Collins.

The only trio to rank worse was the New York Jets, featuring quarterback Josh McCown, running back Isaiah Crowell and wide receiver Robby Anderson.

"This will almost certainly be Flacco's last season in Baltimore and that reality is related to where the Ravens find themselves here," wrote CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson. "The offense has been flaccid for a long time. The problems start with Flacco, who ranked 32nd in total value among all quarterbacks last season, but also extends to the wide receivers."

The Ravens completely rebuilt their receiver corps this offseason, moving on from Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Campanaro. They were replaced by free agents Crabtree, John "Smokey" Brown and Willie Snead IV. All three receivers had down seasons last year, and the Ravens are banking on a resurgence.

"Yes, Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith and Mike Wallace have all had some success, but all were in their 30s and near the end of very good careers," Wilson wrote. "Which brings us to Michael Crabtree, who scored 25 touchdowns in three seasons in Oakland but had just 10.7 yards per catch last season.

"Collins, meanwhile, has the potential to be one of the league's best young backs, and he could go a long way in making life easier for Flacco and wide receivers corps that enters the summer with plenty of questions."

Biggest Reason to Look Forward to 2018 Season

Bleacher Report named one reason for each NFL team to look forward to the 2018 season, and the Ravens' breakout running back was named for Baltimore.

Collins was one of the winners of draft weekend because the Ravens didn't select any running backs with their 12 picks, which means he'll go into the summer as the hands-down favorite for the starting role.

"In 2015 and 2016, only two NFL teams rushed for fewer yards than the Baltimore Ravens, and that lack of balance could help explain why the Ravens failed to post a winning record or make the playoffs in each of those seasons," wrote Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon.  

"But that running game finally received a boost courtesy of surprise breakout back Alex Collins." 

Despite not permanently winning the starting job until Week 6, Collins still almost rushed for 1,000 yards. He finished the season ranked ninth in the NFL with a 4.6 yards-per-attempt average. 

There's little doubt that Collins can break the 1,000-yard milestone this season, but that doesn't mean he'll be a three-down back. After he was cut from the Seattle Seahawks last year and then moved to the Ravens practice squad, Collins got the opportunity to show he can produce on the NFL level. His next goal is to prove he can become a featured back.

"That's my main focus," Collins said last month. "I know I'm capable of it. It's more so just me trying to show everyone else that capability as well."

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