Joe Flacco Playing Like He's in the Best Shape of His Career
Predictably, and understandably, much of yesterday's focus was on quarterback Joe Flacco's first public reaction to the Ravens drafting first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson.
(To sum it up, Flacco said the media acted like he would hold a grudge when they know him better than that. He said he welcomes Jackson with open arms. The 11-year veteran doesn't know what his future holds, but he's focused on the present and trying to get on the same page with all his new targets.)
But what about his play on the field?
"Flacco looks to be in the best shape of his career. During Thursday's practice, he was sharp in a revamped passing attack, showing an instant rapport with free-agent addition Michael Crabtree," wrote ESPN.
Honestly, that's better news than anything Flacco could've said yesterday. Flacco's health and play is what will determine both his and Jackson's future in Baltimore. Not his words.
The Ravens' passing game ranked 27th in the league last season, and it's still unclear how much of that was affected by Flacco's herniated disc. He downplayed the injury, but Owner Steve Bisciotti said in February that Flacco wasn't healthy for the first half of the year. Missing the entire preseason and training camp certainly had to hurt his performance and ability to build chemistry with his receivers.
"It's tough to say that it's the best I've felt in a long time, but I feel really good," Flacco said Thursday. "I'm healthy. I'm feeling physical, strong and all those things."
Lamar Jackson Has 'Mixed' Practice as He Continues to Learn Ravens Offense
There's talk about Jackson pushing Flacco for the starting role, and if that happens, it won't be until further down the road.
For now, Jackson is still learning how to be an NFL quarterback and he can take plenty of notes from the Super Bowl MVP. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Jackson has that "it" factor and emphasized how smart he is, so it's only a matter of time before he picks up the offense.
"The toughest thing for him is calling the plays right now," Harbaugh said. "He's never been in that kind of a system. I would say he's made a big jump in calling the plays and annunciating the offense. He's done well with that."
As far as Jackson's performance in Thursday's two-hour practice, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff called it a "mixed bag."
"When he takes off and runs, he's mesmerizing to watch and it spurs numerous oohs and aahs from teammates," Zrebiec wrote. "His best moment with his arm was a back-shoulder touchdown to rookie fourth-round receiver Jaleel Scott. His worst came when he tried to dump a ball off in the flat and he didn't see safety Kai Nacua standing right in front of the intended target. Nacua picked the ball off and returned it for a touchdown."
Crabtree Has 'Play of the Day,' Jaleel Scott Stands Out, Perriman Has Ups and Downs
NFL Network's James Palmer called it the "play of the day."
It happened in the end zone, where Crabtree pulled down a fade route from Flacco while leaping over cornerback Tavon Young (who looks healthy and notched a pick earlier in the day) to snag the ball in the corner of the end zone.
During pressers, it was clear that Flacco was excited about Crabtree, calling him "crafty" with the way he runs routes to get open. The two are getting a better feel for one another, as Flacco said he's reading how his veteran receiver moves and testing how best to get the ball to him.
In terms of other receivers, Zrebiec said fourth-round pick Jaleel Scott had a "really nice practice." During rookie minicamp a few weeks ago, it was fifth-rounder Jordan Lasley who got a little buzz for some standout plays. Thursday was Scott's turn.
Scott beat a defender so badly that he was wide open for a pass down the field, and he used his body well to snag another Jackson pass in the corner of the end zone.
"He made a handful of catches and looked much more comfortable than he did during the rookie minicamp," Zrebiec wrote. "He moves very well for a 6-foot-5 and 215-pound receiver."
As for 2015 first-round receiver Breshad Perriman, who needs a big summer to make the team, he had some ups and downs throughout the afternoon.
"The good news is that wide receiver Breshad Perriman looked healthy, in good shape and engaged," Zrebiec wrote. "He made a couple of catches Thursday, including one in which he made an adjustment to make a play on a ball that was a little behind him as he crossed the middle.
"The bad news was that Perriman seemed to lose track of where he was on the field in trying to make two catches on deep passes during the practice. It wasn't all on him. Both throws sailed out of bounds, but Perriman got little separation and didn't give the quarterback much of a window to throw to on either play."
Solid Attendance at OTAs; No Major Injuries (Knock on Wood)
The Ravens have to be pretty happy with their OTA attendance.
Only a handful players didn’t participate in Thursday's voluntary workout, all for various reasons, according to WNST's Luke Jones. Many are in the building, but weren't cleared to participate.
Excused absence: WR John Brown (personal matter)
Precautionary minor ailments: LB C.J. Mosley (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (knee)
Limited participation: DE Brent Urban (foot), DE Carl Davis (shoulder), G Nico Siragusa (knee)
Still rehabbing last year's injuries: G Marshal Yanda (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon), Jaylen Hill (knee), LB Albert McClellan (knee), LB Bam Bradley (knee)
Injury: WR Quincy Adeboyejo (leg surgery)
Also missing from the field were safeties Eric Weddle and Anthony Levine, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, cornerback Brandon Carr and fullback Christopher Ezeala, per Jones. According to Zrebiec, Weddle was given the day off. Yanda came out onto the field about halfway through practice and watched from the sideline with his teammates.
"Suggs has regularly been at the team's Owings Mills training facility this offseason and is said to be in great shape entering his 16th season, but Harbaugh is keeping him off the practice field until mandatory minicamp for the second straight spring," wrote Jones.
RGIII Looks Like 'Sci-Fi Villain' With Purple Dreads; Hoping to Prove He's an Asset Worth Keeping
Nobody can accuse No. 3 quarterback Robert Griffin III of not being all in.
He came out to practice showing off his recently-dyed purple dreads, indicating he's completely embracing the opportunity Baltimore is giving.
"Griffin began organized team activities as a Raven, looking much like a sci-fi villain — dressed head-to-toe in all black, including a sleeve on his left arm, with purple braids peeking out beneath his helmet on a picturesque Thursday," wrote The Washington Post's Kareem Copeland. "He has high expectations for himself, tempered somewhat by a new perspective."
Griffin's attitude is impressive.
He's a former No. 2 overall pick and darling of the league, but couldn't find work last season after injuries derailed his career. Instead of sitting at home sulking, he continued working out and studying the game. Now he's a proverbial "roster bubble" player with a grinding and grateful attitude.
"It's like Mike Tyson said, 'Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the face.' I got punched in the face and I'm still here swinging," Griffin told Copeland.
"There's a lot of guys that are sitting at home right now who want to be in this position. When you have the right perspective and cherish every moment and maximize your opportunity, it's no different than what Joe's doing. It's no different than what any other quarterback in the league is doing. They're maximizing their opportunity. My job is go out and show them that I'm an asset to the team, not a detriment. Do what I have to do to make it to where they can't afford to let me go."
Linebacker Corps Thin; Position Change for Kamalei Correa
While the Ravens expect to have more returning middle linebackers this summer, right now, the position is thin.
Mosley, McClellan and Bradley could all be ready for training camp, but none were on the field Thursday, which meant Kamalei Correa had to man the position. Harbaugh said Correa's more natural position is at outside linebacker, but they can't put him there until they get more bodies on the inside.
"Yes, even with the depth issues at inside linebacker, I still think the Ravens are making the right call by trying to get Kamalei Correa back outside," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens do have a ton of outside linebacker depth, so whether Correa will play well enough to earn meaningful snaps is in question. But this could be a make-or-break year for the 2016 second-round draft pick and he should play where he has the best chance to succeed."