Did Receivers Really Have a 'Bad' Day?
Perhaps nobody spoke truer words after Thursday's Organized Team Activities (OTAs) than veteran receiver Michael Crabtree, who stated that early signs of chemistry between receivers and quarterbacks mean little until September.
"Practice is what you practice," he said. "The game is showtime. Once you see it in the game multiple times, then you get comfortable."
Well said, Crab. You can't read too much into a May practice, good or bad.
That said, this is a year-round daily column, and as such, it covers, well, practices in May. So, we will dissect it along with the rest of the media, knowing we should keep everything in perspective, including this tweet ...
Hensley calls it as he sees it, as he should, but I'd respectfully disagree. In fact, I came away thinking it was a strong outing for the group overall, and some players had excellent individual days. Here's why:
- The Ravens had 86 pass attempts with three drops during the competitive portion of practice, according to my colleague Garrett Downing. Zero drops would be best, but three of 86 is isn't bad.
- Yes, Lasley had consecutive early drops, but it was during the warmup portion of practice, which is when receivers are specifically honing new elements of their technique. A drop's a drop, and you never want to have one, even in warmups, but the "game" carries more weight. In this case, the "game" is the competitive potion of practice, which is when Lasley had nine catches.
- Snead dropped one during the competitive portion, but he also had one of the better overall practices of the group with eight receptions. He did a good job out of the slot, finding soft spots in the defense between linebackers and safeties. Outside of Crabtree, Snead is one of the savvier receivers that knows what he's doing, and he seems to be creating a bit of an early rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco. "Willie Snead was a frequent target," wrote Russell Street Report's Ken McKusick. "After an early drop, he settled in and seemed to regularly find a hole in zone defense."
- Breshad Perriman's day was a mixed bag. He had one deep pass bounce off his hands and also hauled in four catches, including a touchdown. "Amid all the fresh faces, 2015 No. 1 pick Breshad Perriman has become something of a forgotten man, written off by many Ravens fans as a bust after his dismal 2017," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker. "But he also made several deep catches Thursday, flashing the speed that tantalized so many evaluators in the first place." Speaking of Perriman's speed … Defensive Backs Coach Chris Hewitt yelled at rookie corner Anthony Averett, "Hey Anthony, I thought you ran 4.3," after he was beaten on a vertical route by Perriman, according to McKusick.
- Chris Moore wasn't mentioned in Hensley's tweet, although he was in another one of his posts, and the third-year player easily had the play of the day. He may have even had the top two plays of the day. On the first, Moore got a step on cornerback Brandon Carr and hauled in a diving one-handed catch about 40 yards down field. On the second, he made a leaping grab in the end zone that drew praise from his teammates, including Snead who bowed to Moore after the play.
"Viewed through an optimistic lens, the Ravens hinted at a rosier offensive future Thursday during their offseason team workout," Walker wrote. "Spiral after spiral filled the sky in Owings Mills as quarterback Joe Flacco led new receivers John Brown, Willie Snead IV and Michael Crabtree down the field and into the corners of the end zone.
"It was not a perfect showcase for an offense seeking to transcend a woeful 2017, when the Ravens ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards and 23rd in passing touchdowns. Receivers dropped a few passes, and there were no hits to disrupt the symmetry of the late-spring display. But after a few weeks of light work, the Ravens believe they're on track to throw the ball more effectively in 2018."
Joe Flacco Is Passing the Ball 'at a Different Level' Than Other Quarterbacks
Here's something I do agree on with Hensley (and WNST's Luke Jones) …
I mentioned after last week’s practice that the idea of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson pushing Flacco for the starting job this year is premature. Jackson is uber-talented and will eventually push for the starting role, but he has a way to go in his development.
"This could be Flacco showing up in focus thanks to the new competition," wrote Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens. "Or it could simply be Flacco building off an already impressive last half of 2017 thanks to being healthy again and having some continuity with an offensive coordinator. Whatever the reason is, seeing Flacco firing on all cylinders so early is an exciting proposition for the team."
One thing that we're also seeing is a resurgence of the deep ball, both from Flacco and the other quarterbacks. Perhaps it was because of his herniated disc last season, but Flacco threw a lot of short passes, and Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear that he wants the deep ball to be a "big" part of the offense again.
Steve Smith Is Still Talking Trash to Division Rivals
Oh my goodness, I miss Steve Smith Sr.
At least he's still on TV where we can stay connected, but instead of making eye-popping catches, he's giving jaw-dropping interviews. Either way, they both go viral.
Yesssssssssss. This might be the best 36 seconds of a football interview ever ("Ice Up, Son" has to be the best six seconds ever).
Props to new divisional rival and No. 1 overall quarterback Baker Mayfield for holding his ground with a "disrespectful kind of dude" like Smith, as Smith called himself. Mayfield didn't flinch, something we hope he doesn't do when the Ravens send pass rushers his way.
How Much Should We Read Into Ravens' Experiment on the Offensive Line?
The Ravens are tinkering with the offensive line, putting in their due diligence to find the best five players to start.
Here's the difference over the last two weeks, starting from left to right …
Last week: Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Jermaine Eluemunor (it will be Marshal Yanda), James Hurst
This week: Stanley, Hurst, Lewis, Skura (Yanda), Orlando Brown Jr.
"They decided to put Alex Lewis at center while having James Hurst at left guard and Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Logan Levy. "This would certainly be an interesting offensive line combination, but it could make the most sense. Hurst has proven over the course of his career that he is a serviceable guard, yet a below-average tackle. While Lewis, in a limited sample size, was adequate at both guard and tackle.
"This combination is entirely dependent on how pro-ready Brown Jr. truly is."
Anthony Levine Had Offseason Foot Surgery, C.J. Mosley Returns; 10 Missing From Thursday's Practice
There were no attendance surprises during Thursday's voluntary session.
One piece of news came from Harbaugh, who announced that defensive back Anthony Levine had offseason foot surgery. We saw him injure his foot in Week 17, but his surgery wasn't publicly known. Per Harbaugh, Levine could be ready as early as minicamp, but he's certainly expected for training camp.
Meanwhile, tight end Nick Boyle was excused from practice for a family matter. Linebacker C.J. Mosley missed last week's open practice to the media with a "tweak" but he was back on the field Thursday.
"Baltimore understands the importance of the former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker's presence on the field, and his return is reassuring," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Evan Mazza.