Heavy Scrutiny of Lamar Jackson Continues
Any discussion of how the Ravens will fare obviously begins with Lamar Jackson's development as a passer, so it's not surprising that every pass the second-year quarterback throws at practices is scrutinized by the media.
It also seems as if every word he says is put under a microscope. For example, the following was an exchange after practice yesterday between Jackson and NFL Network's Mike Garofolo, who asked Jackson if he will work with quarterbacks coach Tom House, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who has become a guru of throwing mechanics.
Jackson: "Yes, I might. I might. Don't quote me on that. I might."
Garofolo: "I'm going to quote you on that with the word "might" in there."
Jackson: "Might. Bet."
To emphasize that Jackson said "might," several media members used quotation marks around the word. Our own Ryan Mink used all caps. (For the record, Jackson did say that he will continue throwing during the five weeks off before training camp begins in late July.)
USA Today’s Jarrett Bell didn't use the word in his opinion piece on Jackson, but he did express uncertainty – not about whether Jackson will work with House, but about whether Jackson will be the franchise quarterback the Ravens are counting on him to be.
In the article written under the headline, "Lamar Jackson Is Still Make-or-Break Gamble for Ravens," Bell said: "School's out, but this is hardly the time for any final grades when it comes to the development of Lamar Jackson, the transitional quarterback of grand visions. The Ravens wrapped up their mandatory minicamp on Thursday with the second-year pro unleashing a perfectly timed dime on a deep corner throw one minute, then delivering a head-scratching pass into the dirt on the other side of the field the next.
"Young quarterbacks: so much promise, so much room to grow. Jackson's inconsistency is typical in many regards for a player at this point on the NFL learning curve. Yet given his team's bold gamble in bucking the conventional model at the position, few have drawn the level of scrutiny that Jackson has during his offseason lab work."
Bell's comments are similar to those of former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick, who said in February that the Ravens going all in on Jackson “could be boom or bust.”
Bell noted that Jackson proved last year that he can win in the NFL, but like others who cover the NFL, he questions whether an offense led by a quarterback with Jackson's unique skill set can sustain success.
"Can the success last? That's still an essential question when pondering the pain factor of running as a quarterback," Bell wrote. "[Ravens Head Coach John] Harbaugh undoubtedly plans to build around the ground threat with the idea emboldened by the offensive coordinator choice of Greg Roman, who replaced Marty Mornhinweg."
The bottom line is that Jackson will continue to be heavily scrutinized. There are no "mights" about that.
"Fans should not expect to see an entirely different quarterback when the Ravens take the field in Miami for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener," The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote. "For all his inspiring traits, Jackson will make amateurish throws that cause his sharpest critics to bemoan the future. On certain key possessions, he'll trust his legs more than his arm. And every week, we'll engage in another debate about how far the Ravens can go with him as their franchise player."
Shane Ray Is 'Man on a Mission'
The Ravens' interest in free-agent pass rushers Gerald McCoy and Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansash made headlines, but the team's signing of former Denver Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray to bolster the pass rush was not as splashy of a news item.
However, acquiring Ray could pay off in a big way for the Ravens, Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote.
"He has a chip on his shoulder, something that has always tied in well with playing like a Raven," Schisler wrote. "The pecking order at outside linebacker hasn't been set yet. It's Matt Judon and everybody else. Ray has a chance to emerge as one of the most pleasant surprises in Baltimore.
"If he had a big season in Baltimore, it wouldn't be a shocker. He came into this league as a very promising outside linebacker. He may be able to get back to showing that promise."
Ray, who was selected in the 2015 draft by the Denver Broncos with the 23rd-overall pick, recorded eight sacks in 2016, but he had just two sacks in his past two seasons as he dealt with a wrist injury. Ray dislocated his left wrist in 2017 prior to training camp, and the injury has required four surgeries. He missed eight games in 2017 and was inactive for five games last year.
"The expectations have been set so low for Ray that he doesn't have to do much to exceed them," Schisler wrote. "If he can just give the Ravens five sacks and be a successful part of the outside linebacker rotation, the Ravens will have won the bet they made on him.
"Ray is in a perfect situation. He is in a mostly unproven group of pass rushers and playing time is going to have to be earned. Ray has already done it in the NFL at a fairly high level. He knows the point he has to get back to."
When Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale was asked about Ray earlier this week, he said: "What intrigues you about Shane is his pass-rush ability and the success he had early, before his injury. Now, he's healthy, and he's really a man on a mission."
Terrell Bonds Puts Himself on Radar
Ravens cornerback Terrell Bonds emerged during minicamp as an unheralded player to keep an eye on.
Bonds, a former member of the Memphis Express of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, had to try out to earn his spot on the Ravens' 90-man roster, but he was signed afterwards and has stood out in minicamp. He made two interceptions during Wednesday's practice.
Bonds faces an uphill battle to make the team given its loaded secondary, but his performances have not gone unnoticed by the coaches.
"A guy like that, he makes a play every day," Harbaugh said. "He's made himself relevant. It's a tough room. It's going to be very competitive. It's going to be fun to see how it shakes out."
On Bonds' chances of making the team, Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank J. Platko wrote: "While it's rare to see a player go from a mere tryout to making the 53-man roster of an NFL team, sometimes all it takes is just one shot. Bonds is getting his and appears to be running with it.
"Granted, a lot can change in the next several weeks. When training camp begins and the pads come on, there's always the chance Bonds doesn't stand out like he is now. This isn't a slight towards him, it's just the reality of the situation. Only time will tell if this is the case, but Bonds is building momentum in the short-term nonetheless."
Ravens' Odds of Winning Title Aren't Super
If you believe the Ravens' chances of winning the Super Bowl are better now than they were after last season, you're in the minority.
The Ravens' odds of winning the Super Bowl have decreased dramatically on FanDuel since February. Baltimore went from plus-2,000 to plus-3,400. In the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers' odds also dropped significantly (plus-1,400 to plus-2,300), while the Cleveland Browns' odds soared (plus-4,000 to plus-1,400).
Catalano pointed to the loss of defensive stars such as C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle as the main reasons for the loss of confidence in the Ravens. Apparently, the team's signing of coveted free agents Earl Thomas III and Mark Ingram II, as well as a draft class that generally received high grades, was not enough to offset those losses in the minds of oddsmakers.
"The Ravens were tied with the Falcons for the 10th-best odds at the beginning of February to compete for a championship in 2019," Betting Pros’ Matthew Catalano wrote. "Unfortunately, much like the Steelers, their odds took a sharp dip over the next few months."
- The Philadelphia Eagles haven promoted former Ravens scout Andy Weidl to Vice President of Player Personnel. Weidl worked for the Ravens from 2005-16. He takes over the role vacated by Joe Douglas, who was hired by the New York Jets to be their general manager last week. Prior to arriving in Philadelphia, Weidl and Douglas worked together in the Ravens front office.
- The Ravens' selection of Ed Reed with the 24th overall pick in 2002 made DraftWire's list of the biggest steals from each of the past 20 drafts.