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Late for Work 6/14: Ravens Suddenly Become Must-See TV This Fall With National Media Buzzing

14_LFW_LamarExcitement

Ravens Suddenly Become Must-See TV This Fall With National Media Buzzing

One of the reasons the Ravens selected quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round of the draft was because they needed to inject some excitement into the offense.

The excitement has been palpable ever since, and Head Coach John Harbaugh ratcheted things up a notch by adding curiosity and intrigue when he revealed the Ravens will toy with two-quarterback sets with Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on the field together.

Even though these types of formations will likely only be wrinkles seldom used, the national media doesn’t care. It’s piqued everyone’s interest, which should make for more eyeballs on Ravens games this fall.

“In one sentence, John Harbaugh basically made the Ravens must-see TV for this upcoming season,” NFL Insider Ian Rapoport says in the video below.

The one sentence? This one: “If we put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense?”

We discussed what a two-QB set does and does NOT mean for the offense in yesterday’s LFW, including the risks, but if you ask Michael Wilbon of “Pardon the Interruption,” the risks are worth it. He’s hopeful the creativity pays off because he’d like to see more creativity overall in professional sports.

“I think these things should happen more frequently,” Wilbon said.

“I think that football, and particularly pro football, is terribly unimaginative. I think that about all pro sports for the most part. … Pro sports have become unbelievably boring and lazy. So, I applaud this. I don’t know whether it’s going to work. I’m hopeful it will work.”

Tony Kornheiser is incredulous that we’ll ever see the creative formations because innovation traditionally happens in May and rarely survives into September and beyond. Not only is he doubtful, but he advises against it.

“If you want Lamar Jackson to play quarterback, God bless you, put him at quarterback,” Kornheiser said. “But you can’t put Joe Flacco at wide receiver. In 2008, he caught a pass and rumbled down the field. This is 2018. He’s not a kid. You’ll get him killed and then you’ve got only Lamar Jackson. I just don’t think you do this.”

“Look at that video! Joe Flacco, baby! Ath-a-lete!” Wilbon shouted. “I like it. You can put him in less precarious situations. … They’re not going to put him in traffic going across the middle running a Jerry Rice slant route.”

How often the Ravens use two-QB sets, and whether it works, remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: everyone will be tuning in to find out.

“This all of a sudden became an incredibly interesting situation for the Ravens and for the teams trying to defend them,” Rapoport said.

Weddle: Jackson ‘Lit a Fire’ Under Flacco; Quarterback Snap Breakdown

While all the rage is about Flacco and Jackson sharing the field, the real story of the offseason is how well Flacco is playing. 

“He’s obviously been challenged. We all are,” safety Eric Weddle said Wednesday. “Now so with drafting Lamar [Jackson] and bringing [Robert] Griffin [III] in, its lit a fire under him, you can tell. And he has shown. He has worked extremely hard.”

“The [additions have] led to a more driven Flacco this offseason,” ESPN wrote. “He's leaner and trimmer than he has ever been, although no one has ever accused Flacco of being out of shape. If he misses a throw – which has been rare this spring – you can hear Flacco angrily slapping his hands. And Flacco has been more engaged with his receivers before and after drills.

“What really jumped out was Flacco's aggressiveness pushing the ball downfield. He repeatedly hit John Brown on well-timed deep throws as well as connecting with Chris Moore on 20-plus-yard passes.”

Whether Flacco’s improved play is because of the new quarterbacks added to the roster or improved health, it’s clear Flacco is leading the way. The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer took an unofficial rep count from his field-level view of Tuesday’s minicamp practice, and here’s what he found.

Flacco

Rep share: 56 percent
Accuracy: 65 percent
Favorite target(s): Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV

Jackson

Rep share: 21 percent
Accuracy: 67 percent
Favorite target: Jordan Lasley

Robert Griffin III/ Josh Woodrum

Rep share: 23 percent
Accuracy: 47 percent
Favorite target(s): Mark Andrews, Jaleel Scott, Tim White 

“Tuesday’s minicamp was another unsurprising indication that the incumbent is, for now, more ready for training camp than his challengers,” Shaffer wrote. “Or at least more trusted.”

‘Surprise’ Becomes the Word of the Day Because of Jimmy Smith’s Early Return

ESPN was surprised. WNST was surprised. Shoot, I was surprised.

“I'm sure everyone was surprised,” Weddle said. 

The original hope was that cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles) would make it back in time for Week 1, but now that hope seems more like a reality with his return to the field a full three months before the season-opener on Sept. 9. It also opens him up to be a full participant in training camp.

It was a beautiful sight to see the “half Wolverine,” as Weddle called him, jog onto the field – even if it was just for some light individual work.

“A healthy Smith would give new Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale a good problem of determining how to distribute playing time among Smith, Humphrey, and veteran Brandon Carr, who has started all 160 games of his career and was a solid No. 2 corner last season,” wrote WNST’s Luke Jones.

Two Under-the-Radar Returns to Defense: Albert McClellan and Carl Davis

While Smith’s return stole the show, the Ravens got more good news on the injury front with the returns of defensive end Carl Davis (shoulder) and linebacker/special-teams ace Albert McClellan (ACL).

“He’s been seldom mentioned in the linebacker discussion this offseason but McClellan is a versatile defender and one the Ravens’ special teams captains,” wrote Ebony Bird’s Joe Schiller. “Coach Jerry Rosburg will be delighted to have one of his leaders back in that department.”

“Defensive lineman Carl Davis also returned to practice on Wednesday,” added Jones. “He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and had been a limited participant in organized team activities prior to being absent on Tuesday.”

Terrance West Finds a New Home in New Orleans

After his fourth free-agent visit of the offseason, former Ravens running back Terrance West finally found a new home with the New Orleans Saints, according to NFL.com.

The Saints needed veteran insurance while starter Mark Ingram serves a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The signing marks another chance for West to jump-start his career. The Towson product was a third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2014, but he was traded the next season, and his best year came with the Ravens in 2016 with a career-high 774 rushing yards.

West was set to be the Ravens’ starter last season, but he suffered an early injury and never touched the ball after Week 5 when Alex Collins emerged.

The Saints tried out Jamaal Charles and Tim Hightower, but chose West over them, and he seemed pretty happy about his new job on Instagram.

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