Lamar Jackson Could See Field Before Any Other Rookie QB
It was the Lamar Jackson show Thursday.
The first-round rookie quarterback literally ran the entire practice, taking snaps with the first-, second- and third-team offenses.
"It was impossible not to keep looking down at the roster, and then back at the field, and then back at the roster, and then double-checking with someone else nearby if, in fact, we were both seeing the same thing," wrote CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora. "Best I could tell, No. 8 was the only guy throwing the football."
Jackson wasn't perfect, but received strong reviews from reporters watching from the sideline.
The idea to give Jackson all the reps came from Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg early this week. Thursday was the final day of the Ravens' offseason program, and the team wanted to give the rookie much-needed reps after a college career that didn't require him to call plays. Coaches wanted to challenge him, and according to Head Coach John Harbaugh, he passed the test.
While extra reps shouldn't be interpreted as a sign that Jackson has overtaken Flacco on the depth chart (a running theory on Twitter), it is a unique approach – one that La Canfora hasn't seen for other rookie quarterbacks around the league.
"The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner may have been the fifth and final one of the record-tying group of quarterbacks selected in the first round, but I would wager a hefty sum that he will be the first of them to actually see the field in the regular season – could happen as soon as the opening drive, depending on the circumstances – while I have yet to see or hear anything this spring that has convinced me the other four will be Week 1 starters," La Canfora wrote.
La Canfora said the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen has the best shot to see the field before Jackson, but he hasn't run an entire practice the way Jackson did. Neither Allen, Sam Darnold (New York Jets), Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals) nor Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) have gotten "top-secret" plays installed for them the way Jackson has with two-quarterback sets in Baltimore, La Canfora added.
If Jackson is indeed the first among the rookies to get regular-season playing time, it doesn't necessarily mean he'll get the most. The earliest he'd become the starter, barring injury, is likely in 2019.
"Either the Ravens are extremely serious about developing [Jackson] … or they are trolling all of us because they are making sure that we are going to talk about Lamar Jackson [with the way they're implementing him in practice]," said NFL Insider Ian Rapoport.
Lol. Nice line, Ian.
I don't think the Ravens are trolling anybody, but that doesn't mean people won't read too much into the Jackson-run practice session or the designed trick plays for him. Two days ago, some fans were upset that the Ravens were somehow turning Jackson into a wide receiver by putting him in two-quarterback sets. Now, the theory is that Jackson is winning the starting quarterback job. It's been amusing to see the swing in opinions.
In the end, neither is true. But that doesn't take away from Jackson's impressive progress since his first practice at rookie minicamp in early May. Thursday's practice was evidence he has already come a long way, but still a long way to go.
"Most impressively, [Jackson] was trying to read the entire field and not lock in on his primary target," La Canfora wrote. "Repeatedly he went to the third and sometimes fourth teammate in his progression – though sometimes not particularly accurately – and in no way seemed overwhelmed by the challenge.
"… Clearly, he must become a more polished passer (too many passes, including some short ones, hit the ground), and sharpen his footwork and accuracy. But this practice also featured quite little of the world-class speed and elusiveness he brings and that can be a difference-maker as soon as September when he invariably gets a shot at quarterback, including some packages with both him and Flacco on the field."
Latest Reminder That C.J. Mosley Will Be 'Extremely Expensive'
The latest contract for a starting inside linebacker has been signed, which C.J. Mosley and the Ravens likely to note of.
Houston Texan Benardrick McKinney inked a five-year deal reportedly worth $50 million, including $21 million in guaranteed money.
McKinney is a key component of the Texans defense, starting all 16 games in each of the last two seasons. As impressive as he's been, he's not on Mosley's level. McKinney had 37 fewer tackles, six fewer passes defensed and two fewer interceptions than Mosley last season. Mosley has been to three Pro Bowls, while McKinney hasn't been voted into any.
These comparisons aren't meant to bash McKinney, it's just the "latest reminder that it will be extremely expensive for Ravens to lock up their standout middle linebacker," says Jeff Zrebiec.
Former Ravens Second-Rounder Courtney Upshaw Signs With Jets
The New York Jets signed free-agent defensive lineman and 2012 Ravens second-round pick Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) Thursday, following a tryout during the team's minicamp.
Upshaw will always be remembered fondly in Baltimore because he was a key member of the Super Bowl XLVII team his rookie year. The Ravens let him walk after his rookie contract expired after 2015 season, and he subsequently signed with the Atlanta Falcons, with whom he went to a second Super Bowl but lost.
The seven-year veteran has notched seven career sacks, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 216 tackles in 56 starts and 90 games. He was drafted by the Raven as an outside linebacker, but converted to defensive lineman in Atlanta.
In addition to Upshaw, the Jets also tried out former Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken, but he wasn't immediately signed.
Joe Flacco Has Always Said His Throwing Session With WRs Would be After Minicamp
For those who are borderline obsessed with Flacco organizing his own mini passing camp with the Ravens' new targets, the veteran quarterback reiterated Thursday that he will do so during the break between mandatory minicamp and training camp.
Flacco said back in April that he planned on meeting up with the receivers, but the best timing was always going to be between mid-June and mid-July because ever since the draft, the Ravens have been in the building for the offseason program.
Was Ozzie Newsome a Voluntary Guest or Held Hostage on 'The Lounge' Podcast?
Garrett Downing and Ryan Mink landed a massive guest for "The Lounge" podcast in Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
It's just unclear how they got Ozzie to come on the show. Newsome is notorious for not wanting to give media interviews, and judging by his facial expressions in this picture, he'd rather watch Ben Roethlisberger throw a touchdown pass than sit and talk with this duo.
I feel your pain, Ozzie. Now you know how I feel on a daily basis.
On a serious note, the episode with Ozzie will be released later today, and promises to be really good. It covers a wide range of topics, including Jackson's development, Eric DeCosta taking over as general manager and the memorable trade Ozzie made while on the treadmill.