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Late for Work 6/4: C.J. Mosley's Attendance Speaks Volumes; AFC North Rookie QB Progress Report

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C.J. Mosley’s Attendance at OTAs Speaks Volumes

It’s not uncommon for established veterans around the league to skip voluntary offseason work, especially while their agents negotiate contract extensions.

Yet, there was C.J. Mosley at Thursday’s practice open to the media directing his defense like everything was normal. Except it’s not normal.

Mosley is already a three-time Pro Bowler in just four years in the NFL. He’s heading into his fifth and final year of his rookie contract with a lucrative deal on the way, whether with the Ravens or elsewhere.

“Mosley’s attendance at OTAs really speaks to his level of commitment to the organization,” wrote WNST’s Luke Jones.

Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack is probably in a situation most like Mosley, but Mack is staying home during his team’s OTAs.

Mack was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft just like Mosley, he’s been to the Pro Bowl three times like Mosley, and his organization exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract like Mosley.

Other veterans seeking contract leverage by sitting out include L.A. Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Zack Martin, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.

Mosley could have done the same, but has chosen to be with his team, which is helpful as the defense transitions away from Dean Pees as the defensive coordinator. Mosley missed the first open practice two weeks ago with a “tweak,” but returned last week.

His attendance is also a benefit as the Ravens await the returns of linebackers Albert McClellan and Bam Bradley, leaving the unit a bit thin.

“I wouldn’t have blamed him for skipping voluntary workouts since he’s still without a long-term contract extension, but his presence is a plus for new Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale,” wrote Jones.

Lamar Jackson Progress Report, Along With Other AFC North Rookie QBs

It’s been more than a month since the NFL Draft, which means that rookies have been drinking from the fire hose as they transition to professional football.

Reporters have been able to track their development over this short time, and ESPN had each of its beat writers give a progress report on all 13 rookie quarterbacks.

Below is how 32nd-overall pick Lamar Jackson has done, along with the Cleveland Browns’ No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield and Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-rounder Mason Rudolph.

Lamar Jackson

“Jackson remains a work in progress,” wrote Jamison Hensley. “He's accurate in the middle of the field and shows good touch on deep passes. But he's inconsistent when throwing outside the numbers. His passes tend to sail when targeting receivers along the sideline. What jumps out is Jackson's speed. When he gets into the open field, he makes jaw-dropping cuts to elude defenders. The Ravens will get Jackson on the field immediately because of his explosiveness, but he isn't close to competing with Joe Flacco for the starting quarterback job.”

Baker Mayfield
“The draft's first overall pick is starting over,” wrote Pat McManamon. “Mayfield spent a fair amount of time in rookie camp practicing taking the snap from center. In the first OTA practice open to the media, Mayfield threw three interceptions. In the second, his reps seemed to be reduced by a few. None of this means he can't play; it shows that he's learning the fundamentals and basics of playing in the NFL.”

Mason Rudolph
“Rudolph has shown off his arm strength, has a good touch on the deep ball and seems to be adjusting well to the offensive scheme,” wrote Jeremy Fowler. “In OTAs, Rudolph hasn't made any major mistakes but has played it relatively safe and overthrew a few receivers. The under-center exchanges were a problem early in rookie camp. Overall, Rudolph is about what the Steelers expected: an intriguing, down-the-road option.”

The Difference Between Local and National Media in Covering Ravens’ QB Situation

This isn’t a knock on national media … it’s just an observation for fans to be aware of.

Most national media members aren’t at practice watching the progress of Jackson, Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III, so many are still pushing the narrative that Flacco could lose his job this year. That’s always possible because Jackson is a talented first-round pick, but it’s a stark contrast to what local media are saying.

For example, here’s a segment from the enjoyable Good Morning Football crew.

They aren’t necessarily wrong that Flacco is under pressure to perform, as local respected reporter WJZ’s Mark Viviano attests.

That said, the GMFB crew is also lacking a major storyline that local media are all hammering, and it’s that Flacco is throwing far better than he has in recent years, and Jackson isn’t close to Flacco right now.

“So much focus has been spent on Jackson, but at this stage he seems to be well behind Flacco and Robert Griffin III as a thrower,” wrote Press Box’s Bo Smolka.

“Joe Flacco is passing the ball at a different level than the other three quarterbacks on the Ravens roster right now,” ESPN wrote last week.

“The possibility of [Jackson taking over] in 2018 has tantalized some fans and a slice of the national media, but … it’s clear there’s really no competition right now,” my colleague John Eisenberg wrote two weeks ago.

Can Hardly Tell That Tavon Young Had Knee Surgery

Some good news coming out of Ravens OTAs on the injury front for third-year player Tavon Young …

You wouldn’t know  Young was only a year removed from his ACL injury by watching him practice,” wrote Jones. “He’s the favorite to handle the nickel, a spot where he excels. Maurice Canady currently being hindered by a knee issue is allowing Young to take even more first-team reps.”

His smooth transition can’t be taken for granted. Young has put in hard work to get to this point, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week was the first time Young looked uninhibited by the injury.

“For the first time, it looked like, to me, he really got past the trepidation of coming back off the knee (injury) – if that’s the right word,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “He probably wouldn’t accept that word, but I thought today he let it cut loose a little bit more and looked really good.”

Increased/Changing Roles on Defense for Chuck Clark, Willie Henry, Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce?

The Ravens are in a fortunate position to have all 11 of their Week 1 defensive starters return this year, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes.

Of course, a new defensive coordinator will do that, but there could also be some increasing and/or changing roles. For starters, Smolka sees a larger role for last year’s sixth-round safety Chuck Clark.

“With veteran Anthony Levine recovering from a foot injury, second-year defensive back Chuck Clark got a lot of work with the starters in the dime package that had been one of Levine's roles last year,” wrote Smolka. “Tony Jefferson was working at the dime spot May 31, with Clark playing safety. Clark appeared in 15 games last season, with his defensive workload increasing late in the year. He totaled five tackles and a pair of pass breakups.”

Then, moving from the defensive backfield to the defensive line, Jones sees a change because of the emergence of 2016 fourth-round pick Willie Henry.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Henry take on a starting role this season with Brandon Williams shifting from the starting 3-technique spot back to the nose and Michael Pierce moving to a rotational role,” Jones wrote. “This says much more about Henry’s improvement than any disenchantment with Pierce.”

Cleveland Browns Sign LB Mychal Kendricks

There were some questions as to whether the Ravens would sign linebacker Mychal Kendricks after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks ago, and as we predicted, that won’t be happening.

But Kendricks is still on his way to the AFC North.

Per Rapoport, Kendricks can make up to $3 million in 2018. Meanwhile, the Ravens are sticking with their middle linebacker corps with Mosley and Patrick Onwuasor as the favorites to start. The team did make minor moves at the position last week.

Jeff Zrebiec Leaving The Baltimore Sun

Massive news coming from the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec, who is leaving the paper after 18 years. Anyone who regularly reads Late for Work knows that Zrebiec is frequently quoted, as he’s one of the best Ravens beat reporters around. He’s fair, balanced and does it with class.

Zrebiec left us with a bit of a cliffhanger, so here’s hoping he’ll keep his hand in reporting on the Ravens. Wherever he lands, we all know he’ll crush it.

Quick Hits

  • It's easy to see why Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta compared rookie tight end Mark Andrews to Dennis Pitta,” wrote Smolka. “They play with a very similar style, and the Ravens would likely be thrilled with similar production.” [Press Box]

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