First-Rounder Hayden Hurst Already Ahead of the Curve in His Development
Tight end Hayden Hurst may be the "forgotten" first-rounder overshadowed by electric quarterback Lamar Jackson, but if he continues his current trajectory, he won't be forgotten come September.
You may not have to wait to see him make an impact in November, or even October. He could be a real factor Week 1.
ESPN beat writers were asked to give their early impressions of all 32 first-rounders, grading each on a scale of either "ahead of the rookie curve," "right on track," or "too soon to tell."
As you've probably already surmised by the headline, Hurst was deemed ahead of the curve.
"Hurst has been the Ravens' best pass-catching tight end in offseason practices," the website wrote. "He has great hands and consistently gets separation with his speed. If Hurst keeps up this pace, he'll make an immediate impact in Baltimore's passing game."
To be ahead of the curve as a tight end is impressive, as it might be the toughest offensive position to learn outside of quarterback because it requires two very different skills in catching and blocking.
But starting fast out of the gate is both needed and anticipated for the 25-year-old rookie. After pursuing a professional baseball career, Hurst is mature and already knows how to transition to pro life. He doesn't have time to waste, and he's showing he doesn't intend to.
"I think it's more of an advantage," Hurst said of his age last week. "I've been through a lot of things in those three years that some of these guys haven't. I learned a lot about myself, a lot about life."
At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, he's a massive target for quarterback Joe Flacco, and the two have connected plenty throughout Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Hurst combines his size with fast, fluid and sharp route running, and he catches just about everything in sight.
"It's already started," Hurst said of developing a chemistry with Flacco. "Me and Joe have been in contact trying to build that relationship. I'm a rookie, so I kind of have to know my role, but I get to learn and he's one of the best to do it."
Here are ESPN's progress reports of all the AFC North rookies (in case you missed it, we analyzed Jackson more in-depth yesterday):
QB Lamar Jackson: Too soon to tell
"The Ravens knew it was going to take time for Jackson to develop," wrote Jamison Hensley. "Remember, Jackson is learning to play from under center and call plays with much more verbiage than his college days. His throws have been inconsistent, but he has been explosive when he scrambles in the open field."
QB Baker Mayfield: Too soon to tell
"The Browns don't want Mayfield to start this season and are giving Tyrod Taylor the starter's reps," wrote Pat McManamon. "That's as it should be given the plan, and given Mayfield has a long way to go in learning the NFL game, speed and fundamentals."
CB Denzel Ward: Right on track
"He is penciled in as an immediate starter at corner," McManamon added about the Browns' second first-round selection. "That's based on his man-coverage ability he displayed in college at Ohio State. Though Ward was slowed by a minor injury in rookie camp, he had a very strong practice in the second OTA session open to the media, with a couple of impressive red zone breakups."
C Billy Price: Too soon to tell
"He is still limited due to offseason surgery for a torn pectoral muscle, so it's difficult to assess his progress so far," wrote Katherine Terrell of the No. 21 overall pick. "However, Price has been able to get work in during OTAs by doing individual drills and half-speed and walk-through sessions. It looks like he's progressing physically exactly as the Bengals hoped, with a targeted return to full speed at training camp."
S Terrell Edmunds: Right on track"He looks athletic and hasn't made many glaring mistakes, but the reps are fairly limited, with Morgan Burnett and Sean Davis entrenched as likely starters," Jeremy Fowler wrote of the Steelers' No. 28 pick. "The team likes that Edmunds is an active communicator on the back end and is willing to play multiple positions – safety or dime linebacker – when needed."
M&T Bank Stadium Turns Red in Support of the Capitals' Stanley Cup Run
The Ravens showed their support of the Washington Capitals as the beltway neighbor took on the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.
M&T Bank Stadium turned Ravens purple to Caps red Monday night, setting off a gorgeous glow throughout the Charm City skyline.
Turns out, Baltimore has been watching the finals more than any other city outside of the two teams that are actually playing the games.
Magic was in the air last night as the Caps absolutely dismantled their opponent with a convincing 6-2 victory. They're now one win away (3-1 series lead) from the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Game 5 will be played in Vegas.
Kordell Stewart Adamant That Lamar Jackson Learns QB Position and Not Focus on Special Packages
Before coming to the Ravens late in his career in 2004, quarterback Kordell Stewart had already earned the nickname "Slash" as a versatile weapon in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.
He was known as a quarterback-slash-wide receiver-slash-running back.
Even though that's his reputation, Stewart wanted to make clear that he volunteered to play other roles after injuries to star players his rookie year, and he wanted to help the team win any way he could. He said the Steelers always viewed him first as a quarterback, which he was "hyper-sensitive" about coming out of college, and they allowed him to immerse himself in the position.
Now, as Stewart watches Jackson come in the league with a similar skillset and ability, he is adamant that the Ravens do the same with their rookie, and not force him into special packages.
"Allow him to get immersed into the playbook as a quarterback," Stewart told Glenn Clark Radio. "We know his talents are off the chart, better than all the receivers that are on the roster – let's just be real – all the running backs on the roster, all the [defensive backs] on the roster. He's just that fast and that athletic. He's that athletic, but let him get immersed into the playbook as a quarterback.
"You know if he scrambles and makes plays, he's going to give you plays downfield to where if the receivers are blocking, he might score … We've watched it before. It's nothing new. So let him learn the playbook as a quarterback, and then when he gets in, play to his strengths, not give him package plays."
Based on the brief time reporters have been allowed to watch practice, it's safe to say Jackson is immersed in the playbook as a quarterback. He is focused on calling plays, taking snaps from under center and getting on the same page with his receivers. The Ravens also said they have a plan to work before and after practice with Jackson to speed up his learning curve at quarterback.
Head Coach John Harbaugh did say the Ravens are "in the laboratory" to figure out ways to get Jackson involved, but he didn't elaborate on what that is. The Ravens have always viewed Jackson as a quarterback first, starting from when General Manager Ozzie Newsome said at the NFL Scouting Combine that they had him listed on their draft board as a quarterback and not a receiver.
The Ravens have consistently reiterated that point in press conferences and with his play on the practice field.
"That's pretty cool to me," Jackson asked about experimenting in the proverbial laboratory. "They want me on the field to utilize my talent and be a quarterback. That's cool to me."
Breshad Perriman Not Standing Out as He Did in Past OTAs
It's usually during this time of year when 2015 first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman shines. In the past, injuries often plagued him after standout OTAs, but he flashed so much that there was great optimism.
This year, with a reported bonus due the third day of training camp, Perriman was going to need another one of his patented strong spring workouts to prove he belongs on the roster, but WNST's Luke Jones doesn't think that's happening.
Perriman has had mixed practices, including last week when he had one deep pass bounce off his hands but also hauled in four catches, including a touchdown.
"Breshad Perriman hasn't flashed in the same way he would in past springs, dropping passes and not having good awareness along the sidelines and in the end zone," Jones wrote. "A fresh start for him elsewhere might be what's best for both parties at this point."