New Offense, Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews Receive High Marks
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal attended a Ravens practice last week and came away impressed by the "entertainment value" of the experience.
He was especially excited about the intricacies of the Ravens' new offense under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.
"After spending last Thursday at Ravens practice, I propose a game for any fan showing up to Owings Mills in the next few weeks: Count how many formations the Ravens show in a given practice," Rosenthal wrote.
"Better yet: Try to find consecutive plays where they line up in the same formation at all. … The Ravens' approach this season is going to look different than nearly every other team, making it a fun weekly watch for the O-line/run-game nerds among us."
Head Coach John Harbaugh joined former Ravens head coach Brian Billick on NFL Network's "Training Camp Live" and Billick said he expects the Ravens' offense to look unlike anything he's ever seen before.
"I would kind of agree with that, I really do," Harbaugh said. "The game was probably revolutionized with Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. What's the next era going to be? We're about to find out."
Upon hearing that, Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith wrote: "Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but finding out should be fun."
Like everyone who attends a Ravens practice, Rosenthal kept a close eye on Lamar Jackson. He liked what he saw from the second-year quarterback, as well as second-year tight end Mark Andrews.
"He's a better runner than any of the running quarterbacks before," Rosenthal said on the "Around the NFL" podcast. "So it's like, 'OK, running quarterbacks haven't worked.' Well they haven't been the same as Lamar Jackson. I think he's the best one since Michael Vick and may be better."
Rosenthal dispelled the notion that there should be concern over Jackson's uneven performance in the Ravens' loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs.
"To me, that's one game – one game in which they had the same amount of yards as the Chargers," Rosenthal said. "A game, by the way, that Lamar Jackson led two long touchdown drives at the end of the game no one seems to give him any credit for. Had the ball with a chance to go win at the end of the game. "
As for Andrews, Rosenthal said: "Mark Andrews is an unbelievable, make-you-believe candidate to be a Pro Bowler right now, to gain 800-1,000 yards and be a badass blocker, and for him and Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle to cause a lot of problems."
Rosenthal also was complimentary of the atmosphere at the practice in Owings Mills and the fans.
"It was a great scene. The crowd was awesome there," Rosenthal said. "They were chanting during training camp at random moments. In terms of clapping and making little chants, they were the most active training camp crowd I've ever seen."
Rookie WR Miles Boykin Is Turning Heads
Another player who made an impression on Rosenthal was Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin. He put the third-round draft pick at the top of his list of "seven rookies worthy of early noise."
"With Marquise Brown still injured … Boykin has every chance to be a Week 1 starter," Rosenthal wrote. "Boykin physically profiles as a No. 1 type of receiver, and he appears to be adapting to the pro game quickly."
Rosenthal is not alone in his praise of the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder out of Notre Dame. Ravens veteran wide receiver Willie Snead IV mentioned Boykin in the same breath as All-Pro Michael Thomas, Snead's former teammate with the New Orleans Saints.
"I keep telling him every day, I'm like, 'Dude, you look like Michael Thomas,'" Snead said after Saturday's practice. "I remember when Michael Thomas came to New Orleans, he was built the same, had the same mentality, just trying to get better every day."
While comparisons to Thomas – who led the NFL with 125 receptions last year and has had 1,000-plus yards receiving in each of his three seasons – may be premature, ESPN's Jamison Hensley observed that "through four days of training camp, Boykin has been the most impressive wide receiver on the Baltimore Ravens"" "and is off to one of the strongest starts by a Ravens rookie receiver."
"Boykin's speed has allowed him to get behind the likes of starting cornerback Jimmy Smith," Hensley wrote. "A long strider, Boykin needs to take only a few steps before gaining separation. His route-running has helped him get open on everything from slants to the open spots in the red zone. His ability to gain yards after the catch has caused visions of short passes turning into big gains."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote: "It's getting harder and harder for the Ravens to suppress their excitement about the rookie third-round pick. Boykin has repeatedly used his size and speed to get open, making a bunch of big plays while often matching up with some of the Ravens' top corners. A lot can change over five weeks, but Boykin is playing himself into a prominent role on offense."
Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw went as far as to say that "Boykin appears to be the most impressive player on either side of the ball" thus far in training camp.
Remembering Joe Callahan's 'Dog Days' With Eagles
NFL players often talk about the "dog days" of training camp, but the phrase has an entirely different meaning to quarterback Joe Callahan, who was signed by the Ravens to the 90-man roster yesterday in the aftermath of Robert Griffin III's injury to his throwing hand.
When Callahan was in camp with the Philadelphia Eagles last season, the newcomer was welcomed into the fold by the three quarterbacks above him on the depth chart in a rather unique manner: Callahan was asked to rank their dogs.
"The other three quarterbacks on the Eagles' roster started a group text to welcome Callahan onto the team, and the first thing they asked him to do was rank each of their dogs," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote at the time. "So Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld sent pictures, and Callahan had to pick which pups he liked best."
Callahan didn't want to offend any of his fellow quarterbacks, so he called an audible and deftly sidestepped the question like a scrambling quarterback avoiding a pass rusher.
"Callahan talked his way out of making a definitive list," Kasinitz wrote. "He said he liked Wentz's golden retrievers, Foles' labrador retriever and Sudfeld's German Shepherd equally."
Said Callahan: "That was stressful. I didn't want to actually rank the dogs, because that's tough. That gets personal. They all sent the pictures in, and I didn't know whose was whose. So I kind of ranked off picture quality and dog pose."
Hopefully Callahan won't have flashbacks of that stressful time if Ray Lewis shows up to training camp to deliver his famous pregame chant.
- ESPN's Hensley looks at how Ed Reed became the NFL's most feared ball hawk.