Lamar Jackson 'Looks As If He's Been at Camp the Whole Time'
While Lamar Jackson was at home recovering from his second bout of COVID-19, he spent much of the time catching z's. Since Jackson's return to practice last Saturday, however, his receivers have been catching passes from him for TD's.
Expectations for Jackson were tempered due to the physical toll the virus took on him, but the Ravens quarterback has hit the ground running, both literally and figuratively.
"While the Ravens suited up for their first eight full-team practices of the summer, Jackson could barely stay awake at times," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "He acknowledged it was hard to attend meetings virtually because the fatigue from COVID-19 caused him to sleep much of the day. … But, from his first snap back, Jackson looked as if he had been at camp the whole time."
"Even though his snaps have been reduced as the Ravens ease him back, Jackson has been throwing deep shots to his favorite target Mark Andrews and running when pass-rushers get too close like he's done for the previous three seasons."
Jackson did more than just sleep during his quarantine. He had some makeshift practices in his backyard, where he worked on his footwork and threw 20-yard passes to his cousins.
"[I was] just trying to fire the ball as much as I can," Jackson said, "so I can come back and Coach doesn't look at me like, 'You didn't do anything. You didn't try to work.' But I did. I think I did pretty good."
Jackson also put in the work before the start of training camp.
"Jackson had built plenty of momentum this offseason," Hensley wrote. "His final practice of the spring was his best, and he then had workouts with teammates in Florida and Arizona. Jackson also worked with Adam Dedeaux, a throwing mechanics expert and founder of 3DQB, which has worked with half of the quarterbacks starting in the NFL."
The excitement for what is expected to be an improved passing game has been somewhat dampened by injuries to multiple key wide receivers in training camp, but Jackson picking up right where he left off is some welcome good news.
"Through Jackson's first three practices of training camp, the former NFL MVP has shown his speed — scrambling on the field as well as making up for missed time off of it," Hensley wrote. "Jackson has completed 44 of 67 throws in seven-on-seven and full-team drills, and his completion rate would jump well over 70% if not for the handful of dropped passes. He put a lot of velocity on his throws Monday and showed great touch Tuesday when he went over the top of the defense to hit Sammy Watkins."
Jackson was sharp again in practice yesterday.
"Jackson probably had his best practice since returning from his bout with COVID-19 last Saturday," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "He was mostly accurate, took a couple of downfield shots and spread the ball around. In the first seven-on-seven session, he went 5 for 6, hitting tight end Josh Oliver, [James] Proche, Andrews, running back Gus Edwards and [J.K.] Dobbins."
Tim Hasselbeck: Ravens Don't Need to Throw More to Win a Championship
The prevailing opinion among pundits is that the Ravens need to throw the ball more to win a Super Bowl, but ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck doesn't subscribe to that theory.
Hasselbeck acknowledges that there's room for improvement in the Ravens' passing game — as have the Ravens themselves — but he said they shouldn't get away from what they do better than any other team in the NFL, which is run the football.
"When teams are facing Baltimore and they're like, 'OK, we have to defend them,' every defensive coordinator's biggest issue is: 'How are we going to defend the quarterback runs and the run game? How are we going to deal with that?'" Hasselbeck said on "Get Up." "They're not saying, 'Gosh, he's going to carve us up from inside the pocket.'
"So I think you have to be careful saying, 'Yeah, we want to do these other things,' when it's not what you do best. So, yeah, you want to improve, but you don't really want to get away from what you're really good at doing."
Hasselbeck also debated the topic with Booger McFarland on "NFL Live."
McFarland said: "What have they won with [Jackson] running around that way? They won a lot of games, but they haven't won a championship. So the reason everyone says are you going to take your passing game to the next step is because the name of this game is about winning championships. Can you win with Lamar Jackson taking a pounding running like that? I don't think so."
McFarland sort of answered his own question when he said the Ravens have won a lot of games. Just because they haven't won a championship yet with a run-based offense doesn't mean they can't, Hasselbeck said.
"They're far better over the last two seasons in the regular seasons than any other team in the NFL," Hasselbeck said. "I get it, it's about winning championships. But sometimes we overanalyze losing one game in the postseason that ends your season. Listen, the way they win in the regular season, they can win in the postseason that same way. I'm not saying you don't try to improve as a passer, but what I am saying is you don't need to change who you are when who you are has run through the National Football League."
Injuries Continue to Mount, Causing Concern
While injuries to wide receivers such as first-round pick Rashod Bateman (soft tissue issue, reportedly a groin injury) and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown (hamstring) during training camp have been a big story, other position groups are dealing with injuries as well.
The Ravens have high hopes for this year's draft class, but Zrebiec noted that only four of the team's eight-member class were on the field by the end of yesterday's practice. Bateman is expected to miss a "number of weeks" according to Head Coach John Harbaugh.
"Fellow first-round pick Odafe Oweh, whose impressive play has been one of the biggest positives in camp, was sidelined Wednesday with an undisclosed issue," Zrebiec wrote. "Oweh had his cleat off and was getting his ankle/foot examined late in Monday's practice, but he finished the workout and was on the field again Tuesday, so it's unclear if he's dealing with something else.
"Then, about an hour into practice, third-round selection Ben Cleveland, the favorite to start at left guard, exited practice and took the long walk from the far field to the training room alongside a member of the athletic training staff. With about a half-hour left in the season, fifth-round rookie outside linebacker Daelin Hayes took the same path as Cleveland back inside the facility. However, Hayes did it with a pronounced limp, stopping several times on the way."
Fortunately, none of the injuries Ravens players have suffered thus far have been season-ending. And with the start of the regular season still 4½ weeks away, there's no need to panic. Oweh and Hayes returned to practice Thursday morning, though Cleveland did not.
Still, the amount of injuries is some cause for concern.
"Another big thing to look at when it comes to so many players being out of practice is continuity," Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher wrote. "For example, on the offensive line Baltimore has had to use many different combinations and move guys around, something that can be problematic early on once it's actually time to have a one specific group play together long-term and establish chemistry. With [Kevin] Zeitler and [Bradley] Bozeman being out, as well as Ronnie Stanley slowly coming back from an injury, it will be important for the starting group of linemen to get familiar with each other as quickly as possible."
The good news is that Bozeman returned to practice yesterday and Stanley had his most active day of camp as he continues his recovery from last year's season-ending ankle injury.
- NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund ranked Marlon Humphrey as the NFL's second-best cornerback entering this season.