Justice Hill Is Making a Powerful Statement
A number of running back duos over the years have been referred to as "Thunder and Lightning" if one of them is a power back and the other is speedy. This preseason, Ravens rookie running back Justice Hill is looking like a one-man "Thunder and Lightning," the perfect storm against opposing defenses.
Everyone knew about the fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State's speed – he posted the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.4) among running backs at the NFL Combine in February – but his physicality belies his 5-foot-10, 200-pound frame.
"Hill's speed offers a strong complement to the Ravens' bruising ball-carriers, and in the preseason, he's displayed signs that he can muscle through defenders, too," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote.
When Hill was asked after Saturday's practice if he feels people underestimate his physicality and power, he replied: "Yes, for sure. I feel like they just think I'm a speed guy, or just because I'm 200 pounds, they think I'm just straight speed. But I feel like I have a good package, and I'm going to be able to do a little bit of everything. Yes, I feel like that's a part of my game that is pretty much slept on."
Anyone who doubts Hill's strength need only look at the video that has surfaced of him squatting 565 pounds in college.
"He actually got mad that [Assistant Athletic Director/Athlete Performance Rob Glass] stopped him there. He wanted to go up," Oklahoma State Strength and Conditioning Assistant Gary Calgano replied on Twitter.
Hill displayed his power on a 14-yard run during the Ravens' win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
"When an Eagles defender stepped in front of him Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens rookie running back didn't rely on his speed. He lowered his shoulder," Kasinitz wrote. "He used his strength to absorb contact from Philadelphia safety Tre Sullivan and spin into the open field. Then he plowed through a couple more Eagles would-be tacklers, pushing and stomping his way to a 14-yard gain."
After breaking down Hill's performance against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago, NFL Network's Brian Baldinger said Hill might be the Ravens' best running back, which is a bold statement considering the presence of Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. Baldinger was especially impressed with the way Hill willed his way into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run.
"The ability just to break tackles, and balance – contact balance – and then unusual power for a guy that weighs 190 pounds," Baldinger said.
It's not surprising that Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is excited about Hill's versatility.
"I don't think he's the guy that you just go, 'Oh, the 'toss guy' is in the game. Watch for the toss,'" Roman said. "I think he has shown that he can run a variety of run schemes – inside, outside – and he's displayed vision and quickness to definitely run the scheme. But also, you love it when, if something breaks down or changes, he can fix it on the fly. … We're all really excited about Justice."
Looking at the Ravens' Preseason Winning Streak
A 16-game winning streak in the NFL is impressive no matter what the circumstances are, but what does it really mean when the string of victories occurs in the preseason over a three-year span?
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer took a look at the historic preseason run of the Ravens, who will attempt to notch their fourth straight undefeated preseason when they visit the Washington Redskins Thursday night. The team's 16-game winning streak is the longest over the past 25 preseasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
In pouring over the stats, Shaffer discovered that the Ravens have been as dominant in the preseason as their record suggests.
"Over their 16 wins, they've scored almost twice what their opponents have (383-192), forced nearly twice as many turnovers (28) as they've committed (16), amassed over 800 more yards (4,697-3,843) and committed 36 fewer penalties," Shaffer wrote.
But, again, what does it all mean? Even Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh isn't sure.
"I don't know how significant it is. It's significant in the sense that our coaches do a great job of coaching in training camp," Harbaugh said. "We develop players really well. I think we do a really good job as an organization – scouts, coaches and everybody – of bringing in competitive guys and good football players that want to work hard in training camp.
"Maybe we get out in front just a little bit, maybe, you could say that how we practice and prepare guys. We coach everybody from the top to the bottom of the roster. You could speculate that that has something to do with it. We think it does. Other than that, that's probably it."
That the Ravens have one of the most challenging preseason conditioning tests might play a factor in the streak.
"It's a combination of everything," Ravens tight end Nick Boyle told our Clifton Brown. "It's a credit to the coaches and the fact you bring 90 players in, with everyone seeing playing time in the preseason. They load the roster up pretty well. It basically goes back to how we practice, how we prepare."
So does an unblemished record in preseason games translate into success in the regular season? Not usually. Case in point: Two years ago, the Cleveland Browns went 4-0 in the preseason and 0-16 when the games counted.
"While no Super Bowl champions this millennium has exited the preseason without a win, the link between August perfection and February glory is tenuous," Shaffer wrote. "Over the past 10 seasons, the 23 teams who've swept their preseason schedule went a combined 161-207 in the regular season. Just eight made the playoffs … Only one, the 2013 Seahawks, lifted the Lombardi Trophy."
However, as Shaffer pointed out, the Ravens accounted for three of those eight playoff teams.
Yates: Ravens Among Least Likely to Return to Playoffs
ESPN's Field Yates believes the Ravens will have a tough time making the playoffs this season. In ranking last year's playoff teams' chances of returning to postseason play in 2019, Yates placed the Ravens in the "capable of returning, but the division is deep" category, which was the lowest of his five tiers.
"Perhaps the most pressing hurdle for the Ravens is that the AFC North has three legit contenders for its crown, with Pittsburgh and Cleveland squarely in the mix," Yates wrote. "This division is going to be a tussle."
Yates noted the loss of several key veterans on defense and the installation of a new offense as reasons why the Ravens might not repeat as AFC North champions, but he doesn't expect a significant drop-off on either side of the ball.
"It wasn't a full overhaul on defense this offseason, but it was darned close," Yates wrote. "GM Eric DeCosta has already shown himself to be a resourceful and shrewd personnel man, helping to offset these departures with the signing of Earl Thomas.
"But leadership and communication will need to be accounted for in Baltimore, which has reconfigured its offensive system with a full offseason to work with Lamar Jackson. The second-year quarterback has drawn rave reviews in training camp."
U.S. Soccer Star Carl Lloyd Receives Offer to Kick From NFL Team
Carli Lloyd's viral 55-yard field goal during the Ravens-Eagles joint practices was enticing enough to get her an NFL offer.
Lloyd's trainer, James Galanis, told FOX Sports' Martin Rogers that one unidentified team offered Lloyd a roster spot to kick in their final preseason game Thursday night.
Unfortunately, Lloyd is unable to do it because the U.S. women's soccer team has a game against Portugal on Thursday night, when all 32 NFL teams finish their preseason.
However, there's still a chance that Lloyd, who got tips from Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, could look deeper into becoming the first woman to ever play in the NFL.
"We are thinking about what it would do to the sport itself, every sport at every level. She would be the first female that's really playing with males, and what would it do to the whole equality (issue)," Galanis said.
"We are definitely thinking about it. Knowing Carli, this is why it is enticing for her, because it is a challenge. That's what Carli thrives on, it is the next thing she can conquer. That's why we have had half a dozen conversations about it in less than a week."
NBC Sports' Peter King talked to Lloyd about last week's experience with the Ravens and Eagles, and about the possibility of becoming a pioneer in the sport. Asked what an 8-year-old girl would probably think about seeing her try out for an NFL team, Lloyd said, "Oh, that would be massive."
"If I was a little girl watching and I saw an NFL kicker that was a female, that would be cool," Lloyd said.
- Thomas and Marshal Yanda made ESPN.com's rankings of the top 100 players in the league.