Pittsburgh Radio Host Doubts Ravens' Offense
After another strong showing by Lamar Jackson yesterday – this time in a joint practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars – Ravens fans are probably feeling pretty good about the second-year quarterback's progress and the team's rebuilt offense.
Leave it to a Pittsburgh sports radio host, who also happens to be a self-described "closet Cleveland Browns fan," to attempt to quell the optimism.
Chris Mueller of Pittsburgh 93.7 The Fan wrote in an article for Yardbarker that the Ravens' brand of offense is unlikely to be successful.
"Baltimore's newfangled offense will largely be kept under wraps until the season starts. But expect it to be tailored to what Jackson does best: designed QB runs, easy pitch-and-catch passing, motion, run-pass options, and maybe even the option itself," Mueller wrote. "They've prioritized speed and the running game, with timely shots downfield. In other words, it's a college-style offense.
"But will a college-style offense, or a variant of it, work in the NFL? Doubtful."
Like most of Jackson's naysayers, Mueller questioned his durability and passing skills.
"No offense can be paradigm-shifting if the quarterback is in traction by Week 9," Mueller wrote. "Harbaugh's plans, if they involve running Jackson anywhere near 17 carries a game, are almost certain to fail.
"An offense tailored to Jackson's skills still requires him to significantly improve as a passer. He only threw for six touchdowns and completed just 58 percent of his passes last season. He topped 200 yards passing once. That won't be enough to keep defenses honest."
Mueller acknowledged that "an entire off-season spent creating an offense from scratch may help Jackson and the Ravens," and he said Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman "is the right man to build it."
"But the fact remains that whatever form the offense takes, putting Jackson in harm's way will be a feature, not a bug," Mueller wrote. "And if he doesn't make a swift, dramatic improvement as a passer, none of it will matter. … Not every revolution is successful."
Time will tell. As far as Jackson's improvement as a passer, media members who observe him regularly have been impressed.
"He's made huge strides since the start of camp," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "He looks like a different quarterback than he even did back at the mandatory minicamp in June. … The Ravens have to be content with the progress Jackson is making."
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote: "The quarterback who opened camp with fluttering, wounded-duck deep passes has shown he can put the ball where it needs to go, aesthetics be damned."
Here's a sample of what others had to say after watching Jackson go against the Jaguars' vaunted defense yesterday:
NFL Network's Steve Wyche: "The quick passing game, the intermediate passing game, he could not have looked any better."
NFL Network's James Palmer: "He was on time. He was accurate. He was on point."
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz: "He never appeared hesitant or uncomfortable against a Jaguars defense that's earned a reputation as one of the NFL's best units in recent seasons."
Baltimore Beatdown's Vasilis Lericos: "Lamar Jackson was downright excellent in 7-on-7s as well as the full team setting."
Marlon Humphrey Left Off The Athletic's All-AFC North Team
The Ravens were well-represented on the Preseason All-AFC North team selected by The Athletic's five AFC North writers, but not as well-represented as the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers had eight players on the first team, while the defending division champion Ravens had seven. Preseason favorite Cleveland and the Cincinnati Bengals had five each.
Each writer ranked his top three players at each position/group, with players receiving three points for first place, two for second and one for third.
Baltimore's first-team selections were: right guard Marshal Yanda; right tackle Orlando Brown Jr.; safeties Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson; defensive flex Matthew Judon; kicker Justin Tucker; and punter Sam Koch. Tucker and Koch were both unanimous picks.
The biggest snub for the Ravens was cornerback Marlon Humphrey. The Browns' Denzel Ward (14 points) and Bengals' William Jackson III (eight points) grabbed the starting spots, while Humphrey (five points) finished third in the voting.
"Good Morning Football's" Peter Schrager said recently that Humphrey, who is entering his third season, has the potential to be the No. 1 cornerback in the league this year.
Humphrey was ranked as the sixth-best cornerback by the "MMQB Podcast" and the 10th-best by Pro Football Focus. No other cornerback from the AFC North made either of those top 10 lists.
The Ravens' skill position players did not fare well in the All-AFC North Team voting. Jackson received just one point, running back Mark Ingram had three points, and no Baltimore wide receiver got any votes.
At tight end, the Ravens' Mark Andrews, who has been mentioned by several pundits as a candidate for a breakout season and has looked strong in camp, finished third with six points, behind the Steelers' Vance McDonald (11) and Browns' David Njoku (10). Andrews did receive one first-place vote.
Food for Thought With Ronnie Stanley
Ever wonder what a 6-foot-6, 315-pound NFL tackle eats?
ESPN's Jamison Hensley found out when he sat down for dinner with Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley at Azumi, a Japanese restaurant at the Inner Harbor. Hensley learned that Stanley's eating habits are different than those of "the stereotypical big man in the NFL."
"In a matter of minutes, sitting in front of Stanley are eight pieces of Chutoro and Otoro, the sought-after cut of medium fatty tuna sushi," Hensley wrote. "Then arrives the 14-ounce Miyazaki steak, the Holy Grail of beef that costs a whopping $364 and is served with fire burning around the dish.
"The bodyguard of Lamar Jackson's blind side isn't chomping down on fast-food burgers, potato chips and donuts. The unofficial foodie king of the Ravens, Stanley seeks out places that are unique to Baltimore and pride themselves on being creative and visionary."
Stanley told Hensley: "Most people just think, 'Oh, [offensive linemen are] big and they eat whatever they want.' We're blocking the most athletic people on the other team. You can't be sloppy with your eating choices."
Among the topics Stanley discussed during dinner was his future with the Ravens. Drafted sixth overall in 2016, he is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
"I kind of play it year by year," Stanley said. "I love playing here. I love the team. That's not an issue with me. I try not to worry about that too much. I focus on being the best I can be and everything else will fall into place."
James Hurst Now the Favorite at Left Guard?
The trade that sent Alex Lewis to the New York Jets yesterday leaves Jermaine Eluemunor, James Hurst, and fourth-round rookie Ben Powers competing to start at left guard for the Ravens.
"Hurst may have the edge due to his experience," our Clifton Brown wrote of the most competitive camp roster battle for a starting spot. "Hurst is in his sixth season and started games at both right tackle and left guard last season.
"However, the Ravens love Hurst's versatility as a potential backup, because he can play either guard or tackle. He's been primarily taking reps as the No. 2 right tackle behind Orlando Brown Jr. and is listed on the first depth chart there."
Brown noted that Eluemunor is listed as the starting left guard on the first depth chart, but Harbaugh said last week that the competition remained open.
Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens wrote: "At this point, it would seem the Ravens feel pretty good with who they have on their depth chart. Cutting a player like Lewis, who started 10 games last year before an injury ended his season prematurely, isn't a knee-jerk decision.
"The coaching staff and front office have seen enough from Powers, Eluemunor and Hurst to either know they've got a starter there or that they need to hit up free agency."
- It was reported yesterday that former Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, but NFL Network's Ian Rapoport later reported that Crabtree worked out for the Cardinals but the team has no plans to sign him.