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Verdict on Ravens' Joint Practice: Not Boring
It was hot and humid enough in Maryland yesterday for the Ravens to feel like they were in the dog days of training camp. But there was no chance of that happening with the Rams in town for the first of two joint practices.
"This is nice for players, coaches, media because it breaks up the monotony of camp, especially for the Ravens. Their rookies got here July 11," CBSSports.com’s Evan Washburn said. "The Rams coming to town, this is something that hasn't happened here in Baltimore since 2014."
On defense, the Ravens did quite well against the Rams' high-octane offense. Cornerback Maurice Canady held up well according to Baltimore Beatdown’s Kyle Barber. He also saved his best for last during the 11-on-11 portion of practice while competing against Rams quarterback Sean Mannion and wide receiver Michael Thomas.
"Canady was beat off the line on a deep-route; Mannion saw it and threw the ball," Barber wrote. "Maurice not only recovered, he out-ran Thomas to the ball. If not for an overthrown pass by Mannion, Canady intercepts the ball."
The Ravens offense also performed well, according to reports, but the offensive line struggled at times to handle the Rams' physical front. Barber felt Nico Siragusa stood out, and "looked sturdy at center, making solid snaps and stepping powerfully towards the defensive line."
The big storyline heading into the joint practice to many media members is how would Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Rams cornerback Aqib Talib get along. The duo fought the past two seasons while playing for the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, respectively, including a scuffle last year which saw them both get ejected and suspended.
It ended up being a nonissue. As ESPN noted, "Crabtree lined up against Talib seven times, and it didn't appear that they spoke once."
"On Monday, Talib played press coverage on Crabtree only once, pushing him to the sideline. But that was the most physical contact between the two players," ESPN wrote. "Round 3 just never came close to occurring."
The buzz around practice was also aided by the abundance of national media at the Under Armour Performance Center.
No Raven enjoyed the extra attention as much as safety Eric Weddle did. NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano and Mike Robinson were speaking with Rams quarterback Jared Goff when Weddle decided to interrupt and jokingly voice his frustration at having to wait for an opposing player to finish an interview while at his home field.
A Close-Up (and Positive) Review of Lamar Jackson's NFL Debut
Lamar Jackson's stock continues to rise, according to The Athletic’s Sam Gold.
Though Gold states that Jackson's final "stats weren't eye-opening" in last week's Hall of Fame game, "he showed enough positives to make Ravens fans happy."
Gold goes to the tape to back up his assertion, as he provides in-depth analysis on a few of Jackson's plays. One play that Gold was enamored with was the touchdown pass to tight end and fellow rookie Hayden Hurst. Gold notes that Jackson did an excellent job of targeting the opposing defense's underneath sideline defender, which is the goal of the stick-flat concept the Ravens have implemented.
"It's actually a pretty big element of a West Coast offense," Gold said. "The ability to progress through your reads quickly after a short drop is extremely crucial in the NFL. Pretty much every team runs the same exact concept, or a slight variation, so it's good to see Jackson understanding what he has to do, and then executing a very structured offense."
Gold also liked what he saw from Jackson once he got outside of the pocket. The Bears managed to get consistent pressure in the backfield while Jackson was playing, but he did a decent job of looking to continue the play, rather than immediately looking to run.
"He did a pretty good job of keeping his eyes down the field, especially when the pocket was collapsing," Gold said. "He also reset his feet for any potential throws, and would find a check down on occasion. To me, this all shows a level of sophistication that if you're a Ravens fan, you should be happy with."
Jackson has many fans, and with the Rams in town, it feels relevant to mention that the franchise's former quarterback, Kurt Warner, is among them.
Warner, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV, spoke with PressBox’s Glenn Clark on Glenn Clark Radio and made his admiration for Jackson pretty apparent. Though Warner didn't say he thinks Jackson should start ahead of quarterback Joe Flacco this season, he does think the Ravens would be wise to keep him in their plans this year.
"Just so dynamic that you get him third-and-1 situations, you get him red-zone situations," Warner said. "You put him in a situation where he can run [or] pass and defenses have to really focus in on both of them, and probably more on the run than the pass. That can open some things up for your team."
Weddle Believes Tweaks Have Ravens Defense Close to Greatness
Speaking of Weddle’s interview on NFL Network, the 33-year-old safety was quite candid about the Ravens' storied history on defense, and where the groups he's been a member of the past two years rank.
"The Ravens are known for having the best defense in the league, and we took strides last year, but we weren't nearly where we need to be for this organization, and to be a Super Bowl caliber team," Weddle said.
Though the 2017 defense may not have ranked highly against Baltimore's defenses of old, according to Weddle, the group still performed well when compared to the other defenses of the league.
Along with finishing first in turnovers, the defense also placed sixth in points allowed per game. Those stats indicate to Weddle that the group isn't far off from being one of those dominant defenses that Baltimore is used to having, remarking "we just need to tweak some areas that we weren't really efficient at last year."
"Schematically, it'll be a little bit different. We're going to be much more aggressive in certain situations- first and second down," Weddle said. "We're just going to get after teams."
Another area where Weddle sees the team needing to improve is performing well in late game situations. As he noted, "we led the league in turnovers, and it didn't show in the win-loss column because we gave up some fourth quarter leads."
Late-game situations have been a point of emphasis this offseason, with Weddle saying the defense focuses on them every day during training camp.
"When it gets tough and you're tired, that's when you've got to concentrate even more," Weddle said. "You've got to communicate more, line up, get the call out, and execute at a high level when the game is on the line."
What to Look for in Ravens' Next Preseason Game
The Rams aren't just in Baltimore to practice, and Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler has outlined what he hopes to see from the Ravens in Thursday's preseason contest.
A Running Back to Dazzle Us
Though the top of the Ravens' running back depth chart is clear with Alex Collins and Buck Allen, Schisler is hoping to see a clear No. 3 emerge against the Rams. Schisler sees Kenneth Dixon as the front runner for the position, though he'll need to perform well on the field to solidify that.
"We get flashes of how he can wow us and then he gets hurt. Dixon needs to prove that he is the sensation we have seen brief glimpses of," Schisler wrote.
Continued Success for Kamalei Correa and Orlando Brown Jr.
Outside linebacker Kamalei Correa and offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. both stood out against the Bears in Baltimore's first preseason game. Schisler wants to see if both can replicate those efforts against the Rams.
Schisler thinks a strong showing against the Rams from Brown Jr. would go a long way towards solidifying the rookie as the favorite to start at right tackle. "If he plays sharp to start the game and is removed quickly from the exhibition game, that will be a good sign. Brown Jr. has so much potential."
With Correa, Schisler believes he needs to continue to play at high level to stand out among the Ravens' big group of outside linebackers. "He was moved back to outside linebacker and it looks like that move could bring promising results."
The Battle at Inside Linebacker
The competition between Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor to start next to C.J. Mosley, which Schisler called "the most interesting" position battle, will continue against the Rams.
According to Schisler, Young has found himself in this spot because of his athleticism. "If Baltimore sees Young win the job in the middle of the defense the speed of the second level of their defense would be unfathomably good."
Onwuasor's strength is that he's a proven commodity. He played well last year and showed that he is "capable. He has proven that he can be a steady hand next to C.J. Mosley."
Check out the full story from Schisler to see what else he hopes to see during Baltimore's game against the Rams.
· NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano came up with a creative way to battle the 101-degree heat index out in Owings Mills yesterday.
· Rams safety Blake Countess is a native of Owings Mills, and spoke with The Baltimore Sun’s Edward Lee about what it's like to return to his hometown as an NFL player. "Growing up here, this is what you dream about, playing on Sundays," Countess said. "So it feels great to be home."