Teams who face the Ravens search for someone to simulate Lamar Jackson in practice leading up to the game. That's easier said than done.
However, the Philadelphia Eagles have someone who can imitate Jackson better than most in quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has been playing that role in practice as the Eagles prepare to face Baltimore Sunday.
"It's really helped us a lot," Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said via PennLive.com. "He understands the zone read scheme, and his athleticism, I think, speaks for itself. He's putting that on display for us this week, giving us a real good look."
Hurts was the No. 53-overall pick in the draft, after his career as a dual threat quarterback at both Alabama and Oklahoma. The Eagles selected him two picks before Baltimore took running back J.K. Dobbins.
Hurts hasn't played much this season as the backup to Carson Wentz, rushing five times of for 26 yards and completing his only pass attempt for 18 yards.
However, Hurts was a true dual-threat quarterback in college just like Jackson. As a senior at Oklahoma, Hurts passed for 3,821 yards and 32 touchdowns and rushed for 1,298 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"Of course, he's not Lamar," Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. "But he's fast, too. It's definitely going to help us Sunday."
Nick Boyle Talks About Loss of Hayden Hurst
Last year the Ravens' tight end group referred to itself as the three-headed monster, consisting of Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, and Hayden Hurst. However, the trade of Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons has reduced the trio by one, and Boyle says Hurst's presence is has been missed.
"Of course, we miss Hayden," Boyle said. "Mark and I, we were all so really close when he was here. We were always together around the building, always making jokes, attacking other people (and) whatnot. From an offensive standpoint, we're doing well without Hayden, but do we miss Hayden in the sense that he's a really good football player? We do. He's a fast player, he's a physical player, and he can do a lot of special things. And he's going to do great, and he's doing great in Atlanta. But I think we can find people who are here to step up and fulfill what he left."
Andrews leads the Ravens in touchdown receptions (five) and is second in yards (222) and catches (18), Boyle (six catches, 30 yards, one touchdown) remains a premier blocking tight end, and he believes his growth as both a receiver and blocker has continued.
"I think I'm getting better as a football player every single year," Boyle said. "That's the whole thing, especially from a blocking standpoint; the more years I get, I'm able to see, diagnose defenses, see things faster, make faster decisions, which helps out my blocking."
Mark Andrews Plays Reporter With Boyle
While the Ravens' tight end room misses Hurst, it's clear there's still a tight bond between Andrews and Boyle.
Andrews jumped into Friday's Zoom press conference and asked Boyle about his blocking and his relationship with Andrews. Boyle played along, and his answer about Andrews drew laughter.
"I think we have a very good relationship," Boyle responded to Andrews. "Sometimes you can get annoying. Sometimes you need to grow up a little bit. But I love coming to work and seeing you every day. I think we have a really good relationship, and I think we have the most fun in the building and have the best bond – the strongest bond – in the building, for sure."
"No doubt," Andrews said. "Love you, brother."
Tyre Phillips*, Young O-Linemen* Getting On the Job Training
Rookie guard Tyre Phillips started the first four games of the season before missing Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals with a shoulder injury. Second-year offensive lineman Patrick Mekari started in Phillips' place in Week 5, and Mekari also started five games at center as a rookie in 2019 after Matt Skura suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Phillips, Mekari, fourth-round pick Ben Bredeson and second-year lineman Ben Powers are part of a young offensive line group that the Ravens are trying to develop. Head Coach John Harbaugh said the significant playing time that Phillips has gotten, plus what Mekhari and Powers saw last week, should help them in the long run.
"There's nothing like learning on the job," Harbaugh said. "Sometimes, you don't have the luxury. Sometimes, guys aren't ready for that. Sometimes, they have players in front of them that don't give them an opportunity to do that."
Phillips, who returned to practice Wednesday, showed a lot by winning the starting job, particularly in a year when there was no preseason due to the coronavirus. As the player stepping into the position that was occupied by eight-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda, Phillips had huge shoes to fill. But Harbaugh likes how Phillips has handled things.
"He's playing well enough to deserve to be in there as well, but the young guys have gotten opportunities," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure they'll continue to do well when they get their chances."