For the second straight day, the Ravens practiced without Lamar Jackson. Baltimore's starting quarterback (illness) was not on the field Thursday as the Ravens prepared for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.
However, the Ravens have a 3-0 record this season when Jackson has missed at least one practice during the week. He sat out one practice before the team's Week 3 game in Detroit and one before the Week 6 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Jackson also missed two practices before the Week 4 Denver Broncos game because of back soreness.
"I think he's feeling better. I don't really have a complete update on his status, though," Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said of Jackson.
Starting center Bradley Bozeman returned to practice Thursday after also being ill Wednesday. Bozeman did not think Jackson's absence would hinder the offense Sunday.
"I really don't think it's that big of a deal," Bozeman said. "I know Lamar's doing things at home he needs to do. He's watching plays, getting everything right at home. When he comes back in, he's not going to miss a step. He's done it week in and week out, to step up to the plate when he needs to. I don't see that being an issue."
Regarding his own health, Bozeman said he felt much better Thursday and confirmed his illness was not COVID-19 related.
"You can still get just regular sick these days," Bozeman said, drawing laughter.
Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (hip) and Tavon Young (foot) were back at practice after missing Wednesday. Marquise "Hollywood" Brown (thigh) was again not on the field Thursday, nor was Rashod Bateman, who practiced Wednesday.
Getting Out of Huddle Faster Is a Priority for Offense
On multiple occasions, the Ravens rushed to snap the ball just before the 40-second play clock expired in Miami, part of a frustrating night for them offensively.
Were plays being relayed too slowly to Jackson? Was he taking too long to audible into a different play? Were the Ravens taking too long to make substitutions? Roman said it was a combination of factors.
"I'd say probably a little bit of all of the above," Roman said. "Lamar is really good at getting that thing snapped and managing the play clock. [There were] probably a couple calls that needed to get in quicker, and we had a substitution issue on one, but that's just our operation. We have to be better with our operation. Overall, really, it was a straight to DVD performance, and we know it. So, you get back in, you make the corrections, you bring the requisite energy to our preparation, and we'll go."
Bozeman Focusing on Keeping Pocket Clean So Jackson Can Be 'Lamarvelous'
Jackson was under constant duress in last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins, as their zero blitz pressure was relentless. Jackson took four sacks in Miami and has been dropped 28 times this year, the third-most in the league.
The Bears are not a team that generally blitzes as much as Miami, but Chicago's strategy may change after watching the Dolphins. Providing a cleaner pocket for Jackson has been a major topic of discussion this week, and Bozeman knows Jackson he will make plays if his protection is solid.
"Week in and week out, that's our main concern, especially with the offensive line – keep that guy clean," Bozeman said. "He's special back there. Keeping him clean, letting him be able to do the things that he can do, letting him be 'Lamarvelous.' We're going to continue to work and try to pick up these blitzes, keep guys off of him and do the best we can."
In his first year as the starting center after moving from left guard, Bozeman has the added responsibility of calling out protections and making pre-snap changes in blocking assignments if he deems them necessary. Bozeman says defenses are throwing new wrinkles at Baltimore on a weekly basis, but it's up to the offense to adjust.
"Defenses are definitely trying to adapt to us," Bozeman said. "We've struggled a little bit with [cover] zero. We're still trying to build and fix those things. We're just going to continue to build, keep trying to pick those things up and make defenses throw different things at us to try to stop us."
Return of 'Computer Chip' Patrick Mekari Would Be a Boost
Starting right tackle Patrick Mekari (ankle) has been practicing this week after missing three straights games, giving him a chance to return Sunday.
Mekari was playing the best football of his career prior to this injury and the Ravens are 5-0 when he's in the starting lineup.
"Pat's a great player, he's always been a great player," Bozeman said. "Guy knows the gameplan, he knows the playbook. He's one of those computer chips out there, kind of knows everything. Great to have that guy out there. When I'm not for sure, I know he has my back to help me out, get things fixed on the field. To get him back at some point, I don't know exactly when that's going to be, we're excited."
Justin Ellis Has Stepped Up In Larger Role
When defensive tackle Justin Ellis agreed to a contract extension in March, it didn't make as many waves as some of Baltimore's other offseason moves. However, Ellis may be having his best season.
With Brandon Williams (shoulder) having missed the last two games and Derek Wolfe (back) expected to miss the entire season, Ellis has stepped up in a big way. He played a season-high 74 percent of the defensive snaps against Minnesota in Week 9, and played 54 percent of the snaps against Miami.
"He's been a stud," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. "He's been that way throughout the year, as well as the others that we've been calling on up front. And I'm really happy for him, too."
Martindale said the Ravens defense will need its A-game to contain quarterback Justin Fields, who is improving from week to week as a rookie.
"I think the kid has tremendous talent," Martindale said. "He can throw the football really well, with a lot of velocity, of- balance, and make things happen that way in the passing game and extending plays. But like I said, I think this is the way you're seeing the league going, and he's going to be one of those guys we talk about in the playoffs and some Super Bowls. I feel that way, because he's got everything you need."