Football is a game of adjustments, and the Ravens have accepted the challenge of practicing without Lamar Jackson (Reserve/Covid-19) early in training camp.
Quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley have strung together three excellent practices, giving their targets plenty of opportunities to make plays. Standouts during Friday's practice included wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews. It has also been a strong week for second-year wideout James Proche II.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has been pleased with how the Ravens have reacted to Jackson's unexpected absence.
"It's certainly not a positive, but we've got to create a positive out of this thing," Roman said. "We've got to get a great plan for when he does come back on how we can kind of make up for the time. That's really the game we have to play. If he was here, that'd be great, but he's not so now what do we do? Well, let's figure out a solution. The other guys are really developing and working hard."
Roman said Jackson has remained in regular communication with coaches and players while not on the practice field.
"Lamar's engaged with us right now mentally," Roman said. "When he gets back in here, then we can get more into the physical nature, the practice reps.
"We're looking forward to getting him back. Everybody's really dialed into what they need to do right now to get ready for this season."
It remains to be seen if the Ravens will increase Jackson's practice reps once he returns, or whether he will play more during the preseason to make up for lost time.
"That will be a discussion for a later date, but it's definitely a discussion we'll have," Roman said. "Right now, we're not there yet."
Brandon Stephens' Transition to Safety Going Smoothly
Third-round pick Brandon Stephens began his college career as a running back at UCLA, and later switched to cornerback after transferring to SMU. However, the Ravens believe Stephens' NFL future is at safety and they like what they see since drafting him. Stephens is competing to be the primary backup safety behind starters Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott.
"He's a smart kid," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. "I really, really like him. I think he's going to be a great football player for us. As all the rookies are, they're a little quiet right now. It's like the freshman going into the senior's class. They're listening, learning, and eventually they start getting confident with what their responsibilities are and you see them start to grow. He's already doing that."
Another versatile player in the secondary Nigel Warrior, who was undrafted in 2020 and spent last year on Baltimore's practice squad. Safety is Warrior's primary position, but he has taken training camp reps at corner too. Warrior could add to Baltimore's already-deep secondary if he makes the roster.
"That's his strength, position flexibility," Martindale said. "We know he can play safety. Now we're going to see where he's at corner-wise. He's done a nice job. He's had some good battles with some good receivers."
Sammy Watkins Has Close Relationship With Two Ravens Coaches
Signing with the Ravens has allowed Watkins to work with two of his favorite coaches – Roman and Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams. Watkins was with the Buffalo Bills in 2015 when Roman was their offensive coordinator. Williams was already Watkins' personal coach during the offseason, and now they're together full-time.
Roman loves being reunited with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Watkins believes Baltimore is a great fit for him, and Roman agrees.
"Sammy's a gem," Roman said. "Sammy, to me, is one of the best receivers in the NFL – period. I think he's doing a great job really in everything, meetings, just his presence, his communication with the other receivers, the advice he's giving them. He's a much more seasoned player than when I knew him in his second year. It's really fun to see him. Every day with him is a great day."
Williams knows what makes Watkins tick, and the chemistry between them on the field is obvious.
"Sammy and I are real close," Williams said. "Him, like everybody else, you just continue hone in on your skills, improve what you might be struggling with, and make better what's already been good. That's what he's doing every day. It's just fortunate that we can do it together now every day, instead of just in the offseason."
Marcus Peters Thrills Young Fan By Giving Away His Cleats
Marcus Peters made a new best friend with an act of kindness near the end of Friday's practice. He gave away his cleats away to a young fan. Peters took the shoes off his feet and asked a member of the team's security detail to walk over and hand the stylish, gold-bottomed shoes to the wide-eyed youngster. The huge grin that the youngster flashed after receiving the cleats said it all.
This is the side of Peters not everyone gets to see. He's a combative player, a trash-talker who refuses to back down from any challenge on the field. On game days, Peters is a lion. But if he's on your team, he's easy to embrace.
"I love the guy," Martindale said. "He's a special person. Some people don't understand him, I guess. And some guys have to get that way once the whistle blows to get their mind right. He does have a little edge to him out there on the field. I personally like it. I've got a little edge. We're all touched in different ways on the defensive side of the ball, coaches as well. He's a great person and a great player."