The Ravens rookies took to the field for the first time this weekend, and reporters got to watch the 2.5-hour practice Saturday.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was pleased overall with the 12-man draft class, plus 15 undrafted rookies and tryout players. He first noticed that they were in shape and ready to go for two "full-sized" practices. The tempo has been fast.
"I think they've done a really good job," Harbaugh said. "The guys that we expected to stand out have and there have been some surprises with guys we brought in as free agents and tryout guys even. It's been a plus-plus all the way across the board."
Here are the quick notes from practice:
- This probably goes without saying, but the offense looks a lot different when Lamar Jackson is under center versus Joe Flacco. The most evident difference, of course, is Jackson's ability to run. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner ran a bunch of times throughout the practice and his explosion immediately jumps out. He had back-to-back runs during full 11-on-11 work that would have picked up 10-plus yards, and he's not even putting his array of juke moves on people yet. It's like he shot out of a cannon coming out of the backfield, and he doesn't hesitate to take off (though it's evident he's looking to pass first, unless it's a designed run).
- Harbaugh said he's been impressed with Jackson's accuracy and natural arm talent. He threw several nice passes down the seam to his tight ends and has a nice deep ball. Jackson doesn't have Flacco's kind of raw arm strength, but he looked good overall as a passer.
- Jackson didn't throw any interceptions and made good decisions. He tried to force one into double coverage that got knocked away. His best throw was threaded into a tight window to wide receiver Jordan Lasley in red-zone drills. Harbaugh said Jackson's still mostly trying to "color between the lines" as he learns the system and playbook, but he seemed to have good command. He's also adjusting to taking snaps from under center a lot more than he's used to.
- It looks like the Ravens would like to use Jackson as an occasional offensive weapon or decoy not under center. Harbaugh said coaches are designing that stuff in the "laboratory," and that they'll work on them in practice.
- There's already some chemistry building between Jackson and Lasley, as they connected multiple times during 11-on-11 drills and nearly on a long touchdown pass. Lasley cheered on Jackson from the sideline when the quarterback scampered up the middle for a big gain.
- Lasley was one of the most impressive rookies on the field. He's built like Mike Wallace and has a similar confidence and swagger about him. As Jackson said after practice, he just gets open. Drops were a problem for Lasley in his past two seasons, but he didn't put a single ball on the ground Saturday. He was also clearly locked in and engaged throughout the entire practice.
- The two tight ends, first-rounder Hayden Hurst and third-rounder Mark Andrews, caught nearly everything that came at them. Hurst didn't haul in a one-handed attempt in the end zone once. Andrews clearly has a good feel for getting open and was often targeted.
- Fifth-round safety DeShon Elliott is a talker. He's already taking charge in the back end of the defense and also has some swagger about him.
- It's hard for offensive linemen to stand out too much, but on one play, sixth-round center Bradley Bozeman shoved a blitzing linebacker so hard – as he dropped in pass protection – that the linebacker nearly fell over.
- For concerns about Orlando Brown Jr. Jr.'s NFL Scouting Combine performance, he definitely passes the eyeball test. He's massive with thick legs. Like any player, he'll benefit from time in the weight room and improvements in his diet, but he's not sloppy.
- The Ravens' other big offensive tackle, Greg Senat, is also physically impressive. A converted basketball player, he can add some bulk, but he can definitely move.
- The undrafted rookie who stood out the most was Alabama-Birmingham cornerback Darious Williams, who came up with an interception and nearly had a second. He's scrappy in coverage.