Talk about Earl Thomas being a ballhawk isn't just talk. It's fact, and his comfort level in the Ravens' defense is obviously growing.
Thomas capped Wednesday's practice with the defensive play of the day, picking off a short Lamar Jackson pass over the middle by undercutting wide receiver Willie Snead IV and taking it to the end zone for a pick-six. Near the end of his jaunt, with Jackson in pursuit, Thomas made like former all-time great Ravens safety Ed Reed, lateraling the ball to linebacker Patrick "Peanut" Onwuasor.
Afterward, Thomas turned to the crowd and extended his arms as teammates swarmed him. The fans loved it, giving the Ravens' free agent acquisition a loud ovation.
It was a preview of what the Ravens expect from the six-time Pro Bowl safety, who was a key acquisition during free agency. Reed will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and Thomas may also be enshrined once his career ends. He has 28 career interceptions, and not only is he blessed with superb instincts, his hands are more reliable than most defensive backs.
"He caught it so in stride, I thought it was a receiver at first," said cornerback Marlon Humphrey. "I feel like that's going to be the story of this year, man, Earl making plays, the secondary just flying to the ball. That got me going. As I said on Twitter the other day, the energy, the brains, I can already tell, I cannot wait to be on the field with him."
Thomas' biggest adjustment since arriving from Seattle has been getting used to the Ravens' complex defense. His quick reaction to undercut the route may be an indication that he's feel more comfortable.
"I do see that," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "The communication has been smoother and better. Hey, he's in this defense for the first time. These are new calls for him. But they're also football. They're football calls and he understands football. He's picking it up real quickly and doing a great job."
Thomas' speed to the end zone after making the interception is also worth noting. Once he turned on the gas, Thomas ran very well. A broken leg ended Thomas' 2018 season, and he has not played an NFL game since Sept. 30 of last year.
In other practice developments:
- Other than Thomas' interception, Jackson had a good day throwing the ball. He dropped a perfect 35-yard pass over Seth Roberts' shoulder and into his arms on a down-and-out route. It may have been Jackson's best throw of camp. His mechanics will continue to be scrutinized, but there are not many throws that Jackson can't make. The key is for him is to make good throws consistently. During this camp, Jackson has made big strides in the right direction.
- Roberts has stacked several nice days this week and Wednesday was another solid effort. After practice, Roberts put in extra work on the Jugs machine making one-handed grabs. With 158 career catches, Roberts' four years of NFL experience is showing.
- Cornerback Tavon Young and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor both returned to practice Wednesday after missing the previous two workouts with minor muscle injuries. Missing practice were cornerback Jimmy Smith, and offensive linemen Alex Lewis and Randin Crecelius. Harbaugh said Smith missed practice for personal reasons.
- Harbaugh liked the pace of Wednesday's practice after giving the team Tuesday off. "They came back rested and ready to go," he said. "No one was out here dragging, they got here on time, they were enthusiastic. No backslide, no step back at all."