The Ravens' edge is under a microscope in training camp after the free-agent departures of Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. Baltimore could still make a move to add a veteran, but so far, the replacements are a pair of rookies in first-round pick Odafe Oweh and fifth-round pick Daelin Hayes.
It's still early in training camp, but the rookies are showing they have what it takes to be immediate contributors. Oweh and Hayes have strung together three good practices and particularly flashed Friday.
"Both of those rookies on the outside are doing really well," Martindale said. "I can't wait until we get into the pads, because – like they say at the Combine and they say at OTAs – 'Shorts and T-shirts.' There is the old school in me. There is some truth to that – that you want to see everybody get in pads before you give the full update. But [Hayes is] doing really well. They all are."
In the first session of 11-on-11 work, Hayes flattened his pursuit angle and sprinted to the sideline to make what would have been a tackle for little to no gain. A couple plays later, Hayes shed a blocker to stuff another run 1-on-1, then clapped his hands in excitement as an assistant coach came onto the field to celebrate with him.
Hayes also showed his pass rush ability on one 11-on-11 rep, dipping under a the offensive tackle's high punch to get around the edge and to the quarterback. It was clear that his immediate burst off the snap was a lot to handle. It was a nice combination of speed and savvy from a rookie.
Oweh put his freakish athleticism on full display when he burned around the edge untouched on a quarterback rollout to the opposite side. He chased Tyler Huntley – an extremely fast quarterback – all the way to the far sideline.
"Speed kills, and with his size, it's unbelievable," Martindale said. "They ran a speed-option; he took the quarterback and the pitch. So, that's a rare trait to have as an edge rusher, and we're really excited on where he's at."
It's clear that the Ravens' rookies add more speed to the edges of Baltimore's front-seven, which will help track down screens and other plays to the flats.
Here are other notes from Friday's practice:
- Speaking of young defenders, second-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike was particularly impressive as he continues to show why he'll have a bigger role this year.
- Sammy Watkins continued his strong start to camp, catching a bunch of passes with Marquise Brown sidelined for a second straight day. Watkins made a touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone during 7-on-7 work. With his big body and leaping ability, it's easy to see how Watkins will help Baltimore in the red zone. Another area where Watkins upgrades the Ravens' wide receiver corps is in yards after catch. He explodes up the field after getting the ball.
- Rookie Rashod Bateman snagged a touchdown pass over the top of Marlon Humphrey, then got a leaping chest bump from Mark Andrews. Humphrey got back at him by breaking up a dart in the back of the end zone during red-zone drills from about the 5-yard line. Both passes came from McSorley.
- McSorley and Huntley were both very good again. It's notable that the offense hasn't struggled with the backup quarterbacks taking the reps and Jackson sidelined. Often, the first week or so of camp is dominated by the defense as the timing and chemistry of the offense, particularly in the passing game is built. But even without the MVP, Baltimore's offense has been humming. McSorley looks decisive and has been accurate all over the field.
- Andrews was kind of quiet over the first couple days of practice. That changed when McSorley hit him with a beautiful touchdown down the middle of the field in 7-on-7 drills. Andrews got leverage and leapt for the diving touchdown. Andrews got up and threw the ball in excitement.
- Nigel Warrior, who spent last year on the practice squad as an undrafted rookie, grabbed an interception away from Binjimen Victor deep down the field on a throw from Kenji Bahar. Warrior has had back-to-back strong practices and Martindale said the Ravens are checking out his versatility to see if the safety can also play corner.
- McSorley did have one play that probably made his coaches nervous in which he rolled to his right and threw across his body as he approached the sideline. The pass squeaked by a couple defenders to James Proche II, but that's typically a no-no.
- Josh Oliver made an athletic jumping catch, but don't forget about Eli Wolf in the third tight end competition. Wolf, an undrafted rookie last year, struggled with injuries, but he's a good receiver who caught a long touchdown pass down the middle and hauled in several passes overall Friday.
- Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said it's too early to weigh in on the left guard competition before the pads come on, but rookie Ben Cleveland is at least moving well in shorts and shells. I'm eager to see what he can do when he can let loose a little more.
- Cornerback Anthony Averett passed the conditioning test and had his first day of practice. He looked like he hadn't missed a beat, closing in on one throw to the flats extremely fast and shutting down a long throw to the sideline during 11-on-11s.