Injury concerns have dogged Sammy Watkins' career, but as other Ravens receivers have been forced to the sideline during training camp, Watkins continues to stack good practices – even on blistering days like Thursday.
Watkins made several big plays during Thursday's session, including hauling in a perfectly thrown bomb from Trace McSorley during 7-on-7s. Watkins also won three straight battles against Marcus Peters in red-zone matchups, including one that was basically a jump ball.
Besides his deep ball, however, Watkins' explosion is standing out at practice. On a slant over the middle, Watkins made an extended fingertips grab and burst between two defenders. When Watkins gets the ball in his hands, he gets up the field in a hurry. He's going to greatly help the Ravens get more yards after catch this season.
With Rashod Bateman scheduled for groin surgery and sidelined until September and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown still not back from a hamstring injury, Watkins' importance in the Ravens' passing game is even more magnified.
Watkins got a veteran day off on Wednesday, showing the Ravens' awareness and plan to help him stay healthy. Watkins returned looking fresh, showing how much of a weapon he can be this year.
Here are other notes from Thursday's practice:
- The intensity of practice was turned down a little bit after back-to-back days in pads in the August heat. Friday's practice will be closed to the media as the team prepares for the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
- Rookie pass rushers Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes were back on the field Thursday, as were some other veterans who had the day off. Patrick Ricard and Alejandro Villanueva have minor issues so Harbaugh gave them a second straight day off. Tavon Young got a veteran day off. There were 18 players missing from Thursday's practice.
- Some good injury news is that right guard Kevin Zeitler came out near the end of practice to work out. He seemed to be moving well after being out since Aug. 3 with a foot injury. Safety Nigel Warrior also got some training work in.
- Devin Duvernay joined Watkins in having a strong day. The second-year wideout caught a long pass from McSorley, exploding past Davontae Harris on a go-route. Duvernay did well to go up and make the catch instead of trying to let it fall to him. While Duvernay was used on jet sweeps and other shorter throws last year to maximize his run-after-catch ability, it was a reminder of his top-notch flat-out 4.4-second speed that can stress defenders over the top.
- Duvernay also made an impressive play on a comeback route, continuing to track back for the ball despite tight coverage by Anthony Averett. James Proche II has gotten a lot of buzz in training camp, but Duvernay is making plays too.
- New outside linebacker Justin Houston has a new (old) number. He switched from No. 48 to No. 50, the same number he's worn throughout his accomplished career in Kansas City and Indianapolis. Reserve linebacker Otaro Alaka previously held No. 50.
- Third running back Justice Hill has a lot of quickness to get to the edge, but it was good to see him find a seam up the middle on an 11-on-11s carry early in practice. Running Backs Coach Craig Ver Steeg said Hill has been focused on improving between the tackles.
- Mark Andrews continues to be Lamar Jackson's top target in 11-on-11 work, as the two connected for an easy 15-yard gain on the first play of one series. Jackson then connected with undrafted rookie tight end Tony Poljan on a slant.
- McSorley isn't as fast or elusive as Tyler Huntley, but don't sleep on his ability to still execute the Ravens' read-option quarterback keepers. McSorley can move, as he showed on one run down the middle.
- Marcus Peters broke underneath a first-down throw from Jackson to Andrews but dropped the interception. That's not something you see often. Peters immediately dropped to the turf for push-ups.
- Speaking of interceptions, safety DeShon Elliott and linebacker Kristian Welch each got one off deflected passes.
- Rooke tight end/fullback Ben Mason made his best catch of camp when he threw out his left hand to tip the ball to himself and get up the sideline for a gain of 10 or so yards.
- A sign of the exhaustion level at this point of camp, Derek Wolfe started running off the field to the wrong (offensive) side before a defensive teammate yelled out "Wrong side, Wolfie!"