The Ravens aren't waiting for Lamar Jackson's return to focus on their passing game.
Deep balls were flying during Wednesday's opening practice of training camp, and fans let out a huge ovation after Marquise "Hollywood" Brown caught two long passes for touchdowns.
The Ravens will be without Jackson at the start of training camp after their franchise quarterback was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. However, emphasis on the passing game will continue and the Ravens are embracing the challenge.
"To work with the new coaches, new receivers, everybody pushing each other, everybody wanting to be the best they can be, it's exciting and fun," Brown said. "Of course having the reps with him means a lot. But for as a receiver, if we're out here working and we're wide open, he's just going to have to come back and get us the ball. While he's out, we've got to do the best we can to make sure we're better for him."
Drafting Rashod Bateman (first round) and Tylan Wallace (fifth round) and signing veteran target Sammy Watkins was part of an offseason plan to make the passing game more consistent and explosive.
The group developed chemistry during OTAs and minicamp, as well as some off-site workouts, and Jackson was excited to pick up where they left off at the start of training camp.
The Ravens would love to have Jackson out on the field. But they remain determined to work on the details of their passing game, building chemistry with each other and momentum until Jackson returns.
Brown, Watkins and James Proche II got open consistently on Wednesday, and backup quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley were accurate and decisive throwing the ball. It was an impressive start for the offense, something Baltimore hopes to build on in its quest to create more splash plays through the air. If the Ravens continue to execute well during practices, Brown believes it will give Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman more ways to attack defenses on gamedays.
"Coach Roman has a playbook and everything we're still running is there," Brown said. "We've just got to perfect what he's got us doing. Once we show that in practice, he'll get more comfortable calling it in a game. It's on us to show what we can do."
Tight end Mark Andrews worked out this offseason in Arizona, and he entered training camp feeling very good about where Baltimore's passing game is headed. Brown and Andrews have been Jackson's favorite targets the past two years, but the Ravens have added to their offensive arsenal and plan to utilize it.
"The chemistry is there," Andrews said. "You can tell that we're all bought in. We're all on the same page. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone wants to be great, and that's the beautiful thing about this organization is we're all striving to a certain goal. We're all moving in that same direction. We all have that same mindset. All these receivers, all these tight ends, all the coaches, everybody is bought in on that. So, we're ready to go, for sure."
Watkins deftly used his body to shield off defenders on two catches, and Brown says he has already picked the veteran teammate's brain for pointers.
"I learn a lot from Sammy," Brown said. "Mentality, mindset, how he comes out here. He pushes us and we push him. It's going to be a great relationship."
Jackson is the Ravens' most dynamic offensive player, and having him miss practice is not the way Baltimore planned to open camp. However, Head Coach John Harbaugh was pleased with the intensity and precision that he saw Wednesday. He sees it as an opportunity for McSorley and Huntley, two players in a tight battle to be Jackson's backup, to get valuable reps with the first-team offense and keep the passing growth rolling.
"It's no different if somebody gets an injury," Harbaugh said. "You tweak an ankle or something and you're out for some number of days – it's just part of football. To me, whenever you have a problem [or] whenever something comes up like that, you embrace it. You kind of almost rejoice in it, because it's an opportunity to improve somewhere else. You take advantage of the opportunity to gain an advantage in some different kind of way that you wouldn't have otherwise. That's how our guys did it. We had a good practice, and we're moving forward."