Calais Campbell has seen hundreds of rookie defensive linemen, but the talent of Travis Jones is forcing the veteran to take a closer look.
"He's a stud," Campbell said. "He has all the tools to be a special player in this league. His mindset is that of a guy who's hungry and wants to be great. I think it's a great environment for him to flourish and develop. He has all the tools in place, and he's flashing at camp. You can tell he is going to be a special guy."
Getting teammates to rave about Jones is easier than getting him to talk about himself. Jones hears the praise, but the third-round defensive tackle from UConn is taking a business-like approach to training camp, focusing on improving and learning from veterans like Campbell, Michael Pierce and Brent Urban who have taken Jones under their wing.
"I hear it, but my mindset every day is just to come in and try to get better every day, and don't think about yesterday – just worry about [today]," Jones said. "I came to camp with no personal goals. My goal was just to come in every day, put my best foot forward and be ready to work."
Jones and his teammates were pumped after Jones got his first sack in last week's preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans, dumping Malik Willis for a 7-yard loss. Willis is very elusive, as he displayed when he made Kyle Hamilton and Malik Harrison miss on a scramble for Tennessee's only touchdown. However, Jones showed his mobility by chasing down Willis near the sideline after he rolled of the pocket.
"The first preseason game of my NFL career, and to be able to go out there, get my first sack, it was an exciting moment for me," Jones said. "I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life, for sure, man."
Jones has uncommon athleticism for a player listed at 6-foot-4, 334 pounds, and he has obvious potential to make an immediate impact as a run-stopper who can also provide an interior pass rush.
It's obvious Jones is already one of the team's strongest players. Titans offensive linemen had trouble moving Jones, and he nearly got another sack on Willis when he bull-rushed guard Xavier Newman into Willis' lap.
Campbell, who's also a powerful player, has felt Jones' grown-man strength on several occasions.
"Not a lot of guys have his power and raw strength – not that I've played with," Campbell said. "I know some other guys said he reminds them of Fletcher Cox (Eagles Pro Bowl defensive lineman). Guys who just have that raw strength and can get off the ball really fast.
"I've done a lot of, I guess they call it 'giving him a look,' kind of do a scout team rep where I'm giving an offensive player (look). I'm not going full speed, but I'm like, 'If I did go full speed, that might hurt a little bit.' He's a tough guy."
The Ravens are hoping to improve their pass rush, and that responsibility falls on the entire defense. Baltimore's defensive line accounted for 5 ½ sacks last season, and the Ravens want that unit to generate more pressure.
"It's definitely an area of focus for us," Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Anthony Weaver said. "We know we want to get sacks and all of those things, but we want to lead the league in quarterback harassment. Whether that's pressures, hits, hurries, we want to make sure we're doing whatever we can to harass that guy in order to help those guys behind us."
Baltimore did not re-sign Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe retired, and the team will count more heavily on younger linemen like Jones, Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington. Pierce thinks Jones is ready to be an impact rookie.
"So the dude is like 6'5", he's about as big as I am, and he can move," Pierce said. "Like really, fluidly move. I don't know why he went in the third round, but you don't really see too many people [like that]. He's just a special kid. Some of that stuff you just cannot teach. Obviously, you work on your technique and stuff, but raw ability and just want-to, he has it for sure."
Jones isn't letting that talk go to his head, but he's determined to fulfill his potential. He's learning and listening, and glad teammates are impressed.
"They're just good guys, just out here helping me get better at my craft each and every day," Jones said. "Having them notice it means a lot to me."