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Mike Preston’s Ravens observations on receivers under pressure, Lamar Jackson’s absence, rookie standouts and more | COMMENTARY

Ravens coach John Harbaugh will be patient in trying to select a competitive group of receivers, but that could be hard.

The Ravens had their second day of voluntary minicamp practice Wednesday, which was open to the media. There isn’t much stock to be put into Day 2, but there was a silent alarm of caution that went off because of several drops by the receivers, including two by Rashod Bateman, the team’s 2021 first-round pick from Minnesota.

After trading Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals, the Ravens are counting on young players like Bateman, James Proche II, Devin Duvernay and Tylan Wallace to play major roles in the passing game this season. Wallace, a second-year player out of Oklahoma State, was noted for his strong hands in college, but he dropped two passes across the middle Wednesday. Proche also had a drop on a quick out. The timing was clearly off between the receivers and backup quarterback Tyler Huntley, which is to be expected this early into OTA practices.

“We’re excited we get to our guys out there,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve been working really hard and they understand the situation. They’ve been here for months [working out].”

The Ravens have probably looked over the list of available free agents and want to give all their young receivers a chance. Plus, it’s hard for the team to lure a top-notch receiver to Baltimore because of its run-first mentality on offense. But it will be interesting to see how this unfolds because Wallace and Proche have similar abilities and Duvernay is considered a speed guy, even though the Ravens have underutilized him in his first three seasons. Bateman might be the most complete of them all.

But the clock is ticking. If this group of receivers doesn’t distinguish itself in the next two to three weeks, Harbaugh will have to look elsewhere, preferably a veteran.

No Jackson? No problem.

Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson missed his second day of minicamp.


Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie contract and so far hasn’t been able to reach an agreement on an extension in negotiations that have lasted more than a year. At this point, who cares?

The drama is getting old, especially for a quarterback who has won only one playoff game in four years. It was great that he won the NFL MVP in 2019, but he has to show he can elevate his game and the Ravens in the next two years, or it’s time for the team to move forward.

The Ravens picked up the fifth-year option of his contract worth $23 million for 2022, and they have publicly said they are allowing Jackson to set the pace for negotiations. Maybe there is some kind of rift between Jackson and the organization, but it’s not as if he is in the same class as Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

He is the centerpiece of a running offense that lacks a sophisticated passing game. The Ravens might be getting annoyed about all the questions surrounding Jackson.

“I’ll let Lamar speak for himself on this topic,” Harbaugh said Wednesday.

Tight end Mark Andrews wasn’t concerned.

“I know Lamar. I’ve talked with him. I know how hard he’s working,” Andrews said. “I know he’s extremely motivated, extremely hungry. So, there’s no worries over there.

“I know what he’s doing and we’re all working to do our job here and getting ready for him. We’ll be ready to go and I’m confident that he’ll be ready and show everybody what he’s got and the type of hunger he has right now,” said Andrews.

Taking attendance

There were quite a few no-shows for the Ravens, but a lot of those were injury related as running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, outside linebackers David Ojabo and Tyus Bowser and cornerback Marcus Peters work their way back.

But there were some notable veterans who did show up, such as guard Kevin Zeitler, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, running back Justice Hill and safety Chuck Clark.

With the addition of Marcus Williams in free agency and the selection of Kyle Hamilton in the first round of the draft, Clark is in a battle for playing time or a possible roster spot. But he has always been a consummate professional. Humphrey, who missed the final five games last season with a torn pectoral, took a lot of repetitions Wednesday.

Harbaugh said he was elated about the return of Humphrey and the progress of Peters, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

Hamilton has that look

Unless you are in the huddle or meeting rooms, it’s hard to tell exactly what the Ravens are running on defense. But Hamilton’s body language showed how comfortable he is learning the system.

A lot of rookies have that perplexed look on their face, but this kid appeared to know where he was going most of the time. It’s hard to believe he is a safety at 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds.

Steal of the draft?

One of the first things you notice about rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis, taken in the fourth round out of Alabama, is his quickness and how fast he can turn his hips.

He can play outside over any receiver, as well as over the slot. If the Ravens can keep him healthy and he doesn’t irritate Harbaugh with holding penalties, he might be Baltimore’s steal of the draft.

Running back battle

Hill, a fourth-year running back, missed last season because of a torn Achilles tendon, but he looks fit and had some good cutback runs Wednesday. He can also play on special teams, which makes him valuable.

He will battle rookie Tyler Badie, a sixth-round pick, for playing time as a possible third-down back. Badie has already shown he can make catches out of the backfield. The former Missouri star and Friends School product was impressive Wednesday despite limited repetitions.

Oweh one-on-one

Odafe Oweh spent a lot of time working with outside linebackers coaches Rob Leonard and Ryan Osborn on pass rushing moves. Osborn gets a lot of credit for helping turn Ojabo into a star last year at Michigan, and some one-on-one time with Oweh might speed up the 2020 first-round pick’s development.

Despite the Ravens’ projections for Oweh as a rookie, he was and still is considered a project.

Rookie offensive linemen review

Here are two quick observations on rookie offensive linemen Tyler Linderbaum (first round) and Daniel Faalele (fourth round).

Linderbaum, a center, has outstanding quickness but looks better pulling on film than in person. However, the kid soaks up information like a sponge.

As for Faalele, he has decent knee bend and is quick, especially for a 6-8, 384-pound tackle, but allows pass rushers to get into his body. Once he improves his technique, he could become a force.


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