A day after Lamar Jackson ran a career-low two times as a starter and narrowly avoided throwing multiple interceptions in the Ravens’ 27-3 win over Cincinnati, head coach John Harbaugh said his star quarterback shouldn’t be missing practice time this week.
“I expect him to practice the whole week if nothing comes up,” Harbaugh said. “He should be good to go.”
Jackson missed two workouts due to a minor knee injury and a stomach bug last week, but the 23-year-old said the knee soreness didn’t affect his mobility against the Bengals despite seemingly being reluctant to run. In his first three career starts against Cincinnati, Jackson had rushed 52 times for 336 yards.
Perhaps more concerning was the reigning MVP’s difficulty passing the ball over the final three quarters of Sunday’s game. Starting 8-for-13 for 76 yards and two touchdowns, Jackson went 11-for-24 for 104 yards and an interception over his last eight drives and easily could have been picked a few times as the Bengals defense mixed up their coverage and blitz packages.
Harbaugh took Jackson’s uneven performance in stride, acknowledging the bright spots as well as the challenge of his quarterback missing on-field preparation time.
“It’s always going to have an effect,” Harbaugh said. “Veteran players — especially certain positions — can practice less and be ready to play more, but it’s important for everybody to practice. It’s especially important for the quarterbacks. While Lamar can do it and he played winning football and he made some really good plays out there, I know we’re going to get lost a little bit in the numbers and the efficiency of it and all those kinds of things.”
Finding the right guard
With rookie right guard Tyre Phillips missing Sunday’s game due to a shoulder injury, the Ravens turned to a pair of second-year offensive linemen to fill in.
Backup center Patrick Mekari drew the start, but he shared playing time with 2019 fourth-round pick Ben Powers. Mekari played 45 offensive snaps while Powers saw 18 against the Bengals.
Needless to say, replacing the retired Marshal Yanda continues to be as challenging as many anticipated.
“They played pretty well for just getting thrown in there and trying to fill in a little bit when they hadn’t been playing,” Harbaugh said. “I do believe we have some young depth in there. We’ll get Tyre back pretty soon. It’s a young group in there — even Bradley Bozeman is a pretty young guy.
“I know we’re a work in progress. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any stretch, but I just thought they stepped up and did pretty well.”
Jimmy Smith resumed his regular role as an outside cornerback in the nickel package after being limited with a knee injury in Week 4, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale had a different look in mind for the dime package against the Bengals.
Instead of shifting Smith to safety and inserting third-year cornerback Anthony Averett on the outside like in previous weeks, Martindale mostly kept Smith at corner and used veteran Marcus Gilchrist as a third safety for 20 snaps. Smith played 52 of 67 defensive snaps while Averett saw just 11, his lowest single-game total since Week 1.
“We brought Gilchrist up, and he was able to play some of those safety roles for us,” Harbaugh said. “Adding the pieces there was good for us. I think it helped us. Any time we can kind of spread those reps around a little bit, that’s good. They all played well, so that’s a positive.”
Gilchrist, 31, has started 98 of 127 games in a 10-year career with stops at San Diego, the New York Jets, Houston, Oakland, and Jacksonville.
The Ravens put a lot of trust in rookie third-round pick Justin Madubuike in his NFL debut as fellow reserve defensive tackles Justin Ellis and Broderick Washington were deactivated.
Playing 30 snaps behind veterans Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe, Madubuike logged a tackle and a quarterback hit playing on early downs. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Texas A&M product missed the first four games with a right knee injury sustained late in training camp.
“He was really physical, really played hard, and ran to the ball,” Harbaugh said. “I thought he was a force in there. There are still a couple things technique-wise. He got washed a little bit on some of the runs. He even told me that after the game in the locker room — he’s the first one talking about that. He’ll be chasing improvement there, but it was a good start for him.”
With Otaro Alaka sustaining a season-ending knee injury on Sunday, the Ravens placed the second-year inside linebacker on injured reserve and promoted rookie center Trystan Colon-Castillo from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Monday.
Colon-Castillo was elevated to the active roster on Saturday before being deactivated for the Bengals game with Harbaugh indicating there were “roster-strategic reasons” for doing that. In other words, at least one other team was likely exploring signing the undrafted free agent from Missouri, and the Ravens wanted to keep him in the organization.
Baltimore signed veteran defensive back Nate Hairston to take Colon-Castillo’s spot on the practice squad.