With the Ravens holding their first full-squad practice of training camp on Wednesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Lamar Jackson missing early practices isn’t catastrophic. But without getting into debates about vaccines or post-infection immunity, star players not being vaccinated is concerning in multiple ways ranging from a higher probability of a problematic result with daily testing to simple camaraderie around the facility. The organization can’t be thrilled.
2. Hundreds of fans being back at the Owings Mills facility for the start of camp was a welcome sight, but Jackson’s absence definitely zapped some of the energy you’d expect after so few were able to lay eyes on the Ravens last season. He acknowledged that reality on Twitter.
3. John Harbaugh saying you “kind of almost rejoice in” the opportunity created to evaluate others is a stretch in this case, but Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley seeing more reps will help evaluate the backup competition. Perhaps this also makes you reconsider any thoughts of keeping only one backup.
4. McSorley had one of the better practices of his career, connecting with J.K. Dobbins on a throw down the seam and hitting Marquise Brown on a bomb on the next play. The Penn State product has to push the ball down the field more to win the No. 2 job.
5. Huntley showed off his strong arm, escaping pressure to find James Proche for a long completion and also connecting with Brown on a beautiful deep ball. Given the unique skills required for this offense, the Ravens are hoping one of these two young quarterbacks can handle the primary backup role.
6. Knowing how much he’s endured over these last few years, Tavon Young taking part in the first full practice was encouraging. Marlon Humphrey has been excellent playing the nickel, but you’d like to see him be able to move back outside if Young looks like his old self.
7. We noted how comfortable Bradley Bozeman looked moving to center this spring, but a few errant snaps prompted him to throw away the glove he was wearing. Harbaugh noted how they’re “chasing perfection with that.” Though no reason for panic on the first day, that was a little too 2020-like.
8. One position battle that hasn’t drawn as much attention is between L.J. Fort and Malik Harrison for the weak-side inside linebacker role. You’d prefer to see Harrison seize the role as a third-round pick, but Fort played really well last season and was a steadying presence for an inexperienced group.
9. As noted above, Brown looked like the best player on the field, repeatedly getting open for deep balls in a practice without pads or contact. Though much discussion has centered around improving the outside-the-numbers passing game, connecting on a few more deep balls in 2021 would also do the trick.
10. New tight end Josh Oliver made an impressive leaping catch over the middle with rookie defensive back Brandon Stephens in coverage. If the Ravens are to find a No. 3 tight end to make an impact as a receiver, the 2019 third-round pick is the most likely candidate.
11. Gauging the offensive line’s progress won’t be easy until Ronnie Stanley is on the field, but left guard remains wide open. Ben Cleveland is the popular pick, but a third-round rookie becoming a Week 1 starter is rare. Even Orlando Brown Jr. waited his turn behind James Hurst in 2018.
12. It was funny to hear Humphrey’s enthusiasm about vaccinated players once again being able to sit at the same table in their cafeteria, something prohibited under last year’s protocols. The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback praised the organization’s “family atmosphere” and acknowledged how trying the 2020 season was in that regard.