The Ravens wrapped up their two-day mandatory minicamp on June 16, their final on-field workout until they reconvene for training camp in late July. Players will now go their separate ways for a month, although quarterback Lamar Jackson said he plans to work out with some receivers in Florida during the next month.
“It’s really not the offseason anymore,” Jackson said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding and stay in shape. We can’t go backwards right now. … It’s straight go mode right now. The season is here.”
The most notable thing about these Organized Team Activities and minicamp sessions, in light of last year, is that they happened at all. This was the first offseason on-field work for the rookies and also for second-year players, whose entire rookie spring in 2020 was limited to Zoom sessions and virtual workouts because of the pandemic.
Here are five quick impressions of the final day of minicamp:
1. The Ravens leave spring with no significant injuries.
The first goal of every spring practice period is to avoid significant injuries, and the Ravens seem to have done that during the course of OTAs and the minicamp. The only major injury appears to have been a torn Achilles suffered by undrafted rookie defensive lineman Xavier Kelly, a longshot to make the team.
Cornerback Tavon Young and linebacker Otaro Alaka, both coming off major knee injuries, returned to the field for minicamp, taking part in individual drills, an encouraging sign that they could be ready for the regular season.
Players recovering from major injuries, including tackle Ronnie Stanley, tight end Nick Boyle, fullback Patrick Ricard and cornerback Iman Marshall, are progressing well, head coach John Harbaugh said, adding that the team will “err on the side of caution” early in training camp in terms of easing them back, but the Ravens appear to be in a pretty good place physically after this spring practice period.
2. The passing game looked much better.
A day after the quarterbacks threw four interceptions and looked ragged, the Ravens’ offense looked much sharper in the June 16 workout.
On the first play of the first 11-on-11 period, Lamar Jackson hit Sammy Watkins on a gorgeous deep pass down the left sideline. Marlon Humphrey was stride for stride with Watkins, but Jackson’s pass was perfectly placed to Watkins’ fingertips just beyond the reach of Humphrey. That was the first of several big connections made between Jackson and Watkins, who looks increasingly comfortable with his new team.
“Sammy is going to make our job a lot easier,” Jackson said. “[He’ll] open one side of the field up more, with his deep-ball ability and his shifty route running. He’s a great receiver. I just can’t wait until we start going for real.”
Another standout in the June 16 workout was receiver Binjimen Victor, who ended the practice with a tough, contested catch on a deep ball that drew hoots and hollers from the offense. Earlier, Victor went over the top of Brandon Stephens to haul in a touchdown catch in a red zone drill, and he made a leaping grab over Anthony Averett earlier in practice.
First-round draft pick Rashod Bateman missed the workout with what Harbaugh said was a stomach bug.
3. J.K. Dobbins could be a factor as a receiver.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman told season-ticket holders on a conference call last month that he’d like to see Dobbins more involved as a pass catcher, something he never really did in high school or college. He averaged about 1.7 catches a game at Ohio State, and had 18 catches in 15 games as a rookie last year. He also had a couple of key drops in the Ravens’ playoff loss at Buffalo.
But Roman said the Ravens have been working “diligently” on developing a passing threat out of the backfield, and that’s been apparent on the field. In 7-on-7 and full-team periods, Dobbins was targeted deep down the middle and on shorter routes. There seems to be a clear emphasis on getting him involved as a receiver, and letting his burst, balance and elusiveness take over from there.
Asked about having an increased role in the passing game this coming season, Dobbins said with a coy smile, “We’ll just have to see during the season.”
“I can catch the ball a little bit,” he said. “I know I had a few mistakes last year, but this year, I’ve been working on eliminating those mistakes, even the little mistakes. I’m perfecting my craft and making sure I’m ready at all times to catch the ball.”
Dobbins (18 catches, 120 yards), Gus Edwards (9-129) and Justice Hill (5-20) totaled 32 catches last season, but it seems likely that total will increase this coming year.
4. The flags were flying, and John Harbaugh won’t have much patience for that come September.
Although the offense was sharp overall, the officials working the practice threw several flags for a false start or delay of game during 11-on-11 sessions. The offense protested a couple of times, and Harbaugh himself seemed to take exception to one call, but clearly these are things that the Ravens will need to clean up before the season.
Last year, illegal formation calls seemed to be a weekly occurrence for the Ravens, and Harbaugh in the past has voiced his frustration about the unforced nature of pre-snap penalties. The Ravens have a new center and could have three new starters on the offensive line, and several different offensive line combinations were on the field at various times, so some hiccups were bound to happen.
Still, there is work to be done in getting everything in sync, and it’s certainly better to make these mistakes now than when facing third-and-3 at Pittsburgh.
5. Anthony Weaver is having fun with his group. So is Rob Ryan.
Yesterday, we focused on how passing game specialist Keith Williams never seems to take a minute off coaching up the Ravens’ pass catchers. So it’s only fair to give the defensive coaches their due. At the June 16 minicamp, new defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and new inside linebackers coach Rob Ryan both conducted drills right in front of the media, so it was easy to see how they interact with players and how the players seem to thrive under them.
Weaver, a former Ravens player (2002-2005) who had spent the past five seasons on the staff of the Houston Texans, still looks to be in top physical shape, and he’s always instructive with his defensive linemen, getting on them if they don’t perform a drill quite right, but almost always with a smile on his face.
Ryan, meanwhile, is hard to miss with his long, gray hair flying around under his hat as he works with the Ravens’ inside linebackers. And in keeping with family tradition, he is always entertaining on the job.
Their methods and style might be different, but Weaver and Ryan look to be strong additions to the coaching staff.
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