Defense Continues To Outplay Shorthanded Offense At Ravens Training Camp

OWINGS MILLS, MD. — Just as tight end Eli Wolf caught the pass over the middle, Khalil Dorsey channeled his inner Marlon Humphrey. With a Humphrey-type move, Dorsey punched the ball out of Wolf’s arms, and it flew on a line drive to safety DeShon Elliott, who raced to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.

That was one of three interceptions by the Ravens’ secondary during full-team drills Aug. 4, as the Ravens’ defense continues to take advantage of an offense missing key players, most notably quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Right tackle Alejandro Villanueva returned to the field after getting a vet day off a day earlier, but starting right guard Kevin Zeitler missed practice with a foot injury sustained a day earlier. The Ravens also continue to be without left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and tight end Nick Boyle (knee), who have been rehabbing injuries.

In addition, wide receivers Marquise Brown (leg) and Miles Boykin (leg) missed the Aug. 4 workout, and receiver Sammy Watkins did not practice, though he could have been given a veteran day off.

Until Jackson returns, the Ravens will continue to try to make strides with backup quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley, and those two are giving coaches plenty of material to evaluate as they try to decide whether to keep two or three quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster.

Huntley has showed off a bigger arm and more speed than McSorley, but McSorley has probably been more consistent, and Huntley was picked off three times in full-team drills Aug. 4.

On the first, Anthony Averett got in good position on an underthrown ball intended for Rashod Bateman, then raced untouched down the left sideline. In a later series, Huntley’s pass to the left side was picked off by Marlon Humphrey, who juggled it at first and did not have a receiver near him as there appeared to be some miscommunication on offense.

Then Huntley tried to hit Wolf across the middle, only to have the ball pounded loose by Dorsey and right to Elliott, who raced the other way.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said third-down situations were a point of emphasis in this practice, and the Ravens’ secondary was active in blitz situations. Chuck Clark, Jimmy Smith and Elliott all brought pressure on the quarterback at various points, giving running backs such as J.K. Dobbins good experience with pass protection. Clark probably would have had a couple of sacks.

Ravens players have Aug. 5 off, so they next return to the practice field on Aug. 6. Jackson and running back Gus Edwards, who like Jackson is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, are expected to be on the field either that day or the next after completing their 10-day isolation period per NFL protocols for unvaccinated players.

Granted, several other key players probably will remain sidelined, but the return of Jackson should provide a boost for an offense that has scuffled more often than not in the opening week of camp.

Roman acknowledged that Jackson will need to play catch-up after missing more than a week of practice.

“The train’s already left the station,” Roman said at his weekly news conference after practice. “So he’s in his cabin car right now, and once he gets out of there, the train’s down the road.”

Roman said he has a plan to quickly bring Jackson up to speed, and said there’s “plenty of time” to accomplish that before the regular season begins at the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 13. The Ravens open the preseason on Aug. 14 at home against the New Orleans Saints.

“We got some time, and I think we got enough time,” Roman said. “The big thing is getting him healthy, and get him right and make sure he’s in a good place.”


CB IMAN MARSHALL RETURNS, DB NIGEL WARRIOR LEAVES WITH LEG INJURY: Cornerback Iman Marshall returned to the field for the first time since suffering a torn ACL during training camp last year, but defensive back Nigel Warrior suffered what appeared to be a significant injury.

Warrior, who was on the practice squad last year as an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee, went down during a 7-on-7 drill, and after looking at his right leg, medical staff summoned a stretcher for him. Warrior, though, slowly walked to the locker room on his own.

DL BRANDON WILLIAMS OUT AGAIN: Defensive lineman Brandon Williams missed his second straight practice, so it’s unlikely this is a vet day off for him. Head coach John Harbaugh did not meet with the media after practice so there were no injury updates. In addition to Watkins, defensive back Anthony Levine was a new absence, but he could have been getting a veteran’s day off as well.

Including Williams, Levine and new outside linebacker Justin Houston, who has yet to complete the league’s COVID intake process, a total of 14 players missed practice. The others were Jackson (COVID), Edwards (COVID), Brown (leg), Watkins (undisclosed), tackle JaWuan James (Achilles), Zeitler (foot), Stanley (ankle), Boykin (leg), tight end Nick Boyle (knee), tight end Jake Breeland (knee) and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe (undisclosed).

CAIN WINS IN ONE-ON-ONE BATTLES: One early practice period featured 1-on-1 battles on pass plays, which usually make for good entertainment. Receiver Deon Cain, who has had a good week, won twice, catching passes against Marlon Humphrey and later against Davontae Harris. One marquee matchup featured tight end Mark Andrews against safety DeShon Elliott. Andrews tried to get position down the right sideline, but the overthrown pass glanced off Andrews’ fingertips, drawing a reaction from fans nearby.

TORREY SMITH BRINGS CAMPERS TO CAMP: Former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith and former NFL linebacker Aaron Maybin were at training camp with several children from their Level Up Leadership Academy summer camp. Smith tweeted afterward that the Ravens had surprised the campers with tickets to a game.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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