Almost every season at Owings Mills, Ravens coach John Harbaugh will brand a new team slogan on t-shirts for coaches and players. His message in 2022: “Come to work ready to work.”
So far, so good. During their first four days of full-team practices in training camp, the Ravens approached their preparation with good intentions. Each session seemed to provide more answers than questions. From Monday, however, the work becomes a bit more intense.
“The leggings are coming on Monday, so it’s going to be exciting to see,” Harbaugh said after Saturday’s open practice at M&T Bank Stadium. “It will be the first time. The most important thing to look for with practice is how guys handle the mental part. Suddenly they have something more to think about – the physical part – and don’t let that be too big for you.
With the preseason opener fast approaching, next week presents some Ravens with an opportunity to build on an impressive start, and other Ravens with a chance to topple their stock. Here’s a look at those who rose and fell during the team’s first week of camp.
QB Lamar Jackson
Jackson has been the most impressive Raven in camp, which can’t detract from his influence the next time he meets with general manager Eric DeCosta to agree a contract extension. Playing under an increasingly intense spotlight, Jackson seems free from expectations or pressure. He showed up to his Thursday press conference upbeat and talkative, even ready to explain his Twitter spat with former Raven Bernard Pollard.
Most encouraging, however, is Jackson’s development as a passer. During his career, he struggled with his accuracy on deep shots. He was also hesitant to attempt back shoulder throws, instead preferring to look for receivers running through the middle. At the beginning of the camp, his best achievements came from these two categories. If Jackson can keep avoiding throwing interceptions, the Ravens’ passing offense will be in good shape in Week 1.
WR Rashod Bateman
The 2021 first-round pick lived up to expectations in his first camp as the Ravens’ top wide receiver, allaying concerns about his preparation as a replacement for Marquess “Hollywood” Brown. Those inconsistent hands he showed during off-season training? No problem at camp. Field stretch speed? Bateman caught a bomb from almost 50 yards on Saturday on the right sideline. Consistency? “He does the same thing every practice,” Harbaugh said on Saturday.
As the standard-bearer for a highly-scrutinized group of wide receivers, Bateman will need to stay healthy and productive in the weeks ahead. But he’s apparently already in tune with Jackson, and he’s done well in his one-on-one clashes with Marlon Humphrey, the kind of elite cornerback he’ll see more regularly this season.
TE Isaiah probable
Likely’s 55-yard touchdown in 11-for-11 action Thursday is all the more impressive now considering the separation he created against Brandon Stephens, one of the Ravens’ top defensive backs in camp. The fourth-round pick finished June’s mandatory minicamp on a high, earning goals and praise from Jackson, and his production continued in camp.
Even though Likely struggles early on as a tackle, he should have a role in the Ravens’ passing game. After Mark Andrews said Likely had “a bit of me in him”, Jackson compared him to a “baby Mark right now”. Both tight ends were highly productive college players whose draft stock dropped due to athletic issues. Both have enough skill and size to overcome these limitations.
G Ben Powers
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Friday that Powers “probably took the lead” in the battle for left guard, a good sign for a lineman Ravens coaches have sometimes been reluctant to embrace. Powers, entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, started 12 of the 13 games he played last season. He appeared in 29 straight games from 2020 to 2021 until he suffered a foot injury in December.
It’s unclear how much of a lead Powers has over Tire Phillips, who lined up with the first-team offense in the 11-on-11 first period of Saturday’s open practice. But Powers put himself in a good position going into the first week of padded workouts.
ILB Patrick Reine
Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said Friday that Queen is “on a great trajectory right now.” After bouts of inconsistency in his first two seasons in Baltimore, the 2020 first-round pick looks like a potential presence for the defense. Queen buzzed in the pocket as a blitzer, and the Ravens’ towering defensive line should free him up to make plays as a sideline-to-sideline run stopper.
If Queen can continue to improve his coverage awareness, he’ll be one of the Ravens’ most important defenders — and one of the best candidates to carry the green dot as a defense caller. With veteran inside linebacker Josh Bynes, inside linebacker coach Zach Orr and Macdonald, his former position coach, all back in Baltimore, Queen’s comfort with the defense is evident.
G Ben Cleveland
As Harbaugh explained on Saturday, he makes no exceptions for his conditioning test: “We’re not going to put a player in there until he can do it.” And until Saturday, the fourth day of camp, Cleveland hadn’t passed the test. If the 2021 third-round pick returns to practice this week, his first practice session would likely be in the pads — a tough test for any player, but especially one fighting for a starting job.
Cleveland can reassert itself in the battle for left guard with a strong preseason, but it will return to practice having wasted valuable learning opportunities. In a rocky rookie year, Cleveland struggled to convert raw strength into countervailing power.
TE Charlie Kolar
If recent history is any consolation for Kolar, who will miss several weeks while recovering from sports hernia surgery, injuries from training camp are nothing new for rookies in Baltimore. A soft tissue injury sidelined Andrews for about two weeks in 2018. Hayden Hurst then suffered a stress fracture in his foot and missed more than a month.
Kolar, the first tight end drafted by the Ravens since this class, could still have an impact this season. Bateman appeared in 12 games last season after returning from a similar injury. But if Kolar’s rehabilitation also mirrors Bateman’s, the fourth-round pick may need the next offseason to fully recover.
The first week of camp isn’t an ideal setting for running back breakouts — no pads, no hits, not a lot of 11-on-11 running plays. But the Ravens have had a more encouraging start at that position. . Start with the team’s injury news: JK Dobbins, who looked set for a breakout in 2021 before tearing his ACL in the team’s preseason finale last summer, wasn’t cleared to train. Neither does Gus Edwards, whose recovery from his own ACL injury could take even longer.
The Ravens’ healthy running backs, meanwhile, were solid but unspectacular. After flashing as a catcher in offseason practices, rookie Tyler Badie has slipped somewhat. Mike Davis and Judge Hill have held up well in pass protection, but it’s unclear how much they’ll offer as running backs. New signing Corey Clement is still orienting himself. Can anyone part ways with the peloton before the pre-season opens?
OLB David Ojabo
Nothing has changed for Ojabo since the Ravens drafted him: he’s still unsigned, and he’s still months, if not longer, away from being cleared to return from a torn Achilles tendon . The second-round pick was around the team for offseason practices, but a disagreement over guaranteed money in Ojabo’s rookie deal kept him away from the Ravens’ facilities.
Ojabo can continue his rehabilitation without help from team doctors, but transitioning to the NFL can be as much of a mental challenge as a physical test for rookies. The sooner Ojabo is back for team meetings, the happier the Ravens coaches will be.
For the second time in three years, the Ravens’ initial roster of 53 players couldn’t have any undrafted rookies. The team’s 16-year streak of keeping at least one undrafted free agent ended in 2020, then got back on track last year with the help of safety Ar’Darius Washington. But a tightening of the roster this preseason won’t make it easier to repeat.
The Ravens added six wide receivers after the draft, including notable names like national champion Slade Bolden at Alabama and Makai Polk, who had 1,046 yards last season at Mississippi State. But even the group’s first standout, Fort Valley State’s Shemar Bridges, proved no more worthy of a spot on the roster than veteran Jaylon Moore. Other fringe players, like former Navy inside linebacker Diego Fagot, will need strong preseasons and maybe a little luck to secure a spot.
Pre-season, week 1
Thursday, August 11, 7:30 p.m.
TV: chs. 11, 4
Radio: 97.9FM, 101.5FM, 1090AM