There are a couple of Ravens players who have been fun to watch in practice over the years because they either work extremely hard or just do things so well.
One was left tackle Jonathan Ogden because he was so technically sound, and another was receiver Steve Smith Sr. because he could snag passes with his strong hands. Few could run a comeback route like Derrick Mason.
Now there is tight end Mark Andrews.
The former third-round draft pick runs every route so hard and so precise. He outworks a lot of players in practice, and he’ll run a route in a voluntary June practice like he is playing in the Super Bowl.
Andrews is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and the Ravens need to ante up and give him a lucrative extension, which will make him one of the highest paid tight ends in the league. In other words, he is a keeper.
He is quarterback Lamar Jackson’s favorite target, with 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019 and 58 receptions for 701 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020.
The more I watch second-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike in offseason training activities, the more I look forward to seeing him in training camp and preseason games. Of the four linemen practicing Tuesday at the Ravens’ third open practice, he had the quickest get-off on the snap of the ball, and it’s clear he knows what he is doing compared with his rookie season in 2020.
In training camp, he will be joined by veterans Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe. Plus, the stakes will be higher because there will be more contact as opposed to the light hitting now. But Madubuike’s updside continues to grow.
Tight end intrigue
Josh Oliver, a tight end entering his third season out of San Jose State, seems to have a knack for getting open and has developed a rapport with all three quarterbacks on the roster. At 6 feet 5 and 245 pounds, the former third-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars runs good routes and his big body helps shield the ball away from defenders. There hasn’t been much of an opportunity to show if he can block yet, but he could play a part in two tight end sets.
The Ravens, though, will need a blocking tight end, especially with the way Nick Boyle was limping around the field Tuesday. Boyle suffered a major knee injury last winter and the team has no timetable for his return.
Also, I can understand why there is speculation about moving 6-4, 220-pound receiver Miles Boykin to tight end. The third-year player out of Notre Dame has gotten a little thicker across the chest.
Offensive line rotation
The Ravens continue to alternate Ben Powers and rookie Ben Cleveland as the starter at left guard. If Cleveland starts, he might struggle early with the speed of the game. Both players are a little stiff and struggle bending their knees, but they both will get plenty of help from left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Bradley Bozeman.
The Ravens also got Tyre Phillips, a third-round pick out of Mississippi State last year, work at both the guard and tackle positions.
Two former Ravens now working as offensive assistants on the Morgan State staff attended practice. Jacoby Jones is the Bears’ tight ends coach and Derrick Alexander coaches the wide receivers.
The Ravens could use both now. Jones was instrumental in the Ravens winning the championship in 2012 and Alexander, along with Jermaine Lewis and the late Michael Jackson, formed the most exciting group of receivers in team history in the mid 1990′s. All three had exceptional speed.
A screen pass?
OK, please don’t fall off your chair, but the Ravens ran two screen passes in practice Tuesday.
They had linemen out in front as escorts and the play calling seemed to shock a lot of those in attendance, especially the defense. Better yet, one of them worked.
Quarterbacks showing touch
The Ravens quarterbacks delivered some nice touchdown passes over the middle in their red zone offense. That’s a good sign because now they are placing the ball where only the receiver can make a play, and it won’t be intercepted.
Jackson threw a dart across the middle to the back of the end zone to tight end Eric Tomlinson and Trace McSorley, who has always been good inside the red zone in practice, might have delivered the most touchdown passes. The best pass of the day was a long one down the left sideline from Tyler Huntley, who is battling McSorley for the backup position, to newly acquired receiver Devin Gray, who dropped it.
Hit and miss for linebackers
Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh showed why the Ravens liked him enough to pick him in the first round when he ran with a running back 20 yards downfield and knocked down a pass in one-on-one coverage.
Oweh, though, is still very mechanical in his pass-rushing techniques. The rookie linebacker who has been more impressive is Daelin Hayes, who is more polished and a better pass rusher at this point. Hayes, a fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, is always around the ball.
He caught the carom off a pass deflected by tackle Justin Ellis, which would have resulted in a touchdown in a real game. Ellis knocked down two passes in practice.
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As for the inside linebackers, the Ravens need to find two who can cover because second-year players Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison have struggled, especially Harrison on Tuesday.