The first full padded practice of the season is often filled with intensity, but it was business as usual for the Ravens on Tuesday. In fact, this might have been the softest first full padded practice in team history.
It’s a sign of the times.
If these types of practices had existed decades ago, many players might have had longer careers. Instead, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who is from the old school when teams had two-a-day practices during training camp, was content with how things went, and there weren’t any significant injuries.
He had to be impressed with the play of veteran defensive end Calais Campbell. The six-time Pro Bowl selection has performed well throughout camp and was the most dominant player of the field Tuesday. In a real game, he would have had four or five sacks.
No matter which center or guard lined up against him, Campbell dominated them all. Backup quarterbacks Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley were fortunate this wasn’t a live game situation with Campbell playing like such a beast.
Defense has the upper hand
Early in the season, the defense is always ahead of the offense. It’s no different in Baltimore.
The defensive line pounded the offensive line in an individual pass protection drill. Of course Campbell dominated, but so did outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Daelin Hayes, a fifth-round rookie. Bowser is having his best camp and consistently beat tackles Andre Smith and Patrick Mekari, the guard/center who was filling in at left tackle Tuesday.
Hayes is technically sound, especially for a rookie. Meanwhile, one outside linebacker who hasn’t played well is third-year player Jaylon Ferguson, who won’t make the roster unless he has a strong preseason.
Ferguson, a third-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2019, has slimmed down but doesn’t have an assortment of moves. His only move is a bull rush, which works well in college but not in the NFL when it is your only weapon.
Ups and downs on offensive line
Smith wasn’t the only offensive lineman having trouble Tuesday. Campbell had his way with right guard Kevin Zeitler even before Zeitler left practice early with a foot injury.
Left guard Ben Powers was slow and awkward at times, as was second-year player Tyre Phillips. Rookie Ben Cleveland has a strong initial move and punch, but is stiff and slow in pass protection, as well as pulling or trapping. Right now, he has limitations.
But at least Zeitler and center Bradley Bozeman play hard. Both competed with intensity early in the practice.
Receivers getting up to speed
The Ravens have been careful in working with rookie receiver Rashod Bateman, the team’s top draft pick out of Minnesota.
Like several other wideouts on the roster, Bateman has dealt with a sore hamstring and was held out of practice Monday, but he performed well Tuesday. He cut and accelerated well going in and out of breaks and caught everything thrown to him.
He hobbled after a few cuts early in practice, but that disappeared as practice wore on.
Meanwhile, second-year receiver James Proche II continues to stand out. He doesn’t drop a thing because his hands suck up the ball like a sponge. If he doesn’t make the Ravens’ roster, he won’t last long on the waiver wire, especially if he plays a lot in the preseason.
Another receiver to watch is Deon Cain, a third-year player out of Clemson. Whether he is adjusting to an underthrown pass or simply stretching out for a bomb, he continues to make plays.
If there are any questions about Cain, go ask Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Cain put a double move on Humphrey and then blew by him for a long touchdown pass.
By the way, the book on Humphrey and fellow cornerback Marcus Peters is that they fall for double moves. It’s been repeated several times since last season.
Showing some fire
Rookie tight end/fullback Ben Mason has very little chance of making the roster, but his best shot to make a name for himself is when the pads go on. That happened Tuesday.
Mason, a fifth-round pick, is a grinder who reportedly loves to hit, but NFL Players Association regulations have limited a lot of contact in practices. Mason, however, did the next best thing: He went out and got in a brief fight with inside linebacker Patrick Queen. Both players were involved in some helmet tugging before being separated.
The move reminded me so much of former Ravens center Ryan Jensen. No one knew much about him when the Ravens drafted Jensen in the sixth round out of Colorado State-Pueblo in 2013. In camp, he was always involved in some fight. Of course, he could play, but he was known more for his demeanor than his performance.
Jensen eventually became the Ravens’ starting center in 2017 before signing a four-year, $42 million contract with Tampa Bay in 2018. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers last season.
As for Mason, nice job, big fella.
Take it to ’em
Rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh has had his moments in training camp, but someone needs to remind him that sometimes he has to run through an offensive lineman instead of going around him to get a sack.