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Mike Preston’s Ravens training camp observations on OL Ronnie Stanley, WR James Proche II and more | COMMENTARY

Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley participated in portions of Ravens training camp practice Wednesday, which was a good sign. Stanley suffered a season-ending ankle injury Nov. 1, which required several surgeries.

Stanley practiced a little Monday before going inside the locker room. While his teammates were in full equipment Wednesday, he was in shorts, shoulder pads and a helmet. Stanley didn’t make much contact in individual pass protection drills, which was part of the plan, but he did some “mirror” work mimicking outside linebackers, including veteran Pernell McPhee.

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Stanley seemed to be able to accelerate and push off well and showed no signs of injury when he was done. The Ravens plan to have Stanley in the starting lineup when the Ravens open the regular season Sept. 13 in Las Vegas against the Raiders.

The Ravens need Stanley’s presence on an offensive line that might include three new players and another, Bradley Bozeman, who might start at center after starting at left guard last season. Right now, the unit is in flux.

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Making his mark

Wide receiver James Proche II isn’t extremely fast, but he accelerates well coming out of a break or cut. He’ll gain a half- to one-step advantage, and if the ball is delivered near him, he sucks in the pass with what so far have been the best hands in training camp.

During practice Wednesday, he was tied up on a deep ball with safety Ar’Darius Washington, but pulled it away from the rookie defensive back as both players fell to the ground. What appeared to be an interception turned into a roughly 35-yard catch. Proche, in his second year, continues to impress.

Good day for Jackson

Quarterback Lamar Jackson looked sharper in practice, especially early.

In a 7-on-7 passing drill, he was in sync with his receivers on timing routes and crossing patterns over the middle. Another positive development is that Jackson is using his running backs more as a weapon out of the backfield on third-down situations. It will be interesting to see if he continues that in games. In the past, Jackson has elected to run instead of throwing to his running backs, even on check downs.

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Got ’em

The Ravens defense has been dominant in training camp, a trend that will continue until the preseason games start.

But on one play Wednesday, running back Gus Edwards caught a swing pass in the left flat and cruised to what would have been a 65-yard touchdown in a game situation.

Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale played it cool, but he certainly was talking a lot on his recorder or walking talkie after the play. It was the first-team defense that blew the assignment, not the backups.

"I had three days that were really tough, but I think I did pretty well," said Edwards when asked about returning from covid. "It wasn't too bad."

Rough start for rookies

The Ravens had 21 players missing from practice Wednesday, including rookies first-round picks Rashod Bateman, a receiver, and Odafe Oweh, an outside linebacker.

Rookie guard Ben Cleveland left about 45 minutes into the session and rookie outside linebacker Daelin Hayes was hobbling after practice.

The first year is tough for a rookie because they are virtually playing without any rest. They prepare for their final year in college, then play in a possible bowl game or prep for the Senior Bowl. Then they get ready for the NFL scouting combine, which leads into the April draft, and then it’s off to various minicamps and summer training camp.

That’s why so many rookies hit the wall and get tired before the end of their first season. Their bodies break down. Hayes, though, has performed well and might be able to provide much needed pressure on the outside in passing situations.

A second-year player to keep an eye on is cornerback Chris Westry. He has ideal size at 6 feet 4 and 197 pounds and is consistently around the ball.

Looking good

Justice Hill is the No. 3 running back behind J.K. Dobbins and Edwards, but the third-year player keeps getting better every season.

He has a slick cut-back style and the Ravens want to use him as a situational player on third downs this season, but he could make good money somewhere else once he becomes a free agent at the end of next season. In training camp, he has broken off some long runs and has been elusive shaking linebackers in the flats after receptions.

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