Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw a couple of interceptions on the first of two days of mandatory minicamp Tuesday and could have had a few more passes picked off.
Entering his fourth season, it’s safe to conclude that Jackson is going to be what we’ve seen in his first three years. He is erratic, is inaccurate throwing outside the numbers and has problems throwing a good long ball, except when on the run.
At the same time, Jackson can make big, explosive plays with his legs and is precise throwing short-range to midrange passes. On a lot of days, he is good enough to beat most teams in the NFL but will struggle in the postseason when the better teams stack the line of scrimmage and force him to win with his arm.
Jackson is more comfortable in the pocket now than as a rookie, and he steps up in it well, but at the same time is quick to move around, which will hurt the passing game, especially throwing to runners out of the backfield.
The big question is, can the Ravens win a Super Bowl with Jackson at quarterback?
Yes, of course, but a lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen, beginning with getting a lead and sticking with the running game. A shootout is almost a death sentence for the Ravens in the playoffs, especially in the later rounds.
In the words of former Ravens coach Brian Billick, “It is what it is.”
Oweh could be Thomas-like
When rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh is running at full-tilt downfield, he can be both imposing and intimidating.
At 6 feet 5 and 251 pounds, the second of the Ravens’ two 2021 first-round draft picks can fly, and he appears to have that extra gear into warp speed. Because of his lack of technical skills, it will be interesting to see whether the Ravens use him as a gunner on the outside in punt coverage as they once did with former linebacker Adalius Thomas, who was 6-2 and 270 pounds.
At one time, the Ravens even used Thomas in motion as a gunner so opposing teams couldn’t block him cleanly coming off the line of scrimmage, even with two players.
Backs progress in passing game
The Ravens want to emphasize using the running backs out of the backfield in passing situations, and it’s easy to see the improvement in route-running in halfback J.K. Dobbins, who finally gets his hips down and gets separation coming out of the break.
Third-year running back Justice Hill also has performed well as a receiver and might be the best at running routes among the group, certainly ahead of No. 2 running back Gus Edwards, who backs up Dobbins.
Left guard uncertainty a concern
There was speculation that right tackle Alejandro Villanueva had slowed down at age 32 and after having played six seasons in the NFL, but his work ethic remains strong and he does a nice job of using his hands as far as placement.
Villanueva and guard Kevin Zeitler have the starting positions on the right side, but left guard has been a revolving door. Through organized team activities and the minicamp, coach John Harbaugh has had three starters there, and it was second-year player Tyre Phillips’ turn Tuesday.
This bodes well for competition in training camp, but if you have three starting guards that means you don’t have one strong one.
Keep an eye on Jaylon Moore
You don’t hear much about second-year wide receiver Jaylon Moore, a free agent out of Tennessee-Martin, but the kid keeps making plays. He has caught bombs down the left sideline, where he has outrun defenders and brought the ball in while tight-roping the sideline.
Moore is 5-11 and weighs 191 pounds. He was signed to the practice squad in September after appearing in 39 games while at Tennessee-Martin, catching 92 passes for 1,492 yards and 18 touchdowns.
You won’t see this often
Justin Tucker, possibly the greatest kicker in NFL history, missed three straight field-goal attempts, of 48, 53 and 50 yards, before making a try of about 36 or 37 yards.
Until he converted, it felt like the apocalypse was upon us.
Receivers showing their skills
Veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins had a strong presence in practice when he caught a corner fade route in the end zone while tiptoeing along the sideline. He made the play against cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who was draped all over him.
Watkins also caught a long touchdown pass from Jackson, who stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush and while running threw a perfect pass for the score.
As for rookie receiver Rashod Bateman, he makes a difference when he practices as opposed to being held out because of a minor injury.
The top pick out of the University of Minnesota has the ability to make explosive plays, and clearly there is a drop-off when he isn’t on the field. As a rookie, he’ll make mistakes and drop a pass or two, but so far he has already proved he can be a difference-maker.
Of all the receivers, Marquise Brown might have had the most productive day, with at least three touchdown passes. He was effective in the middle-of-the-field offense as well as inside the red zone.
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Usually, a beaten cornerback can make up a step or two on a receiver when he breaks stride to catch a long pass, but that doesn’t happen often in games or practices with Brown.