Ravens coach John Harbaugh might have set a precedent when he pulled defensive tackle Michael Pierce from practice on the first day of minicamp Tuesday because of safety concerns.
The Ravens have had some giant defensive tackles throughout their history, including Larry Webster, Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa, but none of them were basically asked to leave practice because of weight gains during the offseason.
Pierce was listed by the team at 340 pounds last season, but the weight gain was noticeable Tuesday. Pierce came out to start the practice before leaving the field after a chat with Harbaugh.
Afterward, Harbaugh said he was concerned about Pierce’s health. He pointed out that the fourth-year player had not attended any of the team’s voluntary offseason training activities during the past three weeks.
The incident was strange in many ways because most coaches would have just worked Pierce and let him suffer through the workout to get into playing shape. But maybe Harbaugh was sending a message to the rest of the team about the importance of being in shape when training camp starts in late July.
As for Pierce, he is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Maybe he didn’t attend the OTAs and stayed away from the team on the advice of his agent, but he still should have worked out and stayed in some type of shape.
A lot of veterans come into minicamp a few pounds overweight, especially linemen, but Pierce apparently lacked discipline. By the end of last season, he was the best defensive lineman on the team and was a dual-threat as both a run-stopper and pass rusher.
But it’s apparent now that he might have a weight problem, and it could cost him some big money during a time when he should command the biggest contract of his career.
It’s a shame because he is a class player and person. But at this point, he is going to have to prove himself again in 2019.
Checking in on offensive line
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley appears to have beefed up a little and might be carrying some extra weight around his midsection, but he moved and practiced well.
Stanley said he wanted to bulk up more in the offseason. Meanwhile, veteran guard Marshal Yanda is the kind of player who can miss practice time and still not have his performance drop off.
Without question, Yanda is the most technically sound of all the Ravens’ offensive linemen. He should team well with second-year right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who is bigger this season, but more importantly has better footwork and stronger hands.
The big problem for the Ravens is finding a left guard. If they have to count on the current possible starters, they are in trouble.
Who has the edge on the edge?
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon didn’t attend OTAs, but he looked good in practice Tuesday. With former teammate Terrell Suggs moving on to the Arizona Cardinals, Judon seems ready to accept his new role as a top defensive player and team leader.
Hopefully, he’ll give the Ravens more complete seasons than Suggs did the past couple of years. On the other side of Judon, the Ravens have rookie Jaylon Ferguson, and the kid is quick. As he gains more confidence, he is also gaining more power and explosion.
As for two other outside linebackers, Tyus Bowser, running with the second team, had some strong moments in practice Tuesday, but recently signed Pernell McPhee struggled a lot in individual periods.
McPhee has been in the NFL for nine years, including four with the Ravens, so maybe he is saving the “juice” for training camp.
Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson threw some strong passes into tight windows when inside the red zone, but the day belonged to backup quarterback Robert Griffin III, who put the vertical game back into the offense.
After watching the Ravens practice, I was starting to wonder if they had any routes over 15 yards.
Second-year tight end Mark Andrews continues to be a weapon all over the field and might become Jackson’s favorite target inside the red zone.
Veteran receiver Michael Floyd isn’t racking up a lot of yards or catches, but he’ll make an acrobatic catch every once in a while that lets you know he is still around.
Sleeper at receiver?
I don’t know if rookie receiver Sean Modster, an undrafted free agent out of Boise State, will make the team, but he has pretty strong hands. He’ll get some more serious looks if he plays well into the preseason.