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Preston: Ravens need rookie WRs Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin to exceed expectations

Unless the Ravens sign other veteran receivers, they will need rookies Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin to exceed expectations in 2019.

It’s unwise to put a lot of stock into offseason training activities and mandatory minicamp practices, but after watching the team work out for three days last week, it was easy to see that the Ravens have a group of mediocre receivers without Brown and Boykin, who were limited because of injuries.

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The Ravens were hoping to see whether veterans such as Seth Roberts and Michael Floyd could have an impact or whether young receivers such as Jordan Lasley, Chris Moore and Quincy Adeboyejo could emerge. But the only consistent receivers were second-year tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. The rest of the group showed flashes, but nothing that proves that they could be a real threat every Sunday.

Brown and Boykin, where are you guys?

Both participated in some individual drills as Brown continues to recover slowly from a Lisfranc (foot) injury and Boykin from a hamstring issue. At Oklahoma, Brown had 75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Because of his speed, he could turn short passes into long gains, and that’s one of the main reasons the Ravens drafted him in the first round in April.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin, a third-round pick, had 59 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns with Notre Dame last season and could become a key target for second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson on third-down situations and inside the red zone.

The Ravens need this rookie tandem to step up or they will have an ordinary passing game. During minicamp, there were too many dropped passes. Floyd made plays occasionally, but looked slow. Lasley, a second-year receiver, and Roberts had their moments, but were mostly invisible. Willie Snead IV has continued to prove that he is just an average receiver in the slot.

That leaves the Ravens where they were last season, minus speedster John Brown. They wanted to improve the passing game to give Jackson more weapons and were hoping to find more threats through the draft and free agency.

For now, it’s Brown and Boykin. And they haven’t even had a full practice yet.

QB’s best friend

Jackson developed chemistry with Andrews last season, and it seems as though it will carry over into this year.

In OTAs and in minicamp, Andrews became a favorite target of Jackson on intermediate and long passes over the middle and inside the red zone. Andrews became such a frequent target that he appeared to irritate some of his defensive teammates and had some fun by taunting them after a touchdown or two.

If Andrews and Hurst continue to develop, they should improve the passing game and take some pressure off Brown and Boykin.

“Mark is a dog. He gets open, he runs his routes, he can block,” Jackson said. “Man, he is an all-around tight end him, Hayden [Hurst], Nick [Boyle], too. They’re different. But Mark, I don’t know. I don’t even have words for him. I don’t know.”

Mack making moves

When they invented the nose tackle position, they must have had rookie Daylon Mack’s body as the prototype.

Mack, a fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M, is 6-1 and weighs 340 pounds. He has huge thighs and even bigger calves. He is the ideal shape for a nose tackle because of his thick trunk, and he will probably require two players to move him off the line of scrimmage.

Mack has good quickness and acceleration off the ball. He might make backup nose tackle Michael Pierce lose weight faster as training camp approaches in late July. The Ravens need some bulk up front, especially since they didn’t sign defensive lineman Gerald McCoy in free agency several weeks ago.

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Time to bulk up?

Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has talked about the Ravens’ outstanding team speed, and that’s a great asset to have in the pass-happy NFL.

But the Ravens also lack bulk in their front seven. Current starting inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor weighs only 227 pounds, and Kenny Young, competing for the weak-side linebacker position, is listed at 234, even though he looks lighter. Chris Board, who can play both inside positions, weighs 229.

The good news for the Ravens is that most inside linebackers don’t have to take on blockers directly anymore because of defensive schemes, but it’s different when teams load up the line of scrimmage with two tight ends and just pound the ball inside the tackles.

Yanda assesses O-line

Right guard Marshal Yanda has always been a quiet leader, but he seems more energetic about his role this season.

He hinted that this could be a breakout season for left tackle Ronnie Stanley because he might have finally reached full maturity as a player. He also expressed confidence in third-year player Jermaine Eluemunor, who is starting at left guard, and gave advice to oft-injured guard Alex Lewis.

“I think he’s doing some good things out there. I think that he needs to continue to grow every single day, as most young guys do,” Yanda said of Eluemunor. “He’s getting a heck of an opportunity to make some progress there, so I think he’s doing a good job. It’s early yet. We don’t know yet. We don’t have the pads on yet.

“Playing offensive line in minicamp and stuff with no pads on is, it’s a little bit of a double-edged sword, as far as what really happens, and there’s really no bull-rushing. So, it’s a lot different. But he’s doing a good job. He has an opportunity.”

Of Lewis, Yanda said: “I try to talk to all the young guys about injuries and just say that injuries are 100% part of this game, and that sooner or later, guys are fighting through them every single season. Some guys make it five years without an injury, but more than likely, you’re going to have to deal with them pretty regularly. So, attacking your rehab 110% … This is our life.”

“This is what we do,” added Yanda, who has suffered various injuries throughout his 13-year career. “You have to come back at least 95% from your injury. When you have an injury, you can’t come back at 90%. You have to attack this thing like it can end your career. It needs to be of the utmost importance.”

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