Mike Preston’s observations from the Ravens’ first joint practice with the Jaguars

NFL training camps can be some of the most boring, tedious and stressful situations in professional sports, so it’s a nice change of pace when opposing teams share practice time.

There is nothing like fresh meat, and there is also the opportunity to play against new schemes and make adjustments that will be used on game day.


The Ravens welcomed the Jacksonville Jaguars to their training camp Monday, and unlike a year ago, when the Super Bowl-bound Los Angeles Rams crushed them on the first day, the Ravens practiced well.

The Jaguars aren’t the Rams, and the Ravens aren’t ready for a Super Bowl appearance yet, but at least Baltimore made a favorable impression.


“They competed well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The biggest thing you try to do here [is compete]. It wasn’t a physical practice. It was tag-off, so you don’t see a lot of that, which is good. It’s fine. That’s how we did it. It was good that way. It was a good, fast practice. We’re going to look at the details — the footwork, the angles, the hand placement, the assignments, the eyes, the communication — all those things when you’re going against another team that you’re not used to.”

“The plays are different, the tempo is different, everything is different, and you just see how you respond to it. It felt good.”

The intensity of Day 2 on Tuesday will be greater because the Ravens will play Jacksonville on Thursday night at home in the preseason opener for both teams.

Overall, though, it was a good day for the Ravens offense. Of course, it all starts with second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, and he continues to make steady progress going into the regular season.

He looked poised against Jacksonville and was technically sound throughout practice. Most of his completions were on short passes and slants thrown inside the numbers, which will be a staple of this offense in 2019.

But Jackson also threw well on short timing routes to the outside. One major key for the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will be his mechanics. He has a tendency to drop his arm while throwing and sometimes fails to step into his passes.

Once his mechanics break down, it usually takes him a series or two to regroup. Now, will that continue to happen in games?

The Ravens running game is sound. Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards, both physical downhill runners, are having a good competition, and both performed well against Jacksonville’s linebackers, who are quick and agile.

The Ravens offensive line protected Jackson well, but the success of this offense will come down to the running game and how physical this group is at the point of attack. If the Ravens can’t run, then they can’t pass and they can’t win.

It’s that simple.

Besides tight end Mark Andrews, the Ravens don’t have another consistent, dangerous receiver, even though rookie Marquise Brown appears even faster in person than on film. Fellow rookie Miles Boykin has been impressive but has yet to play in an NFL game.

On Monday, receivers Seth Roberts, Jaleel Scott and Willie Snead IV made plays, but it’s hard to believe they will contribute every Sunday.


Defensively, the pass rush is still a concern. The Ravens got off to a slow start in one-on-one drills against the Jaguars but got better as the afternoon wore on. The Ravens appear to be getting better on the inside with young players such as linemen Gerald Willis, Chris Wormley and Patrick Ricard, but there hasn’t been consistent pressure from the outside linebackers.

Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale is smart and will dial up a lot of blitzes, but a team can only run so many. Good teams will scheme against those, and sooner or later the Ravens will have to win one-on-one matchups.

Veterans Shane Ray and Pernell McPhee were brought in to provide pressure. Third-year outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams have to step up or risk getting cut.

Their time to shine is now.

“They have to do it right now,” Ravens defensive line coach Joe Cullen said of Bowser and Williams. “The clock has ticked and it’s ready to explode. They have to do it in these games.”

As far as the secondary, there isn’t much concern. The Ravens won’t be as great as some have predicted, but they do have talent and depth. They also have star safety Earl Thomas III, who made sure the Jaguars knew he was there Monday.

The Ravens’ problems in coverage seem to be in the flats. Either the Jaguars confused the Ravens several times with well-designed plays, or the Ravens blew coverages. Regardless, it wasn’t pretty.

Overall, though, it was a good, sound practice for the Ravens. Competition will get tougher on Tuesday. Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack seemed to be coasting at times and Jalen Ramsey became a shutdown cornerback whenever he wanted to.

The tone was far different from a year ago when the Rams came to town. On that day, the Ravens got shoved around. A day later, both teams had equal success.

But at least for two days, the Ravens get a change of pace and some new life. It’s nice having new bodies to beat on.

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