Mike Preston’s observations on the Ravens secondary, Kenneth Dixon, tough guys and more

The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t throw long much in the first of two joint practices against the Ravens on Monday, but they challenged them Tuesday with the long ball and were successful.

The Jaguars completed three deep passes against the Ravens for what would have been touchdowns, including two against veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith. The first one occurred during the 11-on-11 period when receiver Chris Conley beat Smith down the left sideline and receiver Keelan Cole smoked Smith down the left side minutes later in the 7-on-7 period.


Conley had Smith beaten by several yards and, even with a high throw from quarterback Nick Foles that hung in the air, Smith couldn’t make up the ground to defend the pass.

Shortly after the last period, Smith was meeting on the sideline with defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale.


Dixon digging deep

Fourth-year running back Kenneth Dixon is in a fight to make the roster, and he is making things difficult for coach John Harbaugh.

Dixon, who has reported to training camps in the past overweight, appears to be in good shape and looks fit. He has made plays throughout training camp and on Tuesday repeatedly beat Jaguars linebackers when they tried to cover him one-on-one.

There have been times when he has struggled in pass protection but certainly no more than rookie Justice Hill, who is competing with Dixon for possibly the final roster spot at running back.

Hill, though, can dart inside and get outside on the perimeter. He is the only player on the Ravens roster who can do that with the exception of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

“Like I alluded to before, I think he’s, as a runner, the most pure, talented guy we have, which says a lot, because we have some talented guys,” running backs coach Matt Weiss said of Dixon. “The thing that has hurt him in the past has been a lot of stuff outside of his control. The best ability is availability sometimes, and right now he’s doing a great job just controlling the things he can control, and he’s done a great job learning the new offense. He’s done a great job of being in shape and being ready, and I’m just really happy with the work he’s doing and where he’s at.”

Special delivery

One of the best things I have noticed about Jackson is his decision making. Last year, he was hesitant and it slowed down his delivery.

Now he appears more comfortable, and his passes are coming out of his hand quicker.

Heavy hitters

The Jaguars want to have a downhill running game like the Ravens. Six of the seven running backs on their roster weigh 215 pounds or more.

Starter Leonard Fournette is 6 feet and weighs 228 pounds, while backup Alfred Blue is 6-2 and 225 pounds.

The Jaguars should be able to wear down a lot of teams going into the fourth period.

Too much talk?

I like a team that has that “tough guy” mentality, especially on defense, but sometimes the Ravens take it too far.

It’s one thing when a proven player such as safety Earl Thomas III gets a little feisty, but it doesn’t carry the same weight when backup safeties DeShon Elliott and Cyrus Jones start chirping.


Thomas has backed up his style of play. The other two haven’t.

Air Jackson

The catch of the day Tuesday came when Jackson dropped a back-shoulder fade pass to tight end Mark Andrews, who leaped over linebacker Myles Jack and safety Jarrod Wilson in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

A couple of plays later, Jackson completed a short slant in for a touchdown to receiver Miles Boykin for a touchdown. Red-zone efficiency also has improved for Jackson from a year ago.

Turn up the pressure

I was hoping to see some type of pass rush from the Ravens during these two days of practice against the Jaguars, but nothing developed. If nobody steps up in the first two preseason games, than general manager Eric DeCosta needs to make a trade to get someone who can bring pressure.

The Ravens might be able to bring some heat from inside with tackles Patrick Ricard, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley and Willie Henry, but there hasn’t been much pressure from the outside linebackers.

One thing the Ravens pass rushers need to work on is using their hands as leverage so they can protect themselves and get offensive linemen off their bodies.

Snap stories

The Ravens are putting in more time working on snaps from center Matt Skura to Jackson.

“It’s been going really well,” Skura said. “This year, we’ve taken that emphasis to a whole new level. This year, when they do 7-on-7 pass drills, either me or one of the other centers are down there taking snaps. We do snaps before practice. Sometimes, we’ll do snaps after practice. That helps to create muscle memory for Lamar and me. It’s a comfort thing. I think we’ve been really emphasizing it, and it’s been helping a lot.”

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