Baltimore Ravens

Mike Preston's observations from second day of Ravens-Rams joint practices

On the second day of joint practices between the Ravens and Los Angeles Rams, I stayed on the Ravens defensive end to watch them go against the Rams offense. Overall, the Ravens held their own, which is impressive because Los Angeles had one of the best offenses in the league last season.

As opposed to a year ago, the Ravens attack more on defense. They will bring pressure from anywhere on the field at any time, and it will be interesting to see if that philosophy holds up throughout the season.


The Ravens appeared to use that strategy early in seasons under former defensive coordinator Dean Pees, but became more conservative in the final quarter of each year.

But on Tuesday they got a fair amount of pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff that could have resulted in big plays.


T. Williams looks good

Second-year outside linebacker Tim Williams got more repetitions than usual because starter Terrell Suggs did not practice. But Williams had a strong presence against the Rams.

He wasn’t just a consistent threat as a pass rusher but was more physical overall and showed strong pursuit to running plays to the opposite side of the field.

I was down on Williams during the first week of training camp, but he certainly has picked up the pace.

“I think he is rushing better now than I’ve ever seen him rush,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said. “Out there, the last two practices against the Rams, he really put on a show in rushing the passer. He’s becoming the player that we thought he was going to be when we drafted him.”

The Ravens selected Williams in the third round of the 2017 draft.

More impressive youth

Two other young defensive players have performed well in the last week. Third-year outside linebacker Kamalei Correa had a strong game against the Chicago Bears last week and has followed it up with good practices against the Rams.

Fourth-year outside linebacker/end Za’Darius Smith would have had four or five sacks through practices if the Ravens were allowed to hit Goff.

The Ravens showed good speed to the outside with the pass rush and they definitely need another strong pass rusher to emerge playing opposite Suggs.


Zone problems

The Ravens still have trouble playing zone defense and lose receivers, especially on crossing routes.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, playing in the slot, tormented the defense all afternoon. Once during 11 on 11, Cooper was wide open along the left side for what would have been about a 40-yard touchdown.

The Rams embarrassed the Ravens by running the same play on the next snap and again Kupp scored a 40-yard touchdown. Pees used to get blamed in these types of situations.

Who is to blame now?

I’m still not sure the Ravens have a safety that can play the deep center field in zone coverage on passing situations.

Rams worth watching

I like watching the Rams, particularly the offense, because head coach Sean McVay is creative. On a goal-line situation Tuesday, he ran twins to the left or two wide receivers split left. Both ran inside slants, but Goff went to Kupp, who was further outside for an easy touchdown.


It does help having a running back like Todd Gurley. Not only is he powerful with good speed, but the fourth-year runner is extremely patient in picking his holes.

He makes inside linebackers sit down longer inside with the play action.

Goff vs. Flacco

Both Goff and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco have strong arms, but Goff is more accurate and has more velocity on short- to mid-range passes over the middle. He can put a ball on the rope, as they like to say.

Bad call

Bum call of the day was the pass interference on Ravens cornerback Darious Williams, who had inside position and ran stride for stride with receiver Pharoh Cooper down the left sideline.

Williams eventually knocked away the pass, but was called for the pass interference. Several reporters were there right in front of the play and no one noticed any type of an infraction.

I guess that’s called “fake officiating.”


Peripheral vision

I didn’t get a chance to watch the Ravens offense go against the Rams defense Tuesday, but I assume the Ravens did better than Monday from the cheers from local fans.

I did manage to catch rookie tight end Mark Andrews catch two touchdown passes. That was memorable because it’s been hard trying to catch the rookie on the field for two straight practices.

Interesting tactics

I don’t know if it is head coach John Harbaugh’s idea or something imposed by the players, but individual players on offense have been taking a lap when they jump offsides. It sounds like something out of the recreation or Pop Warner ranks, but these simple little motivating reminders work.

They work even better on hot, humid days like Tuesday.

Lay of the land

Overall the past two days, the Rams looked like a team that was going to be a serious contender in the NFL and the Ravens looked like a team still trying to put things together.

The Rams have a tougher road getting to the Super Bowl because there are more good teams in the NFC than the AFC. The Rams will have to contend with the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles while in the AFC there is only the New England Patriots, which aren’t super anymore, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.


If the Ravens keep making progress, they could still do some damage.