At his first news conference in almost six months, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman was asked about his bolstered tight end room, about rookie running back Tyler Badie, about the development of quarterback Tyler Huntley. He talked about overloading rookie center Tyler Linderbaum in June so that he’d be ready by September. He said he was proud of what the Ravens had accomplished in just five days of organized team activities.
Hanging over his seven-minute session Wednesday with reporters, however, was the specter of two uncomfortable absences. Neither the Ravens’ franchise quarterback nor their top wide receiver from last season were at the team facility in Owings Mills. Lamar Jackson again had not shown up for the day’s voluntary session. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, meanwhile, was practicing in Arizona, having been traded to the Cardinals in April amid frustrations with his role in Roman’s offense.
“I live and die by what anything in the media is said,” Roman quipped when asked about how he handles the external scrutiny. “We’ve got to stay focused on what we stay focused on. I think as a professional, we’re all our harshest critics, and I think we know the truth. You just believe in that and keep trying to get better every day. Don’t get set in your ways. Just keep trying to adapt, evolve and adjust, and don’t worry about a thing.”
The Ravens will breathe a little easier when Jackson is back. The 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player, who was on hand for every OTA over his first four years in Baltimore, missed his fifth straight voluntary practice Wednesday. The Ravens have just five more OTAs before mandatory minicamp begins in mid-June, which Jackson will be expected to attend.
Roman declined to comment on his offseason dialogue with Jackson, who’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. Roman also didn’t say when Jackson might return; the Ravens practice again Thursday and have their four final workouts next week. Jackson tweeted Friday that he plans to attend the team’s OTAs, lashing out at an NFL analyst who had questioned why Jackson would miss the start of the team’s practices.
“This part of OTAs is Voluntary my Guy,” Jackson wrote, responding to a video in which NBC analyst and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms said he didn’t understand why a young quarterback would skip OTAs. “I will be there, just not on your watch.”
A week after coach John Harbaugh declined to comment on Jackson’s absence, Roman said he would let Jackson speak for himself. On Wednesday afternoon, Jackson shared a video on his Instagram of an upper-body workout with a South Florida-based trainer.
“Our job as coaches is to develop everybody to their fullest, and when they’re here, we can do that,” he said. “And that’s what we’re focused on right now. I’m sure Lamar’s working hard, but he’ll have a chance, I’m sure, at some point to talk to you guys about that.”
Jackson does not have as much to learn as, say, Linderbaum. Roman joked with the first-round pick from Iowa that his goal is to have Linderbaum “laying in bed shaking every night, worried about the next thing, so hopefully by training camp, he’s not.”
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But the Ravens’ offense will look different in 2022, Roman said. He estimated that Jackson knows about 80% of the scheme. The rest, Roman said, is “stuff that we look forward to working on.”
“I definitely think we kind of went back and changed some things and added some things,” he said. “There’s definitely some things that are new, that we haven’t done, so there’s also a bunch of things that he’s pretty well adjusted to.”
Quarterback and play-caller still have to get used to life without Brown. The 2019 first-round pick led all Ravens wide receivers last year with 91 catches for 1,008 yards, both career highs. Over his first eight games in 2021 — before illness, injuries and poor execution waylaid Jackson and the passing offense — Brown had 46 catches for 682 yards and six scores.
But after the Ravens traded him to Arizona during the opening night of the NFL draft, Brown said he “wasn’t put in the best situations.” He told the “I Am Athlete” podcast in late April that the “system wasn’t for me, personally.” Brown was targeted 146 times in 16 games last season, the third most in Ravens history and 10th among NFL players in 2021, but Roman’s offenses in Baltimore have been among the NFL’s most run-heavy.
Now the Ravens’ young wide receivers find themselves under a spotlight that had dimmed amid Brown’s emergence. Their top two wideouts, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, will be 22 and 24, respectively, when the NFL season opens. They’ve combined for three receiving touchdowns over three seasons. All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews will bolster the passing game, but Huntley has connected on only a handful of deep shots over the team’s two open practices.
His biggest came Wednesday, when he found Bateman for a 45-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown catch against Marcus Williams, the new safety a step slow in coverage against Bateman’s corner route.
“These guys are diligent,” Roman said. “We’re throwing a lot at them. Some of these young guys that just got here, they’re starting to flash a little bit. As far as Rashod, ‘Duv,’ [James] Proche [II], Tylan [Wallace], I think they’re taking another step, and I really like what I see from them, too. We’re not, like, game-planning right now. We’re working on really installing things. We may never run some of these plays, but the concepts, the principles, we’re seeing really good progress from all those guys in terms of route running and what not — the things you can get done this time of year.”
- Jackson was one of 17 Ravens missing at Wednesday’s practice. Also absent were running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Ricky Person Jr.; offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley, Morgan Moses and Ja’Wuan James; guard Ben Cleveland; defensive linemen Michael Pierce, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe; outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo; cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Kyle Fuller and Iman Marshall; and safety Ar’Darius Washington.
- Dobbins and Peters, both recovering from season-ending knee injuries, watched part of Wednesday’s practice from the sideline. Dobbins also caught some balls from a Jugs machine.
- The Ravens announced several promotions in their scouting department, including the elevation of David Blackburn from national scout to director of college scouting, a role last held by current director of player personnel Joe Hortiz. Mark Azevedo was promoted from assistant director of college and pro personnel to assistant director of player personnel.