These are happy days for John Harbaugh. Officially, his Ravens are tied for the NFL lead in preseason victories (two). Unofficially, they might also lead the league in fewest injuries per days of preseason.
Cornerback Maurice Canady and linebacker Alvin Jones were the only players on the team’s active roster to miss a joint practice Saturday. As if to underscore the Ravens’ good fortune, Indianapolis Colts wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and K.J. Brent both left the field Saturday with injuries.
And with quarterback Joe Flacco impressing, the team’s free-agent acquisitions at wide receiver panning out, and the usual standouts standing out, Harbaugh said Saturday that the Ravens have performed this preseason “probably about as good as I’ve ever seen.”
He added: “I’d have to say our best camp in terms of guys focused on improving every day, and becoming 1 percent better at what they do from one day to the next and keep building on that. That’s what I’m proud of.”
After two years without a joint practice, the Ravens filled their extra-long preseason with a pair of two-day workouts — first against the Los Angeles Rams, and this weekend against the Colts.
It has been a welcome change of pace. Guard-center Matt Skura said before the team’s trip to Indiana that the offense has started to understand the Ravens defense’s “patterns,” and wide receiver Willie Snead IV said Friday that the one-on-one battles against familiar opponents gets tiring after a while.
“The different guys lining up on the other side are really good for us,” Harbaugh said Friday. “It gets your attention. This is a long week. This would have been a hard week to keep the guys really focused from Thursday until Monday night, so to have these couple days is really good for us.”
“We’ve been in camp,” Flacco said Saturday, “for a really long time.”
Waller’s tough squeeze
After a yearlong ban made it easy to forget about Darren Waller, the twice-suspended tight end has made it hard for the Ravens to forget about him this preseason.
Since his reinstatement two weeks ago following a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy, Waller has flashed his potential as a receiving threat. The converted wide receiver, who also missed the Ravens' first four games in 2016 for substance abuse, “knows what he’s doing,” Harbaugh said Friday, “which is no small feat.”
“He’s been getting better,” he said. “He looks good. He’s made a couple plays. He has to continue to work on the fundamentals ... securing the football, things like that. But he’s made some plays. His speed showed up. His athleticism showed up.”
It might not be enough. Two of the Ravens’ first four draft picks were tight ends — Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews — and Harbaugh also has praised Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams. The veterans started a combined 19 games last season.
“Very pleased with the tight end group,” Harbaugh said. “We have a deep group. There are four that everybody talks about, then there are a couple more guys. Vince Mayle has had a tremendous camp. We’ve talked about Darren Waller coming on. We have a young guy [Nick Keizer]. ... [He] has really done a good job. So we’re just pretty impressed with the whole group.”