Over a month of rookie minicamp practices, organized team activities and mandatory-minicamp workouts, the Ravens battled heat, cicadas and the physical toil of the NFL’s first offseason, in-person program in two years.
It was hard to ask for more from their offseason workouts. The Ravens made progress with their passing game. They avoided catastrophic injuries. They ramped up their rookies’ workload. They even made time for bocce ball.
“We improved as a football team,” coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday, after the final practice of minicamp. “We feel great about where we’re at.”
As the Ravens head into their summer hiatus, training camp looming in the distance, here’s a look at whose stock is rising and falling — or, in two cases, what’s falling.
Watkins was a no-show for the first week of voluntary OTAs, then had a couple of drops during the team’s second open practice. But over the Ravens’ next three practices, he seemed to improve every time he took the field. Watkins ended mandatory minicamp Wednesday with a dominant showing in 11-on-11 action, winning on downfield routes and looking like the 1,000-yard receiver he was early in his career.
Watkins, who signed a one-year deal with the Ravens this offseason, could be the outside target quarterback Lamar Jackson’s lacked over his first three seasons in Baltimore. On Wednesday, an impressed Jackson pointed out Watkins’ size (6 feet 1, 211 pounds) and briefly wondered whether the former first-round pick might actually be faster than Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Harbaugh said Watkins is “right on schedule” and “getting into the groove” with Jackson. Most importantly, he’s healthy.
Tee Martin and Keith Williams
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey might’ve offered the highest praise for the Ravens’ wide receivers room, saying Wednesday that he felt a “major energy change” at the position, “not only with the coaching, but just with the wide receivers that are there.” Watkins and Brown shined brightest this offseason — first-round pick Rashod Bateman flashed, too, when he was healthy — but the group’s most encouraging development was that almost no one seemed left behind.
Under Martin, the first-year wide receivers coach, and Williams, the first-year pass game specialist often by Martin’s side, the Ravens found new receivers for splash plays practically every practice. One week, it was Miles Boykin and rookie Tylan Wallace. The first day of minicamp, it was Jaylon Moore. The second day, Binjimen Victor. All the while, youngsters like Devin Duvernay and James Proche II continued to develop. Offseason reports won’t matter much in September, but Martin and Williams have the Ravens on the right track to Week 1.
A two-year starter at left guard, Bozeman is back at center, where he starred for Alabama, and looks “very natural,” according to Harbaugh. After all the tension headaches Ravens centers caused last year, Bozeman did what was asked of him this offseason: He kept his snaps on target and heart rates low.
Bozeman’s relocation has opened up the competition at left guard, where there’s no apparent front-runner. But with how often the Ravens operate out of pistol and shotgun formations, and the breadth of offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s playbook, it should help to have a steady hand paired with Jackson.
The second-year defensive tackle pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor and had six other charges, including a felony relating to damaging vehicles with a metal object this spring, dropped this month at Arlington General District Court in Virginia. The 2020 fifth-round pick will likely avoid a jail sentence, provided he completes 100 hours of community service and offers a restitution plan.
Washington could still face NFL discipline, but his future in Baltimore is more secure than it was when he was arrested in mid-March. The Ravens don’t need Washington to become a dynamic force inside this season; in Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell, they already have three proven veterans. But Washington showed growth from his rookie year in OTAs, and his long-term development will be key for an aging unit.
Young has played just two games over the past two seasons, his promising, stop-and-start career derailed by a 2019 neck injury and a 2020 knee injury. So it was encouraging that, three months before the Ravens head to Las Vegas for their season opener, Young was back at practice for the start of minicamp, participating in individual drills.
“He looked good, moved well,” Harbaugh said Tuesday. “That’s a great first step for him today.”
The cornerback will have another month-plus to prepare for the rigors of training camp and an even longer NFL regular-season schedule.
Dobbins left little doubt about his running ability during his rookie season. It was his receiving that needed an offseason makeover. So far, so good. Dobbins made the ordinary catches he’ll need to master — check-downs and swing passes out of the backfield — and came down with an extraordinary grab over inside linebacker Malik Harrison, posterizing his former Ohio State teammate for a jump-ball touchdown.
“Shoot, it didn’t surprise me,” Dobbins said Tuesday. “I’ve been doing that. I can catch the ball a little bit. I know I had a few mistakes last year, but this year, I’ve been working on eliminating those mistakes, even the little mistakes.”
He chuckled when asked about his role in the passing offense — “We’ll just have to see” — but if Dobbins can cut down on his worrisome drop rate, he should easily double his 2020 output as a receiver (18 catches for 120 yards).
With tight end Nick Boyle (knee) and fullback Patrick Ricard (hip) sidelined for offseason practices, the Ravens needed a running mate for tight end Mark Andrews on their first-team offense. Oliver, a 2019 third-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, looked the part when he got the chance.
Acquired in March for a conditional seventh-round pick, the 6-foot-5 Oliver was the most consistent receiver of the tight ends battling for a roster spot. Injuries have limited him to just four games over two NFL seasons, but he showed his athleticism and range on short and intermediate routes, and solid enough hands. Depending on Oliver’s fit in the offense, he might not need to wow as a blocker in training camp, but he’ll still have to prove capable when the pads come on.
After opting out of the 2020 season, Smith skipped the Ravens’ voluntary OTAs and looked like he was playing catch-up at minicamp. The team needs a swing tackle behind projected starters Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva, and Smith is the team’s most experienced candidate. He’s also 34, and as Harbaugh acknowledged, “We’ll just have to see going forward.”
When Breeland tore his ACL in October 2019, he was one of college football’s top tight ends. Twenty months later, the Oregon product still hasn’t practiced for the Ravens. He spent last season on the reserve/nonfootball injury list and wasn’t cleared to practice during OTAs or minicamp. Harbaugh was hopeful last month that Breeland would be ready for training camp; if he’s not, his slim odds of earning a roster spot will fade even further.
The Ravens’ 16-year run of having at least one undrafted rookie make the team’s initial 53-man roster ended last year. Barring a stretch of bad injury luck, it might be another year before the next streak begins. The Ravens are deep across the roster, and none of the team’s touted undrafted signings stood out much in offseason workouts.
Undersized safety Ar’Darius Washington will have to prove his value on special teams, offensive tackle Adrian Ealy is still adjusting to the speed of the NFL, and tight end Tony Poljan has a limited ceiling as a receiver. They could all help out eventually, but probably not in Week 1.
Brood X’s stock was never higher than during the last week of OTAs, when the bugs around the Ravens’ Owings Mills practice fields were loud enough to simulate crowd noise and bold enough to test the patience of NFL linebackers.
“I care about the creatures, but at the end of the day,” Patrick Queen warned this month, “do not touch me.”
By the time the Ravens return for training camp, though, the red-eyed insects will be long gone. When they re-emerge in 2038, Ben Roethlisberger will be entering his 35th NFL season.
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After the Ravens modified their positional drills, media members were limited in what they could record. Some throwing sessions, according to Harbaugh, contain “valuable information,” such as two-man route combinations that “we don’t want our opponent to see.” So footage of Jackson might be limited until the preseason.