The Baltimore Ravens are well into training camp and are under a week away from their first preseason game versus the Tennessee Titans.
Thus far, the team has remained relatively unscathed injury-wise as we approach the season. The only injury of note has been backup linebacker Vince Biegel tearing his Achilles two days ago. Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton has been dealing with cramping and has exited practice early the last few afternoon sessions.
Second-year fullback Ben Mason injured his ankle and was not seen after practice as well. Not much is known about his status, currently. From most accounts by local media and fans via social media, the ”dog days” of summer are catching up to most of the players by the end of practices. That is to be expected. Head coach John Harbaugh is notorious for running tough camps, in comparison to previous head coach Brian Billick running a more nuanced and less physical camp.
Rookie third-round pick Travis Jones, a defensive tackle out of UConn, has been turning heads daily in his first pro training camp. Jones has received rave reviews from the coaches and his teammates. Veteran nose tackle Michael Pierce has praised the efforts and skill set of the six-foot-four 335-pound anchor. Jones looks to be making his presence known and will be leaned on heavily to spell veterans Calais Campbell and Michael Pierce. With the addition of Jones, Pierce, and defensive end/tackle Brent Urban, Baltimore boasts one of the bigger defensive line fronts in the league.
Kyle Hamilton has been in the local and national media cycles recently for, quite frankly, some silly reasons. The fourteenth overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft made headlines when a video from the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium evening practice surfaced last weekend. Hamilton was beaten in a 1-on-1 drill by wide receiver Bailey Gaither for a touchdown. Hamilton was essentially playing cornerback in the drill and was best by a double move by a much smaller and quicker player.
NFL national media member and Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan correspondent Jason LaConfora reported from camp that Hamilton often looked lost and out of position during full team drills and was beat a few times in coverage. It is understandable that Hamilton has lofty expectations. That comes with the territory when you are a top fifteen selection. While it is easy to lament the opinion of LaConfora, he had a good point. The leap from the NCAA to the NFL is difficult. Most of these rookies have been the best player on the field at every level from pee-wee football to college football. When they step onto a field with Pro Bowlers and All-Pros, it’s culture shock.
To put it bluntly, the media and fans need to relax when it comes to Hamilton. He is in his first pro training camp. Camp is for learning the defense and getting in game shape. Saying that he is a bust with zero pro games played is shortsighted.
Second-year EDGE Odafe Oweh has had an excellent training camp, to date. Oweh looks much more confident and has been dominating 1-on-1 drills and full-team drills. He has been showing incredible first-step speed and his “outside dip” and stutter-step moves have left the offensive tackles on skates. Oweh is primed to expand on his impressive rookie year.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson has looked crisp in his throwing this camp. Jackson, 25, is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Looking to bounce back from a shortened eleven-game season in 2021, Lamar is primed to lead the team to a Super Bowl title. It has been apparent that Jackson made significant strides in the offseason. He packed on almost 15 pounds of muscle and worked non-stop with his private quarterback coach.
Third-year wide receiver James Proche has been having a fantastic camp. He certainly looks to be pushing Devin Duvernay for targets and will get every opportunity to do so as long as Duvernay is the primary returner.
Wide receiver Binjimen Victor has taken advantage of every opportunity this far to make the 53-man roster. Victor utilized his time properly in the offseason, often linking with quarterback Lamar Jackson in workout sessions. He continues to make his presence known in 1-on-1 drills. Keep an eye on Victor to sneak into the WR5 spot on the roster.
Running back Justice Hill continues to show flashes of pre-injury form. Hill, considered by many to be a long shot for the 53, has been a consistent target in individual drills and full team sessions. In consecutive reps, Hill burned linebackers Patrick Queen and Diego Fagot during pass coverage drills. Hill has certainly heard received the message sent by the team in the form of rookie running back Tyler Badie.
Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely has made the most of his opportunity. While veteran Nick Boyle has been consistent, Likely is looking to be the second tight end presence that Lamar Jackson leaned on in 2019 with Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. With a deadly combination of size and speed, Likely is showing signs of being used heavily in the offseason this coming season. Fellow rookie tight end Charlie Kolar is currently sidelined with a sports hernia.
The aforementioned Odafe Oweh has been impressive all of camp. He has been showing impressive ”bend” off the edge on pass rush moves. Fellow EDGE Justin Houston has had more of a quiet camp but looks to build upon his five-sack season from 2021. Houston’s impact on this young defense does not show up on a stat sheet. Houston and fellow veteran Calais Campbell have been imperative to the cohesiveness of the defense in camp.
Fan favorite safety Tony Jefferson has been a playmaker in camp the last few days. Affectionately known as ”TJ”, Jefferson has been flying all over the field during team and individual drills. He made an impressive interception off quarterback Lamar Jackson on a deep ball thrown to Rashod Bateman. Jefferson leaped into the air and tipped the ball to himself for the turnover in what looked to be a definite catch by Bateman. That play was the first interception thrown by Jackson the entire camp.
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line coach Anthony Weaver has the defensive line ready to harass opposing quarterbacks. Weaver has emphasized pressures, sacks, and quarterback hits are vital to defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s new defense. Weaver has absolutely massive linemen to carry out the tasks at hand, Calais Campbell, Justin Madubuike, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Travis Jones, and Broderick Washington intend to wreak havoc in opposing backfields under the guidance of coach Weaver.
Side note: Rookie fourth-rounder punter Jordan Stout looks like a stud early on in camp. His ”coffin corner” punts are consistently inside the 10-yard line. Stout also nailed a 60-yard field goal, held by our former punter of 16 years and current special teams assistant coach Sam Koch.