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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
Despite missing the early part of camp while recovering from COVID-19, Lamar Jackson has looked excellent in practices in recent weeks. He got his first taste of preseason action Saturday night. He played just one series, but it was an 11-play drive. Jackson was happy to get some game action, “Just to get my feet wet for the regular season, I've got to feel that contact, that real contact. (Not) guys practicing, not hitting me. It was great to get my feet wet. Felt pretty good.” Another key starter, offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley, also got his first preseason action. Jackson was excited to have Stanley back. Tyler Huntley has solidified his role as the backup thanks to his play and an injury to Trace McSorley.
The biggest story of the week is J.K. Dobbins’ season-ending injury. Dobbins suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s final preseason game and will miss the 2021 season. It’s a potentially devastating blow as Dobbins commanded the No. 1 role and was in line for a heavy workload. Baltimore isn’t likely to turn into a pass-happy offense simply because they lost their bellcow. The team still believes in Gus Edwards, who will step in as the No. 1. Edwards’ skill set is limited, though, having only caught 18 passes in 43 career games. Behind Edwards, Ty'Son Williams had been drawing rave reviews for his aggressive running style while Justice Hill was out with an injury. Wiliams is ahead of Hill in the pecking order, but there’s a strong possibility the front office will add a proven veteran to join Edwards in a committee.
The receivers had an injury-riddled preseason. Marquise Brown has been dealing with a hamstring injury since camp began. And Rashod Bateman had groin surgery in early August. Bateman has resumed light running drills and catching passes but isn’t yet changing directions or running full speed. He hopes to be ready for the season opener, though that could be an optimistic goal. Sammy Watkins’ injury history is legendary, so fans held their collective breath when he, too, missed practices last week. Fortunately, head coach John Harbaugh said it was just rest and nothing serious. Harbaugh did follow up with a potentially telling quote, “You're never 100%, but we're trying to get him as close as we can.” The passing game could suffer if Baltimore lost Watkins early in the year while Brown and Bateman are still recovering. And without Dobbins, the running game has already taken a hit, as well. Behind the injured starters, the team has an interesting decision at the bottom of the depth chart. Eisenberg left Miles Boykin off his projected 53-man roster. Boykin excels on special teams, particularly in the coverage units, and the team kept him on the roster.
With the injuries at wide receiver and running back, offensive coordinator Greg Roman will rely heavily on Mark Andrews to begin the season. Andrews offers a mismatch advantage on every snap, and his rapport with Jackson is undeniable. Andrews was featured in the opening drive of the preseason finale, catching two passes for 23 yards from Jackson.
Baltimore made an interesting trade this week, sending rookie fifth-rounder Shaun Wade to New England. It’s not often that teams cut bait on draft picks in their first year, but Wade was unlikely to make the final roster. Getting compensation for him rather than cutting him outright could end up being a wise move. Baltimore received a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft and a fifth-round pick in 2023. On the field, the defense looks stout. It’s a mix of experienced veterans, explosive rookies, and nearly everything in between. The headliners are Calais Campbell up front, Patrick Queen at middle linebacker, Justin Houston and Jayson Oweh on the edge, and Marlon Humphrey in the secondary. On Saturday night, Baltimore blew out Washington, securing its 20th consecutive preseason win. That streak breaks the record of 19 wins set by the Vince Lombardi-era Packers. It’s a testament to the organization and the depth at all positions that Baltimore can continue to win games even while not playing its starters.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Lamar Jackson practiced fully for the second consecutive week and participated in pregame warmups but did not play in the preseason game. He began camp on the COVID-19 list but appears to be back to full strength. Tight end Mark Andrews raved about Jackson after one of the joint practices with Carolina. "Lamar is slinging the rock like he didn't have those 10 days off with COVID. He's putting the ball right where it needs to be, and he's locked in. He's more focused than he's ever been." Head coach John Harbaugh is also happy with Jackson’s progress: "Lamar had a really excellent two days – excellent." Behind Jackson, Tyler Huntley appears to have taken command of the backup quarterback race. Huntley performed admirably in last year’s playoffs when pressed into duty after Jackson’s injury. Trace McSorley injured his back and is expected to miss multiple weeks.
It’s widely assumed J.K. Dobbins is the No. 1 and Gus Edwards is the No. 2, but it could be more of a 1A/1B committee than we hoped. Edwards out-snapped Dobbins (10 snaps versus 8 snaps) against the Panthers and played on more third downs. This duo will get all the work they can handle, especially if predictions like Brian Baldinger’s come true. Despite hope of a more pass-focused approach, Baldinger expects to see “the same old Ravens.” Injuries to receivers Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman have slowed Greg Roman’s plans to expand the passing playbook. In contrast, both Dobbins and Edwards are full proficient at executing a powerhouse ground game. Ty'Son Williams is pushing Justice Hill for the No. 3 job. Hill missed both joint practices and the game this week while nursing an ankle injury. Williams, meanwhile, had a highlight touchdown run in the game and is making a push for inclusion on the final roster.