Young corps of receivers catching on
Talented group has given Jackson margin for error
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has a simple process for developing chemistry in the passing game.
“Work, work and more work,” he said Tuesday, after the last practice of training camp. “That’s all, just getting the ball to my receivers, like I said, trying to be accurate, throw it at their face masks, not trying to throw it behind them. If I do, you’ll notice. I’ll always be, like, slapping my hands like, ‘I have to get it right.’ ”
Even when Jackson hasn’t been precise, a surprising group has given the Ravens’ three healthy quarterbacks margin for error: the team’s young receivers.
While rookie Miles Boykin has been the breakout star at the position and first-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown continues to be eased into the picture after offseason surgery, there are bright spots further down the depth chart. Second-year receiver Jaleel Scott and undrafted free agent Antoine Wesley remain in a heated battle for a potential roster spot. Sean Modster has quietly produced throughout camp in second- and third-team work. And Jaylen Smith, another undrafted rookie, had maybe the biggest play of the Ravens’ joint practices against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.
Depending on the health of Seth Roberts and Brown in late August, a few could make the season-opening 53-man roster. It’s also possible that none will. But all are practice squad candidates, an encouraging prospect as the Ravens look to build their offensive depth.
“A lot of potential,” Jackson said. “The young guys are showing up, showing off. Each and every day, they step it up. You never know what one of them is going to do each and every day. All the guys are doing great right now.”
On Tuesday, it was Wesley who provided a few surprises. While the former Texas Tech star lacks ideal strength for a 6-foot-4 possession receiver, he continues to float above defenders on jump balls. One such victim early in practice was safety Earl Thomas III, who lost out on a lob during one-on-one work. He could only look on as Wesley spun the ball and clapped his hands in celebration.
“Two things for the wide receivers: They’ve showed us that they can go up and make catches on contested balls, and they’ve shown us they’ll block,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Those are two pretty big deals for us.”
Eleven players missed Tuesday’s practice: Roberts; offensive linemen Marshal Yanda, Greg Senat and Randin Crecilius; linebackers Pernell McPhee, Matthew Judon and Mike Onuoha (wrist); and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, Tavon Young and Iman Marshall. In addition to Brown, cornerback Maurice Canady returned after missing Monday’s practice.
Harbaugh said Smith, who left midway through Monday’s session, was resting. He said other players “need to get some tests and things like that.”
“It’s just the middle of training camp right now,” he said.” There are varying things with varying guys.”
Safety Tony Jefferson had the first of the defense’s three interceptions Monday, coming down with a long pass from Jackson intended for wide receiver Michael Floyd. Safety Brynden Trawick had the second and most impressive pick when he ripped Joe Callahan’s pass away from tight end Charles Scarff’s hands near the sideline. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey had his third goal-line interception in as many days, robbing Trace McSorley as he looked to wide receiver Chris Moore.
Other than a brief scuffle between tight end Nick Boyle and safety Chuck Clark near the goal line, the Ravens enjoyed another relatively peaceful day. The cooler temperatures probably helped. “They’re getting sick of each other,” Harbaugh said, laughing.