The frustration from members of the Baltimore Ravens offense over the past few days of training camp has been visible and audible.
After Thursday’s practice, which was only a walk-through, new offensive coordinator Todd Monken said bluntly, “It’s not hard to project because we’re not really good right now. We have a long way to go.”
Friday’s practice included quarterback Lamar Jackson punting a football and tossing aside his helmet after another blitzer got a free run at him and forced him to throw the ball away, and Jackson’s favorite target, tight end Mark Andrews, flipping off and yelling an expletive at a referee for not calling defensive pass interference.
Jackson and Andrews’ displays came during a practice in which the offense registered a rare win over the defense, at least according to the scoring system devised by head coach John Harbaugh and his staff.
“It’s a reflection of their perfectionism,” Harbaugh said following the practice. “They’re chasing perfection, and that’s what you want to see from your players. When your players take that mindset, you’re going to have a chance. Coaches pretty much always have that mindset. When the players take on that personality because they feel like they’re capable of it, that’s what you want to see. The offense had a good practice today.”
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Friday was the Ravens’ ninth training camp practice and the new-look offense has shown signs of improvement. There have been some struggles in the red zone and the offensive line has had issues dealing with the team’s defensive front. For the most part, Jackson and the Ravens’ three other quarterbacks have kept the ball out of harm’s way. However, the offense hasn’t generated too many big plays downfield.
Still, it was always expected that this group would be a work in progress. Team officials anticipated that when the decision was made for former offensive coordinator Greg Roman to move on and he was replaced by Monken, with the promise of a more balanced offense with more of a reliance on Jackson’s arm than his legs. That’s pretty much how it has played out, and it surely hasn’t helped that projected starting running back J.K. Dobbins and wide receiver Rashod Bateman have yet to practice this summer.
“We’re not nearly where we need to be, and we shouldn’t be, because it’s early in camp,” Monken said Thursday.
A day later, Jackson’s frustration surfaced after an 11-on-11 period during which he was 0-for-4 on passing attempts and faced consistent pressure. Jackson overthrew an open Andrews streaking alone toward the end zone on the first play. He was sacked on the second play and again couldn’t connect with Andrews on the third. On the next two plays, he threw incomplete to Tarik Black and was forced to spike the ball when a free defender got in his face. That inspired him to punt the football down the middle of the field and shed his helmet.
Andrews made his share of catches, but he was hounded all practice by second-year safety Kyle Hamilton. He apparently had enough and reacted when safety Marcus Williams wasn’t called for a penalty on a jump ball near the end zone that fell incomplete. Andrews got up, realized there was no flag and immediately yelled toward the official on the sideline. He followed that up with a one-finger salute in the direction of the official. When Andrews then yelled an expletive at the official, the back judge flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
More Friday practice observations
• The Ravens put the pads back on Friday, but they remained without several players who are dealing with physical issues. Linebackers David Ojabo and Trenton Simpson and defensive backs Rock Ya-Sin, Kyu Blu Kelly and Geno Stone all didn’t practice. Harbaugh said Ojabo and Ya-Sin (knee) should return to practice soon. He also said Simpson, the third-round pick out of Clemson, is dealing with a soft-tissue injury and could miss some time.
• The only roster change Friday came when the Ravens transferred cornerback Trayvon Mullen to the reserve/non-football injury list. This likely means Mullen, who is dealing with a toe/foot injury, will miss the season. It also opens up a spot on the team’s 90-man roster. The Ravens are getting thin at edge rusher and cornerback, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the open 90-man spot went to augmenting one of those positions.
• Dobbins, Bateman and fullback Patrick Ricard (hip) remain on the physically unable to perform list, while outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (knee), guard Andrew Vorhees (knee) and long snapper Nick Moore (Achilles) are on the non-football injury list. Harbaugh said Bateman is doing really well in his rehab, and he’s hopeful Bateman will start practicing soon, but he was noncommittal about the timetable.
• Despite his frustration later in practice, Jackson might have made his best throw of training camp in one of the early full-team periods. Backpedaling in the face of pursuing defenders, Jackson lofted a pass off his back foot that traveled roughly 25 yards in the air and got just over the outstretched arm of Jalyn Armour-Davis and landed in the hands of Odell Beckham Jr.
• The clear standout in the running back pass protection drill, which features backs stepping up in front of the quarterback and taking on blitzing inside linebackers, was veteran running back Melvin Gordon. He won all three of his reps, stoning Kristian Welch, Del’Shawn Phillips and Patrick Queen. The most competitive matchup was between Gus Edwards and Queen, who dove toward the quarterback after getting slowed by Edwards. Undrafted rookie running back Owen Wright struggled mightily, getting overpowered by Phillips and whiffing on his block attempt against Josh Ross.
• The always-entertaining one-on-ones between pass catchers and defensive backs started with a best-on-best matchup of Beckham and Marlon Humphrey. Beckham caught a quick slant with Humphrey in tight coverage. Rookie first-round pick Zay Flowers, who has dominated in these sessions over the past week, went up high to make a circus catch against Armour-Davis despite really strong coverage. Armour-Davis was beaten deep by Laquon Treadwell on his next rep. Veteran cornerback Kevon Seymour forced incompletions in his two matchups against Nelson Agholor, who also couldn’t make a catch on Humphrey. Cornerback Brandon Stephens broke up passes against both Shemar Bridges and Dontay Demus Jr. Hamilton was the session’s big winner, forcing two incompletions against Andrews and also getting the best of Bridges.
• Wide receiver Makai Polk got pulled out of the one-on-ones and lectured by assistant wide receivers coach Keith Williams after Polk appeared to get frustrated by an errant throw in his matchup with undrafted rookie corner Corey Mayfield Jr. It appeared Polk was barking at Mayfield after the rep and then tried to nudge wide receiver Sean Ryan aside so he’d have another matchup with Mayfield. That’s when Keith Williams interceded and sent Polk away. Both Monken and Jackson came over to calm Polk down.
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• Undrafted rookie free agent Jordan Swann recorded an interception of Anthony Brown in the one-on-ones and Stephens picked off Josh Johnson in a full-team drill. The Stephens interception came after Seymour reached in front of Black to deflect the ball. It was part of a really strong day for Seymour, who forced a handful of incompletions during the practice. Known more for his special teams ability, Seymour has been one of the Ravens’ top cornerbacks in camp, and Friday was his best practice of the summer.
• There’s been a clear emphasis in practice to get the running backs more involved in the passing game. In the first red zone session, Edwards got a step on inside linebacker Malik Harrison and turned a short pass from Tyler Huntley into a touchdown. Later in practice, Jackson tried to get the ball to undrafted rookie running back Keaton Mitchell, who ran a wheel route, but Mitchell couldn’t get two feet inbounds in the end zone. Otherwise, Mitchell had another strong practice and is fun to watch in the open field.
• Nobody had more catches Friday than Travis Vokolek. The undrafted rookie out of Nebraska repeatedly found space running down the middle of the field. A big target at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Vokolek has had a really nice summer. The Ravens’ top three tight ends appear to be set with Andrews, Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar, but Vokolek has shown enough to stick around, even if it’s just on the practice squad.
• It doesn’t happen very often, so it feels worth mentioning when it does: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker boinked a 58-yard field goal attempt off the right upright. Later in practice, one of his kicks deflected off the left upright.
• Treadwell, the former Minnesota Vikings first-round pick who is looking to resuscitate his career, has gained some traction in the wide receiver competition this week. He had a nice one-handed snag for a touchdown and was rewarded with a flying chest bump from Andrews.
(Top photo: Brent Skeen / USA Today)