The early phases of the NFL’s 2021 season are starting to take place. With most teams opening minicamp over the last few weeks, it finally feels like the first building blocks are getting laid by NFL franchises. The Baltimore Ravens minicamp started a few weeks ago, as John Harbaugh’s team began its work in what could be a big 2021 season. There is a ton of talk surrounding the Ravens; expectations are high after the franchise’s first playoff win since 2014.
Baltimore’s fans are eager to see what their team will look like come September. While there is always a lot of mystery around minicamp stories, it is the starting point for a team’s season. So, it’s time to examine some of the key takeaways from Ravens minicamp.
Ravens Minicamp Standouts: Sammy Watkins
When the Ravens acquired Sammy Watkins during free agency, few thought Watkins would be a truly impactful player in the Baltimore passing game. However, so far in the offseason, Watkins has made his mark. Quarterback Lamar Jackson apparently loves throwing the ball to Watkins, and Watkins was able to get open even when covered by Marlon Humphrey. While Watkins’ long-term aspirations may never come to fruition, it is encouraging for the veteran to have had a strong camp so far.
Even if Watkins only provides a veteran locker room presence, he would be integral in the development of both Rashod Bateman and Marquise Brown. Watkins came into the NFL as a former top-five pick, and he would be able to help Bateman and Brown deal with expectations that come with being a first-round pick.
Watkins may never live up to the superstar potential that he flashed at Clemson, but he is a good pro. He has played in big games with the Kansas City Chiefs, and he should help the Baltimore passing game at least a little bit. He is an upgrade over Willie Snead in terms of productivity, even if there is an injury risk associated with Watkins.
Ravens Minicamp Standouts: Rashod Bateman
While a chunk of Rashod Bateman’s time in camp was cut due to injury, Bateman did flash enough for Marlon Humphrey to proclaim him as a good pick. During camp, Bateman had the highlight of the week, toasting Humphrey on a deep pass. While Bateman did have a handful of drops throughout the week, he was getting open more often than any other receiver on the team.
As the NFL has seen with the likes of Amari Cooper and Jerry Jeudy, separation is the name of the game even if you don’t have reliable hands. The Ravens receiving corps is no stranger to dropping footballs, but Bateman might already be the best route runner of the bunch, making his drops easier to swallow.
Bateman projects as a Week 1 starter, so you may want to pull the trigger a little earlier than you may normally would on a Ravens receiver if you play fantasy football. For those that don’t play fantasy football, be sure to watch Bateman’s route running progress throughout the season. If he can get consistently open for Lamar Jackson, the Ravens passing offense will return to the efficiency that it displayed in 2019, leading the NFL in expected points added.
Ravens Minicamp Standouts: Lamar Jackson
Perhaps the most viral highlight of Ravens minicamp was a Lamar Jackson duck to Watkins. Soon after that throw was posted on the Internet, the Ravens barred media members from recording Jackson and the Ravens offense. For fans of other teams, this became a point of humor, pointing out how inaccurate Jackson can be with the football. While Jackson did complete the throw, the throw was objectively ugly.
Some within the organization contend that they did not want the media distributing schemes on offense. It is one thing to trust the Ravens social media team to have quick-cut clips of plays, but the media as a whole may not be as willing to cut clips to avoid exposing what the Ravens will be running on offense. While this may be a ploy to protect Jackson and the passing offense, it was not a good look when initially announced.
Either way, Ravens fans should not care how pretty of a ball that Jackson throws. Ugly touchdowns are still touchdowns, and pretty interceptions are still interceptions. For instance, Jackson’s Week 1 touchdown throw to Mark Andrews, while off-target, was still a touchdown. Jackson has a knack for putting his receivers in a position to succeed even if he is not pinpoint accurate like Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
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