Ravens camp observations: What no wristband means for Lamar Jackson

There’s been something noticeably different about Lamar Jackson as he leads the offensive huddle in training camp, and it has nothing to do with the new practice jerseys that all the quarterbacks are wearing upon request from Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

Since Jackson has been the team’s quarterback, it’s been common in both practices and games to see him scanning down at his wristband to review the offensive play sheet before verbalizing the call to his teammates. But he’s not wearing the wristband, per the wishes of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

“He wants to call it and haul it, so that’s what it’s been so far,” Jackson said after Wednesday’s first training camp practice.

Monken, who spoke to reporters following Friday’s practice, said Jackson shedding the wristband, at least for now, is the best way for him to prepare for the regular season.

“One of the most important things is your ability to communicate the calls, and the best way for that to happen is to not start with wristbands,” Monken said. “He has to hear what I say, he has to process the call, he has to regurgitate to the players, he has to get the cadence. We can always go to wristbands. Wristbands are easy — you just read it. Hard is learning the offense, being able to process and make the calls.”

It’s all part of Monken’s plan to give Jackson more control of the offense and more freedom in the pre-snap process. That also includes getting the play calls into Jackson earlier, giving him the opportunity to scan the defense and audible out of a bad play. In recent years under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the Ravens had consistent play clock issues, with Jackson often snapping the ball in the final seconds or the team needing to take a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.


Lamar Jackson getting the freedom to be more vocal in Ravens’ new offense

Through three days of practice, it’s been clear that Monken is accelerating the pace. Baltimore has been getting to the huddle quicker, and in most cases, snapping the ball much earlier on the play clock.

“The idea is to leave the quarterback enough time at the line of scrimmage to assess the defense, make changes and be in control,” Monken said. “I’m a firm believer that if you want your quarterback to play his best, you’ve got to empower him. ‘I’m a part. I want to help with the game plan. I want to see things — what they’re doing defensively.’ If that is getting to the line quicker, then so be it. If it’s a situation where we’ve got some sort of a run-pass option or run-run or pass-pass, then so be it. But I do believe in getting to the line quicker. I think that gives us more time at the line of scrimmage to assess for the quarterback.”

Jackson seems to be enjoying the increased responsibility.

“That’s pretty much what Coach Todd has us doing right now,” he said. “If we see it, make the audible. If we’re right, if we’re wrong, we’re going to talk about it after the play. We’re going to talk about it in the meeting room. But most likely, I feel like how he’s coaching us, we’re going to be right nine times out of 10.”

Jackson’s been relatively sharp through the first three days of camp. The Ravens haven’t gotten a whole lot of big plays downfield, but Jackson has mostly made good decisions, he’s gotten the ball out quickly and he’s thrown with accuracy.

He’s also been vocal with his pass catchers if they’re not doing what he expects. When undrafted tight end Travis Vokolek didn’t break outside quickly enough during the warmup phase of Friday’s practice, resulting in Jackson’s throw sailing out of bounds, the quarterback called the rookie back to the line of scrimmage to run the play again.

During the full-team phase of practice, Jackson expected Odell Beckham Jr. to cut upfield. When he didn’t and forced Jackson to dump the ball off to tight end Mark Andrews, Jackson motioned to Beckham after the play. The two then discussed the play further when the second-team offense took the field.

Time for more practice observations:

• Wide receiver Tarik Black and undrafted cornerback Jordan Swann returned to action after leaving Wednesday and Thursday’s practices with minor injuries. The only two absences beyond the players on the physically unable to perform (J.K. Dobbins, Patrick Ricard, Rashod Bateman and Damarion Williams) and non-football injury (Tyus Bowser and Trayvon Mullen) lists were rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers and left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Flowers is dealing with an illness. It wouldn’t be surprising if Stanley was just getting a veteran’s day off.



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• Mullen, the cousin of Jackson, was released by the Ravens for “failure to disclose a physical condition,” according to the NFL’s personnel notice. Mullen is dealing with a toe injury.

• As hot as it was Thursday, it was even stickier on the field for Friday’s workout. Ravens players handled the weather well. It appeared they all made it through the practice without any heat-related issues.

• Wide receiver James Proche II nearly made the top play of the first week of training camp — until he quickly realized he didn’t. Proche made a remarkable diving one-handed snag of a Jackson pass in the corner of the end zone, creating a loud roar from the roughly 1,000 fans in attendance. However, the official in the end zone ruled that Proche didn’t get two feet in. That didn’t stop teammates and coaches from congratulating the receiver on his effort. The near miss, though, epitomized Proche’s day. He had two drops later in practice, and cornerback Marlon Humphrey denied him of another catch with a pass breakup. Jackson took the blame for the incompletion, as his throw was late and too far inside. Proche made a few catches, but for a player who is fighting for only one or two available wide receiver spots, the missed opportunities loomed large.



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• With Flowers and Bateman not practicing and Beckham going through his second straight practice without a reception in full-team work (Jackson overthrew him at one point down the sideline), it was a quiet day for the team’s front-line wide receivers. However, Andrews picked up the slack. He made the first reception in the first 11-on-11 period and set the tone for a day when Jackson looked to his favorite target early and often. Wide receiver Devin Duvernay also was more involved than he had been over the first two days of camp and connected with Jackson on one deep play.

• There were a lot of deflected passes by the defense Friday, but not all of them yielded bad results. A Josh Johnson pass in traffic sailed through the hands of cornerback Arthur Maulet, deflected off the hands of Corey Mayfield Jr. and landed in the grasp of undrafted rookie receiver Dontay Demus Jr. Later in practice, a Jackson pass was batted in the air, bobbled by a defensive lineman and corralled by center Tyler Linderbaum, who mercifully didn’t try to run with it. Safety Kyle Hamilton also nearly caught his second interception of camp on a deflected ball, but it bounced away as he was going to the ground.

• Wide receiver Sean Ryan ended the first 11-on-11 period on a high note when he caught a back-shoulder touchdown from Johnson. Ryan, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers, had a productive day.

• Second-year cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis dropped an interception Thursday. A day later, he had his arms wrapped around the football, but Ryan pulled it away as they fell to the ground. Armour-Davis has had a nice start to camp. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald noted that Armour-Davis is in a good place mentally. The most important thing is Armour-Davis being healthy after missing most of last season with a hip injury.

• Nose tackle Michael Pierce put a quick end to one play by breaking through the line of scrimmage and sacking Jackson, who didn’t even have a chance to get out of the pocket.

• Fullback Ben Mason’s hands have improved significantly since he was a rookie, but he had two drops Friday.

• Tyler Huntley’s best pass of the afternoon came when he eluded the rush and made an on-target throw to Black, who had position on rookie Kyu Blu Kelly.

• How involved were the tight ends Friday? In a seven-on-seven period, Jackson connected with Andrews on the first two plays. His third pass went to Isaiah Likely, who made a juggling one-handed snag deep down the middle of the field. His fourth pass went back to Andrews, and his fifth back to Likely. Safeties Marcus Williams and Geno Stone had opportunities to make plays on the ball on the final Andrews and Likely completions, but they wisely veered off to avoid any collisions.

• Wide receiver Shemar Bridges was one of the bright spots in the first week of last year’s camp. This year has been a different story. Bridges had a drop Friday and also had a few balls elude his grasp in Wednesday’s first training camp practice. Bridges bounced back Friday and made a few plays. In a deep wide receiver room, though, he doesn’t have much margin for error.

• Undrafted rookie running back Keaton Mitchell, whose speed is apparent when he gets his hands on the ball, broke through the line of scrimmage for a touchdown run in the final period of practice. Maulet probably had an angle close to the line of scrimmage to make a play on the rookie, but tackling is not allowed, so Mitchell sauntered into the end zone.

• The heat didn’t prevent wide receiver Laquon Treadwell from having a little fun. When three kids seated close to the sideline called out his name, Treadwell broke into a quick Griddy dance. He later returned to the sideline and requested one of the fans show him the Griddy, and the young boy obliged.

(Photo: Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

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