It was a relatively uneventful first week of training camp for the Ravens. Beyond the announcement that fourth-round rookie tight end Charlie Kolar would need hernia surgery to fix an issue that has lingered for several weeks, there were no notable long-term injuries. There were also no returns to practice for any of the team’s prominent players who started on the physically unable to perform list.
Besides guard Ben Cleveland’s inability to pass the conditioning test, there were no surprising absences. Quarterback Lamar Jackson didn’t hold out or hold in. In expressing optimism that a contract extension with the Ravens will get done in the coming weeks, Jackson toned down the temperature a bit on the most pressing issue of training camp.
Even the practices didn’t contain a ton of highlights or lowlights as Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s decision to ease the team into training camp resulted in more individual work and install sessions than full-team periods.
Still, with the players enjoying their first off day of training camp Sunday, it’s a good time for the Ravens’ first “stock up, stock down” of the summer. Since there’s been such a small body of work, it wouldn’t be fair to make any conclusions about whether guys on the bubble have helped or hurt their status. So we’ll just focus on the guys who had a good week and the ones who didn’t.
Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB: Armour-Davis hasn’t backed off a bit in his quest to make a strong first impression and earn immediate snaps defensively. The fourth-round pick out of Alabama has been tight on receivers and played with confidence and swagger. He’s gotten a bit handsy at times, but Ravens coaches would much rather have him work on that than have to encourage him to play more physically. The NFL can be unkind to first-year corners, but Armour-Davis looks like a rookie who could contribute early.
Rashod Bateman, WR: During the one-on-one period in Friday’s practice, Bateman shook Ravens top cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, with such a smooth curl route that it produced gasps from the fans watching nearby. There’s a ton of pressure on Bateman this year to lead a young and unproven receiving corps, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. He consistently made plays in all areas on the field and cut out the drops that were happening too often in minicamps. The 2021 first-round pick has a no-nonsense and business-like demeanor and the way he competes in practice is similar to tight end Mark Andrews’ tireless approach.
Shemar Bridges, WR: The Ravens have been waiting for one of their six undrafted free agent receivers to thrust themselves in the mix for that fifth receiver spot and Bridges may have done just that last week. The former Fort Valley State player was very involved in Friday’s practice, winning his matchups in one-on-ones and making a few more catches in full-team drills. He carried the momentum through Saturday’s workout, too. At 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds, he presents a big target and runs well for a big man. He has the attention of the coaching staff.
Lamar Jackson, QB: The uncertainty about his contract still hovers over the team, but Jackson has done his part to minimize the talk and the drama. He showed up to training camp early and ready to work and he’s shown with how well he’s thrown the ball that he put in a ton of work this offseason on both his mechanics and his body. It remains to be seen whether the two sides will reach a contract extension before the regular season. Jackson, though, seems determined to have a bounce-back season either way.
Isaiah Likely, TE: The minicamp darling has carried the momentum from the offseason into camp, making several big plays and drawing comparisons to Andrews in the process. There were questions about Likely’s athleticism heading into the draft, but the fourth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina has shown an ability to get separation from defensive backs and find space, and he’s caught most of the balls thrown in his direction. When you take into account his play and Kolar’s injury, Likely seems close to certain to have a notable Week 1 role with the Ravens as long as he stays healthy and continues to progress this summer.
Ben Powers, G: About a week ago, Powers was considered, at least by people outside the team facility, as an underdog in the starting left guard competition. However, offensive coordinator Greg Roman late last week anointed Powers the front-runner over Tyre Phillips, Cleveland and perhaps Patrick Mekari. It’s still very early, as Roman noted, but Powers certainly is getting the first opportunity to stake claim to the job. Powers has made 19 starts at guard over the past two years, so he’s the most experienced option. He has four or five more weeks to show he’s the most consistent one, too.
James Proche, WR: The first player on the practice field just about every day, Proche has been a model of consistency as he looks to carve out a bigger role offensively. He makes a handful of plays every practice. When he drops a ball, it feels notable, just because it happens so rarely. In one-on-ones, he has consistently beaten his defender, often doing it cleanly. Obviously, he’s stood out in practice before — this season, though, the stage is set for him to get a legitimate opportunity.
Brandon Stephens, DB: Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald called Stephens a “Swiss Army Knife” for the defense. Stephens played both running back and cornerback in college. As a rookie last year, he started 11 games at safety after DeShon Elliott went down with a season-ending injury. While the Ravens could move him around this year, Stephens is preparing to play cornerback and he’s looked very comfortable early in camp. Stephens’ physical style has been evident. Even when Marcus Peters returns, Stephens is making a case to stay on the field in some capacity.
Ben Cleveland, G: Let’s be clear: Cleveland isn’t the first Raven to fail the conditioning test and he won’t be the last. However, missing four days of practice when you’re supposed to be competing for a starting job is a setback and there’s no other way to frame it. At 6-foot-6 and 357 pounds, Cleveland is an enormous human being, but being big didn’t prevent offensive tackle Daniel Faalele (6-foot-8, 380) and nose tackle Michael Pierce (6-0, 345) from passing the conditioning test last week. For Cleveland, a 2021 third-round pick, this summer was about showing the Ravens that he can stay on the field and practice more consistently. He’s not off to a good start.
Harbaugh said that Ben Cleveland is healthy but he just hasn’t passed conditioning test. He’s been taking it once per day.
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) July 31, 2022
Trystan Colon, C: This isn’t because of anything that Colon, a third-year Raven, did or didn’t do in the first week. It’s more just taking note of his situation through the early practices. With rookie first-rounder Tyler Linderbaum entrenched as the starting center and Mekari looking more like the team’s preferred choice to be Linderbaum’s backup, that doesn’t leave an obvious role for Colon. He’s certainly not been in the guard mix. Colon, who has started three games at center for the Ravens, is a solid young lineman who has a place on an NFL roster. It’s just not clear whether that place is with the Ravens who have Linderbaum, Mekari, Kevin Zeitler, Powers, Cleveland and Phillips as interior players.
Charlie Kolar, TE: Injuries are going to happen and Kolar’s hernia issue apparently preceded the official start of training camp. He tried to play through it before both the player and team realized that getting it taken care of now was the right approach. Kolar now is expected to miss most, if not all of, training camp and it’s doubtful that he’ll be ready to start the regular season. Bateman had a similar injury last year and he was sidelined for nearly two months. Kolar, a rookie fourth-round pick who was expected to contribute immediately, now will be in catch-up mode throughout his rookie season.
David Ojabo, OLB: I’m not taking a side in the rookie contract standoff between the Ravens and Ojabo, a second-round pick, over the amount of guaranteed money in the third year of his deal. I’m also not overblowing the significance of Ojabo, who is still rehabbing a torn Achilles and is a ways away from returning to the field, not being in the building. Still, neither side looks great here and the Ravens would obviously prefer the rookie rehabbing around their team doctors and training staff, attending defensive and position meetings and bonding with his new teammates. The quicker this gets settled, the better for both sides.
Kevon Seymour, DB: Seymour has actually had some nice moments in practice and generally been very competitive on routes, but he’s been in the unfortunate position of being victimized on several of the offense’s biggest highlights in camp. On Day 1, Seymour had great coverage on Duvernay, who made an acrobatic back-shoulder catch of a Jackson pass. In Saturday’s stadium practice, Seymour had pretty solid coverage on Bateman, who made an outstanding catch on one of Jackson’s best throws of camp. Seymour was beaten badly earlier in that practice for a touchdown by Proche. The Ravens really like Seymour’s competitiveness and versatility. However, there are a lot of defensive backs playing well in camp and the guys perceived to be on the bubble don’t have much margin of error.
Binjimen Victor, WR: In the first rep of Friday’s one-on-ones between pass catchers and defensive backs, Victor couldn’t fight through the contact of Stephens to make a play. On the second rep, Victor couldn’t even get off the line of scrimmage as Stephens shoved him aside before the receiver could start his route. There’s also been a failed condition test and the occasional drop. Victor, who spent last season on the Ravens practice squad, clearly has some ability and at 6-foot-4, he offers good size, which Baltimore’s receivers lack. There is a No. 5 wide receiver job to be won and he’s in the mix, but he’s going to have to be more consistent than he was last week. He did make some plays in Saturday’s open practice.
(Top photo of James Proche: Jessica Rapfogel / USA Today)
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