BALTIMORE — It took about 90 minutes for the first fight to break out at joint practices Tuesday between the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Commanders at the Under Armour Performance Center.
It started with Ravens wide receiver Tylan Wallace and Commanders first-round cornerback Emmanuel Forbes exchanging shots. Forbes swiped three times at Wallace after the catch to try to knock the ball out. Wallace responded with a right and Forbes returned the favor with a punch of his own. In the ensuing scrum, Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay tossed Forbes aside and Laquon Treadwell was among those to throw a punch, sending a wild right hand in safety Kamren Curl’s direction
On the very next play, Ravens tight end Mark Andrews took umbrage to Commanders cornerback Danny Johnson upending him. Andrews got up and threw Johnson to the ground, sparking another fracas. Andrews and Washington defensive tackle Daron Payne then had to be separated. At that point, the two head coaches, John Harbaugh and Ron Rivera, called the teams together to turn down the temperature.
“We had a couple dustups, which you don’t want to see, but it’s not really unexpected,” Harbaugh said. “I thought they got handled pretty quickly. We called the guys up there on our field — over there on our offensive field — and talked to our guys, and Ron talked to their guys. After that, it was calmed down, so I felt good about that.”
Day 1 of joint practices ✔️ pic.twitter.com/vrYVrYXj0H
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 15, 2023
Much of the extracurricular activity was on the field, where the Ravens’ offense was facing the Commanders’ defense. However, Ravens defensive back Ar’Darius Washington did spur the teams to come together after he took a shot at Commanders tight end Cole Turner.
“I think it was just hot outside,” Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “It was hot outside, it gets chirpy. But like I said, it gets really intense in these practices. We were all just discussing some stuff in that big huddle that was going on the field, and then I looked over to my offensive field, and it looked like there were discussions about the weather tomorrow, as well. So, practices can always get chirpy, but I think it was really good that it didn’t turn into a big, gigantic brawl. It got heated, and then it kind of died down, which shows a lot of maturity on both teams.”
Some coaches love joint practices because it allows their starters, many of whom don’t play in the preseason, to get game-like reps against other teams in a more controlled setting. Tired of facing their teammates every day in training camp, players get to hit an actual opponent.
The downside is fights tend to happen far more often in joint practices than in a team’s regular camp workout. The Ravens hadn’t really had any notable altercations during training camp. That changed with the Commanders’ arrival.
Harbaugh and the players, however, minimized the dustups and said Tuesday’s practice was competitive and beneficial. The teams felt they got good, solid work in.
“I think Coach Harbaugh said it best. It’s amazing to have Washington out here and being competitive and be able to practice against these guys,” said Andrews, who also threw the ball toward Forbes after one catch later in practice. “We want to be competitive and play inside the rules, and I thought today was a good day. Obviously, a lot of competitiveness, a lot of chippiness, but (I have) a lot of respect for the organization and what they stand for.”
Flowers continues to star in one-on-one matchups
Ravens cornerbacks can certainly relate to the challenge their Washington counterparts faced in matching up with rookie Zay Flowers. The first-round pick has been unblemished in his matchups with Baltimore cornerbacks during the one-on-one periods, and he remained so through the first of two days of joint practices.
In his first rep, Flowers got a step on fellow rookie first-round pick Forbes to make a deep catch down the far sideline. Flowers then lined up against Rachad Wildgoose and made a diving catch while the Commanders’ cornerback had a hold of his jersey. In his third opportunity, Flowers shook defensive back Jartavius Martin before making the catch.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 15, 2023
Wide receivers have a clear advantage over defensive backs in the one-on-one sessions. Cornerbacks essentially have to cover the whole field with no help behind them. What’s been notable about Flowers’ performance in one-on-ones is how much separation he creates and how many times he’s made the player covering him stumble or trip.
“He showed me he can do it against anybody else, not just our team,” Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “He was making some crazy moves, great route running, great in and out of his cuts, and he was catching the ball, so he was looking pretty good out there.”
Jackson solid but the backups struggle
Jackson had a solid day against a good Commanders defense, but it could have been even better. He started full-team drills by going 2-for-3 with completions to Andrews and Melvin Gordon. His lone incompletion was a tipped pass that was intended for Odell Beckham Jr. In the ensuing seven-on-seven period, Jackson was 5-for-5 with two completions to Beckham and one each to Andrews, Gus Edwards and Duvernay. The second completion to Beckham was a diving one-handed catch.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 15, 2023
Where there were missed opportunities for Jackson came in the next seven-on-seven period. It started with Jackson’s best throw of the afternoon. He hit running back Justice Hill on a wheel route deep down the sideline for a big gain.
On the next play, Jackson lofted a pass to the other sideline, where Flowers had a step on Forbes. However, the ball just eluded Flowers’ fingertips. It wasn’t clear if Flowers lost the ball in the sun or if it was just a tick overthrown. Jackson continued to take downfield shots. He tested Forbes again, this time in a matchup with Beckham. The Ravens wide receiver seemed to have a step, but Jackson’s pass was slightly underthrown and Forbes deflected it away. On the next throw, Jackson just overthrew Andrews streaking down the field.
Other than those near misses, Jackson was mostly on target. He connected with both Beckham and Andrews on deep throws later in practice.
However, two of his backups, Josh Johnson and Anthony Brown, both struggled. Johnson threw an interception on a deflected pass to Washington linebacker Khaleke Hudson. He struggled with his accuracy as well. It was also a difficult day for Brown, who had a bevy of incompletions.
Tyler Huntley, the Ravens’ incumbent backup, watched practice from off to the side as he deals with a sore hamstring. In Huntley’s absence, Johnson didn’t help himself in the No. 2 quarterback competition. He’ll get more opportunities going forward with it seemingly unlikely that Huntley will play Monday in the preseason game against the Commanders. The Ravens will likely go with Johnson and Brown.
Tyler Huntley proves he’s better suited to remain Ravens’ backup QB in preseason win
Popping some runs
It’s always tough to evaluate the run game in practices when there’s no tackling. But the Ravens’ backs found time and space for a couple of big runs.
Undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell broke one off, and it didn’t appear he was touched on the way to the end zone. His speed and elusiveness continue to show up on a daily basis. Edwards was also sprung for a big run, thanks to blocks from fullback Ben Mason and offensive lineman Tashawn Manning.
Baltimore’s running game will continue to be under the microscope after the offseason offensive coordinator change from Greg Roman, who is considered one of the best run designers in the NFL, to Todd Monken.
The Ravens don’t want to show much offensively in the preseason and give teams a jump-start on preparing for them. That extended to Tuesday’s joint practice, which was livestreamed on the team website. Still, the running game looked pretty strong in the preseason opener against Philadelphia and it looked good again Tuesday against the Commanders.
O-line experiment over?
At practices the last two days, Patrick Ricard has been back in familiar territory: working with fullbacks and tight ends. When Ricard returned from the physically unable to perform list last week, he was working almost exclusively with the offensive linemen in individual drills as he mulled the possibility of another position change.
That experiment, however, will apparently be shelved.
“He was in there for individual — we got a little look — and I think he wanted to get a feel for some of those blocks. But it’s late in camp, and he came to me the other day and said, ‘Hey, I want to get back in there, where I know what I’m doing. And maybe this is something for next year,’” Harbaugh said. “So, he’s back at fullback and tight end.”
Ricard saw some action in team sessions Tuesday. Running back J.K. Dobbins and wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who recently was activated from the PUP list, did not. Their practice ended after the individual phase of practice.
(Photo: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)