For the first time in roughly two years, Odell Beckham Jr. ran out for an NFL training camp practice Wednesday. While he’s done this routine many times during his career, there’s never been a gap between them like this.
The Ravens have been cautious with bringing Beckham along following his ACL injury in Super Bowl LVI. Although he was a full go physically, the team lightened his practice load during minicamp.
But that was practically a month ago. Now, with the Ravens starting training camp and the season approaching, work is beginning to ramp up for the star receiver. After Day 1, he looked more explosive on the field and more energetic, and he pushed more on the top of his routes than we’ve seen thus far. That caught head coach John Harbaugh’s attention.
“I did,” Harbaugh said when asked if he noticed Beckham’s comfort level. “It seems to me that Odell has a good plan, and I see him working himself on a schedule to be ready to start the season. I think you saw that today. It’s interesting you notice that because that’s exactly what I saw, too. He’s definitely not where he’s going to be, but you could see the step from minicamp. That was a good step in the right direction.”
The Ravens have a new offense under Todd Monken, and it’s important for any receiver to continue building a connection with Lamar Jackson. Beckham worked with Jackson and the first unit on Day 1 alongside rookie first-round pick Zay Flowers with Rashod Bateman on the PUP list to start camp. At one point during seven-on-seven drills, Beckham made an impressive catch on a lofty deep pass down the right sideline from Jackson that went past starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
Plays like that give Jackson tons of confidence as a passer. In tight situations, he can feel OK throwing difficult passes Beckham’s way knowing that, as long as the ball is in the area, there’s a good chance the play will be made.
“He’s just giving me a lot of confidence,” Jackson said after practice, “because during the offseason he was like, ‘Man, if you throw it anywhere in my perimeter, it’s not going to be an interception. I’m going to do my best to slap it down, make the tackle, but most likely I’m going to make the catch.’ That’s what I like to hear.”
To help get to this point, Beckham and Jackson worked out together in Florida during the Ravens’ break after minicamp. The duo, along with Flowers, spent time running routes, catching passes and bonding. Jackson said he’s noticed the benefits from that trip already.
“I feel like it paid off a lot,” Jackson said after practice. “Just learning chemistry, learning those guys’ speed, and they’re learning mine, and what my pass velocity is on the ball. The timing and knowing where to be at and stuff like that. I feel like it paid off a lot.”
This is just the early phase of the OBJ era in Baltimore. In the coming weeks, we should see the Jackson and Beckham connection growing.
Here’s an overview of how Thursday will go and a look at what we’re paying attention to:
The second day of full-squad training camp practice starts at 2:05 p.m. at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills. After practice, Harbaugh will speak with the media, followed by Beckham, Flowers and Marcus Williams.
ICYMI: STORIES LEADING UP TO DAY 2
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
Cornerbacks, minus Marlon Humphrey
The Ravens officially added former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Arthur Maulet before practice Wednesday, bolstering their depth at the position. This was just a day after former starting outside corner Marcus Peters signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The 30-year-old Maulet entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis and spent the last two years with the Steelers in the nickel spot and on special teams. He’ll compete at the nickel with Damarion Williams, who is currently on the PUP list.
Outside of Humphrey, the cornerback spot for the Ravens isn’t the strongest and the quality of their depth could be an issue during the season. Seeing more from this group in camp and in the preseason could ease some of the concerns.
More action from the running backs
With J.K. Dobbins on the PUP list, the other running backs on the roster are seeing more opportunities.
Wednesday was the debut of veteran running back Melvin Gordon, who signed a one-year deal last week. Gordon, 30, primarily practiced with the third-string offense in 11-on-11 drills but still looked big and fast. Gus Edwards practiced as a full go, and Justice Hill was steady. Undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell made a nice one-handed catch down the left sideline in a team period.
Dobbins is the projected starter whenever he returns, but until then his backups are showing up early.
Temperatures in Owings Mills reached a high of 89 degrees with an excessive heat watch Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. It’s not projected to get any better today.
The NWS projects the high to jump to 96 degrees this afternoon, between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. — right at the start of practice. Those conditions could force the Ravens to move practice inside for safety.
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The Banner will have multiple reporters at each day of training camp practice. Follow along for updates from them. Also check out our Banner Sports Twitter account, plus other Baltimore media members covering the Ravens, in our Twitter list below: