Since training camp has started, everything other than the Ravens’ offense — specifically Lamar Jackson, Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr. — has felt like an afterthought. Many defensive players have been asked questions framed with some variation of “everyone is talking about the offense, but what about you?”
But on Friday, after the hottest practice of camp so far, where that offense lacked explosiveness, the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, seemed to temper expectations.
“We’re not where we want to be yet, but we shouldn’t be,” Monken said. “That’s why we practice. That’s why we meet. That’s why you get out there and there are times when you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s the way this looks,’ and then there are others where you’re like, ‘That isn’t anything like we want it to look.’ That’s part of what you do, and then you fix that, and you get better on that, and then you find what your pieces do best, and then you try to fit that within your scheme.”
Monken, who was the offensive coordinator at the University of Georgia before joining the Ravens, has been praised for how quick the offense has looked since minicamp. His predecessor, Greg Roman, was criticized for the Ravens’ pace from the huddle to the line of scrimmage. Monken said the purpose of the pace is to give the quarterback “enough time to assess the defense.”
“I’m a firm believer that, if you want your quarterback to play his best, you’ve got to empower him,” Monken said, adding that quarterbacks often become more invested in game planning and evaluating defenses when they have this much control of the offense.
Jackson revealed earlier in the week that the biggest change in this new offense has been playing without the wristband he has worn since he became a starter five seasons ago. The wristband had play calls written on it, but Monken said the switch was intentional for “communicating calls” at this point.
“He has to hear what I say; he has to process the call; he has to regurgitate it to the players; he has to get the cadence,” Monken said. “We can always wear wristbands. Wristbands are easy; you just read it. Hard is learning the offense, being able to process and make the calls.”
Flowers in the mix as returner
Flowers, who didn’t practice Friday, returned punts at Boston College. He didn’t have eye-popping stats (six returns for 43 yards), but he has the speed and shiftiness for the role. Last season, Devin Duvernay was the team’s starting kick and punt returner. He was effective, returning one kick for a touchdown.
Still, special teams coordinator Chris Horton didn’t rule Flowers out as a potential returner.
“Zay has done a good job. He’s got natural ball skills,” Horton said. “He’s got a natural ability to run after the catch, and then it’s like anything else, if a guy can help us anywhere — any position on the field — we’re going to give those guys an opportunity.”
Hamilton settling in at safety
Kyle Hamilton was the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2022. He was considered one of the most talented prospects regardless of position coming out of Notre Dame, where he was listed as a free safety. But, in his first year in Baltimore, he played cornerback in the nickel while Chuck Clark and Marcus Wiliams were the starting safeties.
With Clark traded in the offseason, Hamilton has played safety throughout the first three days of training camp and has fared well, intercepting Lamar Jackson and making his fair share of pass deflections.
His play has encouraged defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
“Kyle has had a great three days,” Macdonald said. “And, really, we’re asking our guys back there to have production on the football, and he’s been there. The tempo right now prevents us from really making plays on the ball, but in games, I think you’re going to be able to see that he’s going to be able to get back there, and I think you see his range during practice. The game’s slowing down for him, for sure. He’s taking a commanding presence back there making calls, so very pleased with where he’s at.”