The Ravens wrapped up their 13th practice Wednesday as the team heads into its first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday. The highlights of Wednesday were wide receiver Rashod Bateman’s return from the physically-unable-to-perform list and Broderick Washington being celebrated at midfield for his contract extension.
J.K. Dobbins’ absence still hovers like a gray cloud over practice and press conferences. Meanwhile, the play on the field for both sides has oscillated. There was a nine-interception day from the defense and a highlight-laden day for Odell Beckham Jr. And, of course, the Zay Flowers show has continued.
Here’s a look at who has performed well and others with room for improvement.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham’s participation in practice has increased with each day as he returns from ACL surgery. The more Beckham has played, the more plays he has made. Tuesday was one of his best days of camp. Beckham had a leaping one-handed grab over Brandon Stephens and a deep catch from Lamar Jackson after beating Marlon Humphrey down one sideline. Earlier in camp, Beckham had dropped a pass on an identical play on which he had Humphrey beaten. He also fumbled on that day and did pushups for both as a form of punishment.
How good Beckham is this season is one of the Ravens’ biggest lingering questions, but he looks prepared to contribute in a major way.
“I feel like he’s just kind of pushing himself as he sees fit, and it’s been almost full steam ahead,” coach John Harbaugh said. He added: “He’s just a worker.”
Safety Kyle Hamilton
Passing game coordinator Chris Hewitt said he expects Hamilton, who was drafted in the first round last year, to become a Pro Bowl player this season, and Hamilton agreed. That kind of projection is typical for a coach to have for a second-year player drafted in the first round, but it doesn’t always translate to the field. So far, Hamilton has looked the part.
In Friday’s practice, Hamilton was the best player on the field. He broke up passes consistently, was in the mix for run stoppages, and prevented tight end Mark Andrews from getting into a rhythm. In that practice, Hamilton broke up a pass intended for Andrews on a fade route, prompting Andrews to get into an argument that ended in many expletives directed toward a referee. Hamilton also has picked off Lamar Jackson twice. On Wednesday, he showed his prowess as a run stopper, often in the backfield to upend rushers.
“2023 Kyle and 2022 Kyle, at this time, I feel like are two completely different people, just mentally,” Hamilton said, referring to his added responsibility on defense, where he makes adjustments on play calls. He added: “It’s a big difference from last year, and I feel like that was the biggest step I’ve taken. Not even physically, just mentally being able to lead out there with calls and checks and stuff like that.”
Running Back Keaton Mitchell
The entire running back room struggled through the first week of camp, earning a spot on the fallers for the first edition of this list. But Mitchell turned that around by himself in the second week. Mitchell, who signed as an undrafted free agent, has bounced runs for big gains and quickly become one of the most effective rushers. At 5-foot-8, 182 pounds, Mitchell often disappears behind the linemen before bouncing runs outside or appearing like a vehicle from a tunnel. Mitchell’s father, Anthony, also played for the Ravens and was a reserve when the team won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season.
Keaton Mitchell has an uphill climb to make this roster with Melvin Gordon, Justice Hill, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins ahead of him. But Harbaugh singled Mitchell out when talking to reporters this week, saying he “had good hands” and “showed he can run.”
Safety Marcus Williams
Williams has had some of training camp’s highlights. The first came on a strip of Andrews before pads came on that made Harbaugh reflect on how talented NFL players are. On Saturday, when the defense had its interception party, Williams picked off Lamar Jackson twice in a few minutes, and Wednesday he had a breakup on a pass intended for Charlie Kolar.
Last season, Williams was among the best safeties in the NFL when he was healthy. Williams missed six games in the middle of the season due to a wrist injury but still had four interceptions, tied for the third most in the league, and eight pass deflections. His play through 10 games earned him an honorable mention selection on ESPN’s ranking of the best safeties in the NFL, which polls league scouts, coaches and executives.
Quarterback Josh Johnson
Johnson has been splitting reps with Tyler Huntley with the second and third units, and Johnson has consistently been the more turnover prone of the two. Johnson threw interceptions during three of six practices last week, including a three-interception day. Johnson has been in the NFL since 2008, playing for so many teams that he plays the Madden video game to get familiar with new teammates quickly. His last action came in the NFC Championship last season for the 49ers after Brock Purdy had an injury.
Johnson is losing the battle for the second quarterback spot, which could leave him off the active roster unless the Ravens decide to dress three quarterbacks on game days.
Tight end Charlie Kolar
Kolar, a fourth-round pick in 2022, has yet to have an impact as a pass catcher. On Tuesday, cornerback Daryl Worley punched out a ball that Kolar caught for a fumble that was recovered by the defense, and Williams punched out a pass intended for him on Wednesday. Tight end Travis Vokolek, an undrafted free agent who is considered a long shot to make the roster, has been more impactful as a pass catcher than Kolar.
Kolar has also struggled in protection, specifically in one-on-one drills, where this week he lost multiple reps to Tavius Robinson and another to Jeremiah Moon. Still, Harbaugh said he thinks Kolar will earn time on the field after he missed much of last season while battling injuries.
Offensive guard Ben Cleveland
After he was considered among the favorites for the starting position at left guard, it appears Cleveland is completely out of that competition. Cleveland has been playing right guard mainly with the second unit. Harbaugh said John Simpson and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu would rotate with the first unit after Aumavae-Laulu spent the first two weeks in that spot.
“I think Ben just needs to continue to grow and get more consistent,” offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris said, “and he’s working at that. So, we’ll see how that plays out.”
Wide receiver Shemar Bridges
After an impressive first week, when Bridges reeled in passes and caught a few in the end zone, he disappeared somewhat in the second week. Bridges, an undrafted receiver out of Fort Valley State whom the Ravens signed in 2022, has yet to play a regular-season game in the NFL. He was always a long shot with the Ravens’ depth at receiver, and his recent play hasn’t helped.