The Ravens are off and rolling with their first week of OTAs, which is voluntary and includes little contact, but starts to resemble actual football.
The arrival of Lamar Jackson and his first practice snaps in Todd Monken's new offense highlighted the week.
Here are my thoughts, all in 50 words or less:
Jackson was never clearer about his desire to pass more than he was Wednesday when he said "running can only take you so far." It's a new offensive era in Baltimore and it's a change Jackson has clearly wanted. Happy wife, happy life. What's the saying for a happy quarterback?
It will be a different challenge with opponents expecting more passes and less running. Jackson's finest year as a passer was in 2019, when the Ravens broke the all-time rushing record. He averaged 27 passes per game that year, same as last season. Jackson was just more efficient.
With better weapons and a new scheme, the expectation is that the pieces around Jackson will elevate the passing game to another level. But Jackson also must elevate his game if the offense is going to reach its potential. I think he will. He's always had the ability.
Jackson noted that there's more verbiage in Todd Monken's offense than last year, and that he's given the keys to the players. While it could mean more freedom to audible plays entirely, it could also mean more freedom to change routes with pre-snap communication between quarterback and receiver.
Pundits debated this week whether more passing and less running is the right course of action for a Jackson-led offense. I think it is. The Ravens were too one-dimensional before. It was a strong dimension, but if the passing game takes off, Baltimore's offense becomes scary again.
One thing being overlooked, probably because J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards aren't on the field yet, is how the improvements in the passing attack will open the game up for running. The Ravens have been running into stacked boxes for years and still had success. Open boxes? Sign me up.
Patrick Queen deserves props for coming to voluntary OTAs after the Ravens didn't pick up his fifth-year option. As fellow linebacker Roquan Smith said, Queen is "a pro at the end of the day." Eric DeCosta said he wants to sign Queen to a long-term deal. Decisions like that help.
Rookies get the buzz because they're new, shiny objects. But it's the sophomore class that could make or break the Ravens' 2023 season. Kyle Hamilton, David Ojabo and Travis Jones will all be counted on in bigger roles. Jalyn Armour-Davis or Pepe Williams could also win a top-three CB spot.
An underappreciated upside of the 2023 Ravens is how much better health they have at this point of the offseason. Last year, several key players were rehabbing major injuries that bled into the season. This year, hardly any players are dealing with significant issues. The Ravens will still be cautious.
Rashod Bateman's health is particularly encouraging. The fact that he's doing individual drills, not at full speed but not half speed either, seems to indicate he should be full-go by the time the season starts. All eggs aren't in the Bateman basket like last year, but there's still a lot.
Don't overlook the Angelo Blackson signing. The big-bodied veteran defensive tackle could certainly make the 53-man roster and play a decent chunk of snaps. I also wouldn't be surprised if veteran center Sam Mustipher makes the team. They're two solid veteran additions.
The NFL's decision to basically eliminate kickoffs stinks. It stinks for fans, it stinks for the many teams and coaches who opposed it, and it stinks for the Ravens, who pour a ton of effort into their special teams units. Prepare for even more touchbacks, fans. Yawn.