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Cowboys' Witten is 'a huge task'

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Cowboys' Witten is 'a huge task'

The Ravens defense had all sorts of trouble with Eagles tight end Brent Celek in Week 2, and they face a similar challenge this week in Cowboys All-Pro tight end Jason Witten.

Celek caught eight passes for 157 yards in the Eagles' 24-23 win over the Ravens, frequently finding open spots underneath as the Ravens needed to account for deep threats DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, or working himself open as Michael Vick extended a play with his scrambling.

Since the Eagles game, the Ravens have done good job neutralizing opposing tight ends. Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski had just two catches for 21 yards, and the Chiefs tight ends were held without a catch in the Ravens' 9-6 win at Kansas City last week.

But unlike the Chiefs, who struggled to get any passing game going, or even the Patriots, who don't often take shots deep downfield, the Cowboys' passing game recipe looks more like the Eagles: Stretch the field with deep threats Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and open up space underneath for the 6-foot-6, 261-pound Witten.

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said earlier this week that the task of covering Witten will fall on "all linebackers and the safeties. There are very few times you are going to have a corner really matched up on him. It’s going to be the safeties and linebackers in there. All of them are going to have to have a part in it."

"The biggest effect that we can have on them," Pees added, "is affect No. 9 [quarterbackTony Romo].”

Added linebacker Albert McClellan: ""We got to be physical right off the line of scrimmage, and pretty much just give him a handful throughout the whole game and see who lasts the longest."

"It's a task," McClellan said. "We're always up for any challenges, so it's a huge task, especially for me as an outside linebacker."

Witten got off to a slow start this season after missing most of the preseason with a lacerated spleen sustained in the preseason opener. But in the Cowboys' most recent game, against the Bears, Witten finished with 13 catches for 112 yards.

A former third-round draft pick out of Tennessee, Witten hasn't missed a start in six seasons and has had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the past five years. He ranks third in NFL history for receptions (717) and receiving yards (8,097) by a tight end ‑- just ahead of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

 At age 30 and in his 10th NFL season, Witten "is still a dominant force," Pees said. "He is still a good run blocker. He is still one of the best tight ends in the league."

 

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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