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O-line: Tough task keeping Flacco safe

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O-line: Tough task keeping Flacco safe

In the aftermath of last weekend's debacle -- the Ravens' fourth consecutive victory -- overshadowed by the abysmal run defense is the improved play of the offensive line.

Quarterback Joe Flacco only was sacked once against the Dallas Cowboys. In the two previous games, Flacco was taken down eight times.

A key adjustment was veteran Bobbie Williams being inserted into the starting lineup at left guard in place of Ramon Harewood. It was Williams' first start as a Raven since he was acquired as a free agent.

Sunday, the Ravens travel to play the Houston Texans and dominant defensive end J.J. Watt, who stands 6-foot-5 and can singe-handedly change a game with his ability to get to the quarterback and knock down pass attempts.

"He does everything. He's big, he's powerful. He's athletic, quick. If you could point to one thing it would just be his motor," Ravens center Matt Birk said. "You got to block the whole play and then some. He's certainly not the only guy they have. They put four guys in there to rush the passer, all those guys are capable of getting there. It's tough to single out one guy."

Right guard Marshal Yanda marvels at the Texans, too.

"They're just a really talented front, Watt and Smith and them guys in the inside. They're damn good players," Yanda said. "Especially Watt. He's so tall with long arms. He can bat the ball down. They're teaching that and it definitely helps. They're just good at it.

"They'll be one of the best fronts we'll see all year. It seems like we say that every week, but it's a different animal every week."

Keeping Flacco free from Watt is a priority. If he has time to pass, he can exploit a Texans secondary that allowed 338 passing yards and six touchdowns in a 42-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers last week.

"There's batting down passes, hits on the quarterback, just getting in the quarterback's face so he can't step, follow through, that affects the passing game," Birk said of Houston's defense. "You get a feel for when the ball is coming out. They have great instincts and great sense to stop and get their hands up to affect it in other ways.

"Nobody has done that great a job against them. It's not like there's a blueprint, but we'll prepare hard like we always do."

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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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