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Patriots get defensive

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Patriots get defensive

It didnt take long for the Patriots to show off their newfound commitment to defense this season.

Early in the second quarter of the Patriots season-opener at Tennessee, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones blew past Titans tackle Michael Roos and sacked Jake Locker, causing a fumble near the Titans goal line. Rookie linebacker Donta Hightower scooped up the loose ball at the 6-yard line and barreled into the end zone for a Patriots touchdown.

Jones and Hightower were both first-round draft picks, the anchors of a Patriots 2012 draft class designed to shore up a defense that ranked 31st in the league last season, (411.1 yards allowed per game).

New England, which visits the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night, had four picks in the first three rounds of the April draft, and they used all of them as well as their next two picks -- on defensive players.

Long known for trading down in the draft, Bill Belichick and the Patriots instead traded up not once, but twice, in the first round to aggressively bolster their defense.

First, the Patriots traded with Cincinnati to move up six spots to No. 21, where they grabbed Jones, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive lineman out of Syracuse and the younger brother of Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones. Then, they jumped up six spots to get Denvers No. 25 pick, which they used on Hightower, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound former Alabama linebacker -- and Courtney Upshaw's former teammate -- who was also coveted by the Ravens.

The Patriots, who had two first-round picks in that draft because of a 2011 trade, gave up a third-round pick in the Jones deal and gave the Broncos a fourth-round pick as part of the Hightower trade.

We liked those guys a lot, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at his media session on Wednesday. Those guys are guys we had ranked very highly, so when they took (each of) those guys, theres one less good player on the board.

Jones and Hightower are both starters, and safety Tavon Wilson from Illinois, the Patriots second-round pick, is a backup at safety. Wilsons emergence is one reason the Patriots released James Ihedigbo, now with the Ravens.

Through the first two games, Hightower has 13 tackles and the fumble recovery touchdown, and Jones has 11 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles.

The Patriots (1-1) suffered a stunning 20-18 loss to Arizona at home last week, but the defense ranks second in the league, allowing 264.5 yards per game. Yes, its early, but thats an improvement of more than 100 yards a game from a year ago.

When you add two first-round picks and theyre both starting, its for a reason, Ravens running back Ray Rice said. Those guys are playing really well.

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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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