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Pees: Defense needs to clamp down on first down

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Pees: Defense needs to clamp down on first down

The Ravens defense was gashed for more than 200 rushing yards by the Bills on Sunday, a shocking development for a front seven that had been stout against the run in the first three games.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said there was plenty of blame to go around -- "We’ve got to play the plays better, and we’ve got to coach it better, and we’ve got to adjust it better" -- but he said the crux of the problem was that the Ravens simply gave up too much yardage on first down.

"That’s where we got in trouble," Pees said at his weekly media session on Thursday. "It’s hard when it’s second-down-and-4 and second-down-and-3. All of a sudden, now you’ve got to really try to tighten it down to get to third. ... We’ve just got to do a better job playing-wise, coaching-wise, the whole scheme-wise, of doing a better job on first down, especially first-down run."

By Pees' estimate, Buffalo gained 150 yards on first-down plays. The Bills, led by C.J. Spiller and Vincent Jackson, had 13 first-down runs of 5 yards or more. Even third-string back Tashard Choice took a first-down handoff for 7 yards.

That leads to second- or third-and-short, which leaves the defense back on its heels.

"Third-and-8, they got a lot more ground to cover, and we got some monsters that can pass rush," defensive end Arthur Jones said. "Third-and-2, a quarterback or a running back can always sneak through a small hole. It just puts strain on the defense."

The Ravens actually rank tied for sixth in third-down defense. Teams have converted 33.3 percent of third downs against the Ravens, and the Bills fared worse, going 5-for-18 (27.7 percent). But it only takes a couple of big first-down plays to get a drive moving in the wrong direction.

"Third-and-2, third-and-3 – [it’s] hard to defend some of the passes on the underneath routes," Pees said. "If you play man, the guy gets picked. If you play zone, you’re off a little too far. The whole playbook is open to the offense. When it’s third-and-eight, the whole playbook is open to us. So, we’ve got to get them to that.”

 

 

 

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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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