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Ravens' OTA camps: a primer

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Ravens' OTA camps: a primer

Tuesday marks the beginning of the Organized Team Activity (OTA) season for the Ravens. They will hold voluntary midweek camps for their veterans and rookies in each of the next three weeks, leading up to a mandatory full-squad minicamp in mid-June.

These behind-the-scenes sessions were lost during the work stoppage of 2011. The players can take them or leave them, but the coaches love them, using them to work on fundamentals and introduce changes to the playbook.

As usual, there will be plenty to monitor as the Ravens go through their paces at Owings Mills. Here are five questions to bear in mind:

Does Ray Rices absence matter?

The running back is withholding his services while his agent seeks a longterm contract extension, and in a sense, its no big deal. The Ravens arent worried if Rice is staying in shape and they know he understands the offense. But hes an emerging leader and the team would like him in camp, focused strictly on the upcoming season. In the meantime, backs such as rookie Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen and Damien Berry will run with the starters, a huge opportunity for them.

Is Jimmy Smith ready to start?

One of the better training camp duels will be between Smith, the teams 2011 first-round draft pick, and Cary Williams, one of 2011s biggest surprises, for the starting cornerback spot opposite Lardarius Webb. Williams is coming back from hip surgery, and Smith played better and better during 2011 after overcoming an ankle injury. My money is on Smith to emerge.

How is the chemistry between quarterback Joe Flacco and new receiver Jacoby Jones?

The cap-strapped Ravens didnt shell out 7 million for Jones just to watch him run back kicks. They want him to contribute offensively as the No. 3 receiver, become a factor as a playmaking alternative to Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Its what they tried to do with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Lee Evans, with marginal success at best. Theyre hoping the younger (27) Jones clicks better with Flacco.

Whats happening at left guard?

The one vacancy on the offensive line has generated a lot of headlines and speculation. After initially trying to fill it with a veteran (Evan Mathis), the Ravens have decided that one of their young guys can get the job done. The candidates are Jah Reid, Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski. The starting job is there for the taking. May the best man win.

Hows the transition of the defensive front-seven going?

The unit has sustained major losses since the end of last season with Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding leaving via free agency and Terrell Suggs going down with an Achilles injury. Thats three new starters out of seven, quite a bit of change. The pressure is on linebackers Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw, and linemen Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee. Do they rise to the occasion?

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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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