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Shortening their odds

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Shortening their odds

It was on one of the first days of training camp last week when Ravens coach John Harbaugh made this comment without prompting: This rookie class is the deepest one weve had since we have been here. Theres going to be some guys making this team that people hadnt heard of going in.

At the time, with camp just beginning and so many players littered across the practice fields at Owings Mills, it was hard to distinguish whom Harbaugh might be talking about. But its becoming clearer after more than a week of workouts.

Here are some of the candidates to continue the Ravens recent tradition (Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, LaQuan Williams) of finding undrafted rookie free agents who can contribute:

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky

It was impossible not to notice Rainey at Tuesdays workout as he broke several long runs.

The short, quick Rainey, who rushed for over 4,500 yards in college, looks and runs so much like Ray Rice that he could probably play the double in a movie. His size kept him from being drafted, but like Rice, he just has that play-making knack.

Bobby has opened eyes. Bobby Rainey is a really good player, Harbaugh said. It just holds true year-in and year-out, the guys who are most productive in college, often and most times, are the most productive guys in the NFL. And here is a guy that people wanted to say didnt have this or that, but he did have about 4,000-plus yards in college. He is putting yards up out here.

Deonte Thompson, WR, Florida

The speedy wideout started making plays in OTAs and never really stopped. The inconsistency that knocked him out of the draft reared itself when he dropped a couple of balls in a practice last week, but he continues to stabd out.

He has done a good job, receivers coach Jim Hostler said. For a guy that was pretty much off the street coming in, hes done very well. He had some questions about how well he caught the ball. Was he going to be able to transition that to this level? And hes done great. Its been outstanding. Hes a football player. He understands fundamentals. He understands football. He can play fast. He has done a really outstanding job so far. His (issue) is going to be can he carry that over time?

Nigel Carr, LB, Florida State

Another guy that is impossible not to notice, as he is one of the loudest, most forceful players on the practice field unusual for a rookie.

Nigel is one of those guys that absolutely has a burning passion for this game, linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. He is attentive to detail in everything he does. Hes an over communicator, which is huge. At that position to be a mute is a problem. Nigel is an over communicator and thats great.

Jack Cornell, OL, Illinois

He burst out of obscurity when he earned snaps with the starters in the wake of Bryant McKinnies absence. Then Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti outed him in a radio interview as a favorite of GM Ozzie Newsome's.

Cornell faces tough odds, just like the others, but the Ravens are looking for offensive line depth.

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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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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There are no dreary work days for Don Martindale, who has overwhelmingly embraced his new role as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

After serving for five seasons as the team's linebackers coach, Martindale was promoted to coordinator in January after Dean Pees left the post.

Enthusiastic doesn't even begin to describe Martindale's attitude about being in charge of the defense.

"Ever since we've made this transition, it's been a joy to just come through those gates every day. I love it," Martindale said after Wednesday's mandatory minicamp practice.

This isn't the first time Martindale has been put in charge of molding a defense. In 2010, he watched over a unit in Denver that was the worst in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game.

Given a second chance, the 55-year-old Martindale is putting together a defense that will rely heavily on the instinct of several of its most proven players, most notably safety Eric Weddle and linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," Weddle said. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

Martindale called Mosley "the quarterback" of a fluid unit that can make a snap-change from drop-back coverage to an all-out blitz. In that regard, Mosley believes this defense is superior to the one that in 2017 yielded 18.9 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL.

"The way we're able to use our core guys, put them in different spots and do some of the same things just from different positions, it's more creative, I would say, than where we were last year," Mosley said.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh promoted Martindale rather than go outside the organization because he wanted to extend his vision of a defense that has evolved since his arrival in 2008.

"All we're doing is forwarding John's plan," Martindale said. "We're remodeling the package. It's still Ravens football, it's still Ravens defense, but we've streamlined it. It's the elegant simplicity. Guys are playing really fast."

Asked for his take on Martindale's defense, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg replied, "They're fast and they're furious."

Sure, things might be different once the pads go on at training camp, but at this point, Martindale's boss likes what he sees.

"We're doing a lot of neat things on defense, things that are really good," Harbaugh said. "More than ever, we're putting it on our players to make decisions in real time."

Martindale has a new title, but old habits die hard.

"For the most part, it's been the same," Mosley said. "He always comes in and says, `I have to lead the linebacker room,' and sits down and gets to talking like he's back at linebacker coach."

Told of Mosley's disclosure, Martindale smiled and said, "I've been trying to stay out of there, but you can't help but go in. That's home. I have a good time in the secondary room as well."

And just about everywhere else.

"Where we're going with this thing is really exciting to me," Martindale said, "and I know it's exciting to the players."

In other training camp news, cornerback Jimmy Smith was a surprise participant at practice, going through a light regimen of individual drills just six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

"I don't know if Jimmy's like half Wolverine, but he's healed up in half the time of regular human beings," Weddle said, referring to the amazing recuperative powers of the Marvel super hero.

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