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Smith says retirement plans still "on schedule"

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Smith says retirement plans still "on schedule"

OWINGS MILLS – There has been speculation the Ravens might try to talk wide receiver Steve Smith out of his plan to retire after the season. Or that Smith might change his mind about retirement on his own. 

Asked about that possibility Wednesday, Smith had other things on his mind.

“Man, we’re 1-5,” Smith said. “You think they would be talking about persuading (me)? We’re trying to fix all the damn holes in this boat right now.”

Earlier Smith said, “I’m on schedule for what I discussed earlier in the year.”

But Smith is still the Ravens’ best receiver at age 36, and it will be interesting to see if he changes his mind once the season ends. At the moment, Smith would rather focus on his job.

“People keep saying that I avoid the question,” Smith said. “It’s not about avoiding. This is a week-to-week season. Every game presents its own issues. I’m prepared to play the Arizona Cardinals and whoever else we play after that…That’s my focus. It’s not on the other stuff.”

MORE RAVENS: Recent drafts have not produced enough playmakers

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John Harbaugh explains how the Ravens plan to use first-round linebacker Patrick Queen

John Harbaugh explains how the Ravens plan to use first-round linebacker Patrick Queen

The Ravens hit a home run in the NFL draft when Patrick Queen fell to them at 28th overall. 

Queen, likely the best player in the draft available when the Ravens picked, filled the biggest position of need for the Ravens at inside linebacker. 

The question now, though, is how he’ll be used. 

“Patrick Queen will probably be... we’ll play him probably at MIKE [linebacker] for the most part, right there in the middle,” Harbaugh said on a Thursday conference call with Ravens season-ticket holders. “We’ll let him use his speed and instincts to run around and make plays at all three phases. He’ll be a three-down guy, both in our base package and our sub package.”

Queen made 85 tackles last season at LSU, his only season as a starter. The Ravens loved his ability to play sideline-to-sideline; his coverage ability dictates keeping him on the field for all three downs. 

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The Ravens have L.J. Fort, Otaro Alaka, Chris Board and Jake Ryan as some veteran help on the inside as well, but they’ve got another talented rookie in Malik Harrison. 

At Ohio State, Harrison registered 75 tackles in 2019 and had 16.5 tackles for loss. Even at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, Harrison is still an athletic linebacker who can provide big hits and run defense, and perhaps even his underrated coverage skills.

“Malik ... we’ll probably start him off at WILL [linebacker] in the base package, but he’ll probably be repping in the base package at MIKE,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll flip those guys around. We move those guys back and forth.”

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John Harbaugh believes Lamar Jackson will take the next step as a quarterback

John Harbaugh believes Lamar Jackson will take the next step as a quarterback

There really isn’t more that Lamar Jackson can accomplish statistically. 

After an MVP season where he led the league in touchdown passes (36) and rushed for more yards than a quarterback ever had before (1,206), there are not many areas where Jackson didn’t shine last season. 

One area where coach John Harbaugh sees room for improvement, though, is on deep passes. 

On a question-and-answer conference call with Ravens’ season-ticket holders Thursday, Harbaugh discussed the desire to add an element of the offense the Ravens didn’t excel at last season. 

"Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it,” Harbaugh said. “We absolutely have to make them pay. The ability to make them pay for tilting their defense toward stopping our run game with a really, really efficient passing game. I do believe that's the next step of this offense. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step."

The Ravens drafted wideouts Devin Duvernay and James Proche in April’s draft, and now likely boast the league’s fastest offense. And with teams so focused on stopping the run game from Jackson and Mark Ingram, over-the-top throws are waiting to be had. 

According to Warren Sharp at sharpfootballstats.com, the Ravens had 48 “explosive” pass plays last season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. Explosive plays are considered passes of 15 or more yards. 

“The thing that we tried to build is an offense that allows us to do basically whatever we want to do, or whatever we need to do based on what the defense presents to us,” Harbaugh said. “We want to attack the width and depth of the field.”

The Ravens will have a healthy Marquise Brown at wide receiver in 2020, as well as a young offense a year removed from being the best in the NFL. 

If Jackson is able to expand upon what he did in 2019, there’s not much defenses can do to slow down the Ravens’ offense. 

"We should have guys more open, and we should have bigger plays,” Harbaugh said. “We should create more opportunities in the pass game because of that run game."

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