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The unsung heroes of special teams

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The unsung heroes of special teams

Jacoby Jones rightfully gets most of the credit for his electrifying returns, including his 63-yard punt return touchdown that sparked the Ravens to their 13-10 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday night.

But there are 10 other men on the return team, and as Jones will quickly point out, they are critical to Jones' success.

"The boys set the wall for me," he said after the game Sunday night.

Those are the unsung heroes of this team, and they had a huge hand in the win over the Steelers seeing as Jones' score was the only time the Ravens found the end zone.

For a player on the so-called roster bubble in August, his work on special teams often dictates whether he will earn an NFL paycheck. And the play of the return unit this year has validated the roster choices made by general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens, as well as the schemes drawn up by coach John Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

A more thorough look at that punt return score -- the first in the regular season against the Steelers in Heinz Field history -- shows just how big a part was played by the guys whose names don't usually show up in the headlines or box score.

Jones explained that Rosburg called for a left return, and after Jones fielded the punt, he hesitated for a moment, "so they could get down and get on their blocks."

In that time, Sean Considine to the inside and Josh Bynes to the outside sealed off their opponents and created a huge running lane for Jones, who shot through the gap.

"Josh Bynes did a great job of pushing his guy off when I got inside," Jones said.

Jones proceeded virtually untouched the rest of the way, thanks in part to a hit by Albert McClellan and a punishing block by James Ihedigbo.

Reserve safety Anthony Levine, called up from the Ravens' practice squad earlier in the week and playing in his first NFL game, also was a factor, as he picked off cornerback Cortez Allen at the Steelers' 37-yard line as Jones cut to the right.

From there, it was a footrace to the corner of the end zone between Jones and Steelers punter Drew Butler. No contest.

After his franchise-record third return touchdown of the season, Jones was doing all the dancing, but make no mistake: Role players on the return unit such as Considine, Bynes and Levine deserve some dancing shoes, too.

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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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