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Hot day of joint practice between Ravens and Eagles cut short

Hot day of joint practice between Ravens and Eagles cut short

PHILADELPHIA — On a day with the heat index at 100 degrees, the Ravens first joint practice in Philadelphia against one of the favorites to come out of the NFC ended about 45 minutes short.

This week is the Ravens' second joint practice of August, the first of which came when the Jaguars came to Baltimore for two days of practice before the preseason opener. 

“The best thing is I think the tempo ramps up a little bit,” coach John Harbaugh said on joint practices. “You get different guys, different schemes. I do think it notches up one or two clicks, which is good for you. This is a really talented football team, the Eagles, so we get a chance to see some really good players.”

Even with some positive feelings from the practice, there were, and still are, a few question marks about the Ravens and their available bodies. 

Kenneth Dixon, Gus Edwards, and Miles Boykin were notable absences from practice from the start. Left guard Jermaine Eluemanor left practice early, and Ronnie Stanley and Mark Ingram didn’t take reps towards the end of practice.

With the heat beating down, it’s unclear if they were related to the weather. Harbaugh had no updates after practice, for players that missed the entirety, or players that left early.

The practice was ruled by defense, though, as the Ravens offense had trouble scoring in the red zone most of the afternoon. One of the biggest highlights, however, was a diving catch by Mark Andrews in the back of the end zone. 

“The red zone is tough, the red zone is faster, coverage is tighter,” Harbaugh said. “Things have to be executed more quickly, more decisively. The windows are going to be closing quicker, they’re going to be smaller. Timing is really important, execution is everything. For a young quarterback, it’s a fast game as it is.”

Defensively, the Ravens secondary held its own against a talented Eagles offense. 

Notably, however, Earl Thomas was beaten on a deep route by Alshon Jeffery on a pass from Carson Wentz.

“What I’ve drawn from the last two joint practices is the competitive juices you get from going against a new team,” Thomas said. “Carson Wentz is not a pushover, it’s good to go against him. It’s good to go against that offense. Tight ends are pretty good, receivers are pretty good.”

The Ravens will practice with the Eagles once again tomorrow before a day off on Wednesday. The two will play, officially, on Thursday in the team’s third preseason game. 

Until then, they’ll just focus on getting better against a team that’s one of the league’s best.

“You see different routes, you see different combinations in the passing game, you see different quarterbacks,” Thomas said. “All of that is great.”

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How the Ravens hope to ground the Air Raid offense on Sunday

How the Ravens hope to ground the Air Raid offense on Sunday

Robert Griffin III knows the Air Raid offense. He also knows not to call every version of it the “Air Raid.”

When Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired in Arizona, team’s intention was clear: Bring the “Air Raid,” or at least its concepts, to the NFL full-time. The team picked quarterback Kyler Murray No. 1 overall to lead the offense, committing to the system full bore. 

Whatever you call it, the offense is going to test the Ravens defense — specifically the secondary — Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. 

“Everybody has their own style,” Griffin said. “The foundation of the offense, of spreading people out, of trying to get easy completions, throwing the ball, it’s something that can translate to the NFL. I think our defense has a good grasp of what they’re going to be able to do, and what they can do.”

According to Sharpfootballstats.com, the Cardinals lined up with four wide receivers on 55 of their 82 offensive plays. They also lined up with three wide receivers on 15 plays and two wide receivers on nine plays. They never lined up with one or zero receivers. 

Murray threw the ball 54 times in the game, which went to overtime, as the Cardinals found their groove late in a 27-27 tie. 

But while the Cardinals are spreading things out, more so than any other NFL team, the concepts and route combinations aren’t foreign to the rest of the NFL.

“The thing of it is with Kliff’s offense, the offensive guys in this league have been stealing plays from him for years from Texas Tech,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “We’re just getting the full monty, if you will, of the Air Raid offense. History has a way of repeating itself in this league.”

The opportunity exists, though, for the secondary to have a big day.

“But I love these type of games, as a DB you’ve got to love these type of games,” safety Earl Thomas said. “These are two-pick games right here. You’ve gotta love it.”

Anticipating many four-wide sets from the Cardinals, the Ravens already made a move by promoting cornerback Maurice Canady from the practice squad. With Jimmy Smith’s MCL sprain, the move will add some depth to the secondary on a day when they’ll need it most. 

The Ravens will have to dictate much of their defensive strategy to stopping the offensive attack, but they’re not trying to change their defense too much. 

“We have safeties that can cover receivers as well in zone and man coverage, so we’ll be in different kinds of personnel groups, just like we always are, just in terms of how we want to game-plan and match those guys,” coach John Harbaugh explained. “We have a plan for that, obviously...but it’s a challenge. They’re spread out way more than anybody else.”

While the Ravens try to slow down Kingsbury’s attack, the long term sustainability of the offense remains a question to the rest of the league. 

Griffin doesn’t have any concerns.

“Just look at it this way: Almost anything is sustainable, as long as you’re committed to it,” Griffin said. “I had a coach tell me one time, ‘If you believe in something, then you have to go forth and do that thing consistently.’ That’s what they’re doing. They’re not partially doing the Air Raid, they’re fully committed to it.”

A full commitment to the offense, however, still means pulling from the rest of the league. 

The Cardinals don’t have an offensive coordinator, but Tom Clements is the team’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. He was with the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2016.

The concepts that the Cardinals are using have been around the NFL for years. Now it's being fully implemented, and it's just a matter of keeping opposing defenses on their toes.

“Well, that’s no different from any other offense in the NFL, you have to keep evolving,” Griffin said. “If you don’t evolve, yes, you can be extinguished. But if you keep evolving the offense and keep evolving how you run the offense, yeah, it’s sustainable.”

Long-term viability aside, the only evolution the Ravens are concerned with is how the Cardinals will change from week one to week two. And even that can be a mystery.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s four-wide or four tight ends,” Martindale began. “I have angst every Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see if they stay heavy with that (four wide receiver) package, because they have other packages as well, and they can still do all of the same things out of it. So, it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

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Ravens add cornerback Maurice Canady in preparation for Cardinals Air Raid offense

Ravens add cornerback Maurice Canady in preparation for Cardinals Air Raid offense

In preparation of the team's matchup against the Cardinals and their Air Raid offense, the Ravens added cornerback Maurice Canady to the 53-man roster off their practice squad. In a corresponding move, the team waived tackle Greg Senat.

With Jimmy Smith out with an MCL sprain, the team lacked depth at a position expected to be needed on Sunday. The Cardinals run their offense with a significant number of three and four-wide receiver sets, which is where Canady will come into play. 

Canady is a four-year veteran and was a sixth round pick of the Ravens in 2016. He'll play behind Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and Anthony Averett on Sunday.

Senat was a 2018 sixth round pick of the Ravens and was one of nine offensive linemen on the team. 

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