Lamar Jackson is a 26-year-old former NFL MVP entering his sixth season as a starter. He doesn't need to play in the preseason to get ready for the year ahead, evident by him not playing at all last preseason. It'll likely be the same this year as well.
Sam Howell is a 22-year-old former fifth-round pick entering his first season as a professional starting quarterback. Having thrown 19 career passes, the preseason provides vital repetitions as he learns Eric Bieniemy's offense and attempts to show the coaching staff that he can be the future of the franchise. He most certainly needs preseason games to get ready for the 2023 campaign.
These past two days, however -- in which the Ravens hosted the Commanders for joint practices -- have benefitted both signal-callers equally. Jackson and Howell got to go against another first-team defense ahead of Week 1, seeing where they, and their offense as a whole, currently stacks up. Each quarterback was happy with how the sessions unfolded.
"It was wonderful," Jackson said. "It was good to go against someone else instead of my teammates every day. It was good to get out there against another team."
"They do a really good job here in Baltimore, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Howell added, "so it was a great opportunity as an offense to come out here and get better and just try and show what we can do."
Here are some takeaways from the past two days ahead of the teams' preseason matchup on Monday night.
Flowers continues to flourish
"Zay is very shifty."
That was Lamar Jackson talking about his first-round rookie wideout after Monday's practice, but everyone who's seen Zay Flowers on the field since he's been drafted already knows about his ability to make defensive backs look silly.
That agility is magnified during 1-on-1 drills between pass-catchers and defenders, and it's an area in which Flowers has consistently dominated. In his first rep Monday, Flowers beat fellow first-rounder Emmanuel Forbes for a long ball along the sideline. On the next, Flowers overcame the defender literally holding onto his undershirt to make a diving catch.
Flowers took NFL social media by storm again Tuesday with a red-zone rep against Commanders starting cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. Flowers faked inside off the line of scrimmage, released outside and then sprinted straight ahead. As he began to curl inside when he reached the middle of the end zone, he planted his feet with such violence that St-Juste couldn't do anything to stop his momentum from carrying him farther and farther from the wide receiver. The result was a wild-open score.
It's worth noting that the receivers have the advantage in these drills, but the consistency with which Flowers creates separation, both in 1-on-1 matchups and during team sessions -- he caught a TD during a red-zone team drill Tuesday -- is very impressive for a rookie. Flowers doing so against his own teammates is one thing; continuing to win emphatically against another team's top defenders shows that the 22nd pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is ready to significantly contribute right away.
Howell looks like QB1
With more and more teams finalizing their quarterback situation as August progresses, might it be time for Ron Rivera to anoint Sam Howell as the starter in Washington?
"Well, again, I said I gotta sit down with both [offensive coordinator] Eric [Bieniemy] and [QBs coach] Tavita [Pritchard] and really evaluate it and make sure he's doing the things that we need him to do," Rivera said diplomatically after Tuesday's practice. "And yesterday he had a really good day. We're really pleased with it after having to watch the tape, and we'll see how it is after we get a chance to watch this tape together. We're traveling today, so we'll sit down tomorrow and go through it and talk about Sam and really just evaluate that."
UPDATE: On Friday, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera named Sam Howell as the.
Following a(9 for 12, 77 yards, TD, QB rating of 119.1), Howell held his own against what's expected to be a very strong Ravens defense.
On Monday, Howell kept Baltimore's talented pass rush at bay by making quick and decisive passes on short-to-intermediate routes. Rivera actually said after practice that he wanted Howell to throw even faster on some of those plays, but it's clear he understands what he's being asked to do under new OC Eric Bieniemy: Read the defense, get the ball out and let Washington's plethora of playmakers make big plays.
Ironically, some of Howell's best plays Tuesday were when he held onto the ball. Toward the end of practice, there were two occasions where the pocket started to collapse. On the first, he avoided a sack, rolled out left and, a la Bieniemy's former QB (Patrick Mahomes), uncorked a sidearm laser to Dyami Brown streaking back toward the middle of the field for a significant pickup.
On another play, Howell stayed in the pocket but sidestepped oncoming pressure, giving him just enough time to find John Bates, who made a leaping catch with a defender draped all over him.
Without Howell's feet set, the ball wobbled out of his hand on that throw, but not every pass is going to be a perfect spiral -- just like not every play is going to go according to script. The Commanders coaching staff surely prefers their young QB taking what the defense gives him and limiting mistakes, but sometimes you have to improvise to maximize a given play. Howell showed Tuesday that he's capable of doing that, too.
"He's really poised, man," No. 1 WR Terry McLaurin said about Howell after Monday's practice. "I think he sees the field really well, and he's gonna give us the chance to make opportunities on the perimeter, which has been great. His timing ... was really good with us today. As soon as we were getting out of our breaks, the ball was right there. And he gave us the chance to run with it as well. I think he did a great job, even when he had to improvise and roll out a little bit and still keep his eyes downfield."
Brawls on brawls
As was to be expected, Tylan Wallace against Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (video here). Round 2 included Ravens tight end Mark Andrews body slamming Commanders cornerback Danny Johnson (video). Both altercations led to team-wide scrums.when these clubs got to practice against someone other than their teammates. Round 1 pitted Ravens wide receiver
It didn't take long for things to reignite Tuesday, with Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and Commanders offensive tackle Alex Akingbulu going at it during 1-on-1 drills (photo). Shortly after, Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen and Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. exchanged swings, which led to the sidelines clearing.
Rivera was pleased with the work Washington accomplished over the past two days in Baltimore, but he made sure to get on them about the frequent skirmishes he believes are completely unnecessary.
"We didn't need the fighting, and that was one of my biggest messages of, 'Guys, you gotta go out there and play football. You gotta perform, do your job, do what you're supposed to. All that other stuff's not important. It doesn't help us win football games,'" Rivera said. "Just wanted to make sure they understand that. I think part of our thing is just understanding how to be a mature football team, and I think that's important. We've shown some good growth, some good maturity, but this was a good test to just understand what it takes to be really good."
Ravens running out of CBs
John Harbaugh confirmed Tuesday that Humphrey will have surgery on a "lingering" foot injury. He's, meaning he could miss Baltimore's first few games of the regular season.
It's so late in the offseason that not many starter-level cornerbacks are available, which could result in the Ravens potentially exploring a trade. Fortunately for Baltimore, everyone else should be ready for Week 1 against the Houston Texans.
'A lot faster than people give him credit for'
The biggest thing that stood out about Odell Beckham Jr. over the past two days has been his speed. He beat Kendall Fuller and Emmanuel Forbes deep on Monday (he caught the ball vs. Fuller, but Forbes broke up what would have been another big gain). On Tuesday, he again got past Forbes, who ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but for the third time Jackson underthrew him, and the ball fell incomplete.
"He's a lot faster than people give him credit for," Jackson said of Beckham. "A lot faster."
By the looks of it, Beckham is a lot faster than Jackson has given him credit for, but the two still have a few weeks to work out their deep ball connection before the results of those plays will have real consequences. Jackson will also have to account for Beckham unleashing another gear during the regular season, as Humphrey admitted Monday that Beckham holds a few things back when he's going against his teammates. Beckham confirmed that claim Tuesday.
"Yeah, there's some things I wouldn't do to my teammates that I would do to somebody else," Beckham said. "It's that fine line of competing but keeping each other healthy and safe and just being able to find work. It was great to be able to go against another team and different competition. I think the last few days were very beneficial on both sides."