The Baltimore Ravens lost some key players in free agency on defense, none bigger than C.J. Mosley, who went on to sign the biggest contract for an inside linebacker in history. They didn’t really replace him, but they did bring in a high-profile defensive addition in All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks.
Thomas has admitted that the Ravens’ defense is more complex than what he was used to playing in Seattle, within a defensive framework that largely stuck to the Cover 3 model. Baltimore’s defense has a history of being much more varied, so that is something that he is adjusting to.
But while he is figuring out what he’s doing, he is also observing, and so far, he likes what he sees from second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, a 2018 first-round pick who went 6-1 for the Ravens last year, bringing them back from a 4-5 start to make the playoffs.
Jamison Hensley quoted the safety as saying of Jackson that “he’s a star in the making”, which is of course a bold claim, but it’s not as though he will be held accountable if he’s wrong. And you’re not going to say something bad about your new teammate like that, no matter how much of an established veteran you are.
Thomas was brought in after the Ravens chose to let another veteran safety, Eric Weddle, go. Weddle, who made the Pro Bowl while in Baltimore, had one year left on his contract, but he knew it was a possibility he would be released. He originally felt he would retire if that happened, but he quickly turned around and signed with the Los Angeles Rams.
The former Seahawks safety will now serve as the deep safety alongside Tony Jefferson in the box. At cornerback, the Ravens have a number of options, including Marlon Humphrey, who has emerged as their top guy. Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr are the other options outside, while Tavon Young is their starting nickel. He received a nice contract extension this offseason.
That is the secondary against which Jackson has to practice, and while he started out well in protecting the football, he threw a few interceptions during minicamp to end the spring portion of the offseason on a bit of a sour note.
Still, the overall report has been significant improvement in his throwing motion and general mechanics from last season. Ball security—he fumbled something like a dozen times last year—is also being reinforced as a major point of emphasis this year for him.
Is he a star in the making? It’s too early to tell. I’d first like to see how he looks in his second season after putting out eight games’ worth of starting experience for opponents to be able to study. The Los Angeles Chargers made him look bad in the postseason after they were the first opponent to play him twice.