Thu Jun 13 2:02pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson throws a pass at the team's NFL football training facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, June 12, 2019 (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, center, shakes hands with Marquise Brown after workouts at the team's NFL football training facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, June 12, 2019 (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III, right, passes as Lamar Jackson points during drills at the team's NFL football training facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, June 12, 2019 (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson catches a football during practice at the team's NFL football training facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, June 12, 2019 (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) It's been a year since Lamar Jackson arrived at his first NFL minicamp, fully understanding that his stature as a former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft pick didn't guarantee a lick of playing time during the regular season.
Former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was the Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback, so Jackson immediately settled into backup role while he got a handle on a brand of football that was unlike anything he had experienced before.
''I would say I was kind of startled just being in the league,'' Jackson recalled Wednesday. ''Growing up, hearing all the things about when you go in the league, this and that is going to happen. Or the game is totally different, it's a lot faster.''
Jackson was too quick, elusive and talented to be buried on the bench, so he was used periodically on Sundays until Nov. 18, when he started in place of an injured Flacco and started the Ravens on a 6-1 hot streak that enabled them to reach the postseason as AFC North champions.
Flash forward to this week, when a much more poised and confident Jackson led the offense during the three-day mandatory minicamp.
''Right now it's pretty calm to me,'' Jackson said. ''Playing in those seven games being around my teammates, it's been pretty good.''
Jackson performed so well last season that the Ravens traded Flacco and decided they would rewrite the playbook and build the entire team around a former University of Louisville star who has proven to be equally effective at the next level.
''You build around your players, nobody more so than your quarterback,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''You identify who your quarterback is going to be for the long term, which we've done, we need to build everything around what he can do. Offense, defense, even special teams are built with that in mind. What type of team are we going to be, based on the skill set of the quarterback?''
Baltimore intends to use the same philosophy that proved so successful a year ago. The offense relied heavily on the run, led by Jackson's impromptu downfield bursts. If a long drive didn't end in a touchdown, standout kicker Justin Tucker almost unfailingly slammed through a field goal.
The league's top-ranked defense did its share by making sure the Ravens would prevail in low-scoring games.
The expectation this year is that Baltimore will benefit from Jackson's experience.
''He's a much better player than he was a year ago,'' Harbaugh said. ''And he will be a much better player at the end of training camp than he is right now.''
Jackson's maturity was evident in the huddle this week.
''From a leadership standpoint, he's doing really well,'' tackle Ronnie Stanley said.
There remains a measure of concern about Jackson's ability to throw from the pocket - he's surpassed 200 yards in only one game - but offensive coordinator Greg Roman is certain the 22-year-old will be flinging the ball with accurately and authority this season.
''Lamar is the kind of guy that, the more he does something, he's going to get better at it,'' Roman said.
August 5th: ADP Value
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft and has a high ceiling without a doubt, especially since he will be catching passes from No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow. Both rookies have built a rapport already as the duo conducted workouts together during the offseason. Higgins finished his final season at Clemson with 59 catches and 13 touchdowns off of 1,167 yards. While he is a risky selection in redraft leagues this season due to his potential limited playing time, he is surely worth a first-round pick in dynasty formats as he will likely rack up plenty of receptions from Burrow for years to come.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has begun catching passes from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow as the team kicks off training camp. The 25-year-old has plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season after racking up over 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. With A.J. Green seemingly healthy along with the addition of Clemson wideout Tee Higgins, Boyd could see things open up more on the offensive end, while also remaining the team's top pass-catcher.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through his first walkthrough under second-year head coach Zac Taylor on Tuesday. The veteran, who recently signed a one-year tender a few weeks ago, missed all of 2019 after injuring his ankle during training camp. While consistent ailments have been the theme for the 32-year-old over the past seasons, there is no denying his ability when healthy. He is no longer considered an elite wideout, however, he is worth a mid-round pick for those looking for an option with an enormous upside.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is still without a new deal as the team heads toward the 2020 season. However, according to director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, the organization views the 24-year-old as a "cornerstone piece of the franchise." Mixon is looking for a contract that would pay him north of $8 million per year, a significant increase from the $1.2 million that he is expected to earn in the final year of his rookie deal. The former Sooner is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is projected by many to be a fantasy breakout by year's end.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was quick to respond to Ed Werder's Twitter post regarding a potentially reduced role for the former rushing champ, quipping "we all gonna eat." Though Elliott is a shoo-in, first-round pick in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, many still wonder how he will co-exist on an offense that has plenty of mouths to feed, notably Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 17th overall pick, CeeDee Lamb. Elliott finished 2019 as a top-five back in the majority of formats. Under new head coach Mike McCarthy, who has overseen some productive runners throughout his career, the 25-year-old could be in store for another productive year.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas broke the single-season receptions record last year by racking up 149 catches, surpassing Marvin Harrison's 2002 mark of 143. While that accomplishment would be good enough for most throughout the league, the 27-year-old is aiming to exceed his 2019 total heading into the 2020 campaign. Thomas convincingly dominated the fantasy picture last season, and in addition to his catch total, he also accumulated over 1,700 yards while finishing fifth in yards after the catch. He is expected to finish as the top fantasy wideout this season, and will likely get snagged off the draft board within the top three picks, especially in PPR formats.
Updating a previous story, San Francisco 49ers WR Travis Benjamin was officially placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Aug. 5.
Updating a previous story, Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson was officially placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Aug. 5.
Miami Dolphins DT Davon Godchaux was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Aug. 5.
Atlanta Falcons DT Tyeler Davison was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Aug. 5. LB Ahmad Thomas was released.
Cleveland Browns TE Austin Hooper lived part of the summer with QB Baker Mayfield while the two worked out together.
Fantasy Spin: It certainly could help Hooper to at least be somewhat familiar with his new QB despite all the lost reps from canceled offseason programs following his signing as a free agent. Hooper is expected to be the No. 1 tight end over David Njoku and should be drafted as a top-tier option at his thin position.
Tennessee Titans LB Jayon Brown (undisclosed) passed his physical Wednesday, Aug. 5, and was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs restructured his contract Tuesday, Aug. 4, according to a source. He'll receive an extra $3.3 million in 2020, an extra $7.7 million in guaranteed money but a decrease of $300,000 cash in 2021 and a drop from $25.55 million to $22.67 million in 2022-23 cash.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB LeSean McCoy probably will have a role in the passing game this season, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Fantasy Spin: It appears like McCoy may be in line for the third down back job, but fantasy players should keep an eye on the situation. McCoy probably would see a handful of touches each games if he makes the roster but may only be a depth option in fantasy leagues.
Free-agent S Kentrell Brice (Bears) signed with the Arizona Cardinals Wednesday, Aug. 5. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
New York Jets LB Avery Williamson (knee) said he expects to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Las Vegas Raiders RB Jeremy Hill was released Wednesday, Aug. 5.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II was called "the main guy" in the running back room by his coach Bruce Arians. Arians said he is confident in Jones II and that the other guys are fighting for roles. The other guys include third-round draft pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who will lose valuable practice time after he hit the COVID-19 list, and veteran running back LeSean McCoy, who won't challenge for a lead back role at this point in his career. Jones II looks the part after an offseason spent bulking up and catching hundreds of passes to address a weakness in his game. The 23-year-old has RB2 upside in the 7th round but it's likely that Vaughn and McCoy cut into his ceiling in 2020, despite what Arians said.
Free-agent S Kentrell Brice (Bears) is expected to sign with the Arizona Cardinals as long as he passes a physical and tests negative for COVID-19, according to a source.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones will be the main ball carrier for the Buccaneers this season, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Fantasy Spin: Jones rushed for 724 yards and six touchdowns last season and should improve those stats with more playing time and touches. He will be a part of one of the better offenses in the NFL and can be considered a No. 2 running back in fantasy leagues.