At his introductory news conference last year, Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman was asked whom he models his game after. The first-round draft pick’s answers made sense: Keenan Allen and Davante Adams, two perennial Pro Bowl wideouts better known for their releases at the line of scrimmage than any scouting combine measurables.
On Saturday, in his best training camp practice since a soft-tissue injury sidelined him a week ago, Bateman seemed to win every repetition within his first few steps. He created the leverage he needed at the line of scrimmage.
In one-on-one work, Bateman toasted cornerback Kyle Fuller with a right-to-left crossover that freed him for an easy completion over the middle. In their second matchup, he accelerated so easily on a vertical route that all Fuller could do to deny a touchdown was grab Bateman from behind, almost tackling him as the ball arrived.
“He’s been looking pretty sharp,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said of Bateman. “He’s been looking good, looking like a receiver [No.] 1, for sure.”
Their connection, which looked out of sync in Bateman’s first days back from injury, was as strong as ever in Saturday’s two-hour practice. Jackson found him early in team drills for a short completion, then delivered a “hole shot” down the right sideline in their next period, firing to Bateman in the soft part of the zone coverage, just behind cornerback Damarion “Pepe” Williams and just in front of safety Tony Jefferson.
Bateman should’ve had a touchdown on a deep shot three plays later, but Jackson’s ball was just late enough to let Daryl Worley catch up. The cornerback’s blind breakup of the falling pass, Worley’s hand extending out to Bateman’s just in time, kept the offense from celebrating.
Bateman, though, just kept getting open. In an 11-on-11 hurry-up period, he plucked a pass from Jackson that whizzed past rookie cornerback David Veeren’s head on a back-shoulder throw. He added two more catches in seven-on-seven work. Then he got behind inside linebacker Josh Bynes on a deep crosser that Jackson nailed with ease in a full-team session.
Two plays after a rare incompletion — top cornerback Marlon Humphrey stuck denied a throw to the back of the end zone in an 11-on-11 red-zone drill — Bateman showed strong hands on an impressive touchdown grab. Despite tight coverage from Jefferson, he snagged a fastball from Jackson in the middle of the end zone. In a camp with occasional drops, there was no bobble this time.
“You have to practice to improve; there’s no question about that,” Harbaugh said of Bateman’s return to action. “You either get better or you get worse; it’s a fact. It’s a football fact and probably a life fact. So he has been out there practicing a lot, as much as he can. He’s doing well with it.”
Defensive back Brandon Stephens (soft tissue) returned to practice for the first time in nearly two weeks, while rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis was back after missing Tuesday’s practice and Thursday’s preseason opener. Wide receiver Slade Bolden, who left practice Tuesday with an athletic trainer, was also back.
Running back J.K. Dobbins, who was cleared to practice in individual drills Monday, missed Saturday’s practice. Harbaugh said Saturday and Sunday were “evaluation” days for Dobbins, who tore his ACL last August, and that he’s expected to return Monday.
Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, who missed Thursday’s preseason win over the Tennessee Titans and Saturday’s practice, is working through headache- and migraine-related pain, Harbaugh said. “You don’t mess around with those too much,” he said.
Among those also missing practice were wide receivers James Proche II (soft tissue), Tylan Wallace (knee) and rookie Bailey Gaither, tight end Nick Boyle, center Tyler Linderbaum (foot) and offensive tackle David Sharpe.
Wide receiver Devin Duvernay’s deep speed might be the best of any Ravens receiver. He glided past cornerback Robert Jackson in one-on-ones for a deep completion, his second win in two matchups. In seven-on-seven work, Duvernay ran past Williams on a slot fade and then under a high-arcing pass from Jackson for an over-the-shoulder grab.
Tight end Mark Andrews, meanwhile, had another quietly efficient practice. Early in the day, in one-on-ones, he drew a flag on safety Chuck Clark on a downfield route and separated easily from rookie safety Kyle Hamilton on a corner route. Later, Jackson targeted Andrews five times, connecting for four completions, during an eight-play span in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 action.
Rookie Makai Polk and third-year veterans Jaylon Moore and Binjimen Victor were the most productive of the Ravens’ on-the-bubble receivers.
- Ravens defensive linemen deflected four passes, continuing their disruptiveness at the line of scrimmage.
- Rookie defensive tackle Travis Jones, coming off a strong preseason performance, barreled over reserve center Jimmy Murray as he looked to track down one red-zone scramble late in the practice.
- Humphrey had one of the more impressive one-on-one wins of camp, closing hard on tight end Isaiah Likely’s short route and punching the ball loose as Likely brought it to his body. Likely split his two repetitions against Hamilton, but was closely covered on both.
- Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh and defensive tackle Michael Pierce provided the defensive highlights of the Ravens’ one-on-one pass-rush drills. Oweh unbalanced right tackle Morgan Moses with a power move before shedding him, while Pierce dipped out of guard Ben Cleveland’s reach before ripping through as Cleveland tried to recover.
- Offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith ended up running two laps as punishment for a pair of presnap penalties. Rookie tackle Daniel Faalele was sentenced to one lap.
- The Ravens released undrafted rookie wide receiver Devon Williams and undrafted rookie cornerback Denzel Williams and signed outside linebacker Trent Harris on Saturday. Harris, who spent the past two seasons with the Giants, has two sacks over 19 career games with the Miami Dolphins and New York.