#Ravens WR Zay Flowers played ‘every position’ at rookie camp. Here’s how he fits in the offense. – Twin Cities #Usa #Miami #Nyc #Houston #Uk #Es

#Ravens WR Zay Flowers played ‘every position’ at rookie camp. Here’s how he fits in the offense. – Twin Cities #Usa #Miami #Nyc #Houston #Uk #Es

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Zay Flowers’ first “Welcome to the NFL” moment came in the form of a message from Baltimore native and former NBA star Carmelo Anthony, who reached out after the Ravens selected the Boston College wide receiver 22nd overall in last month’s draft.

“He was like ‘Welcome to flock nation,’” Flowers said. “I was like ‘Carmelo Anthony texted me?’ Then I clicked on his page and there were 7 million followers; I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s him.’”

Flowers’ actual debut was much more routine — he joined 23 others at a three-day rookie minicamp Thursday through Saturday at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.

In many ways, it was just another couple of practices for a player who’s been having them for most of his life. But it also gave Flowers — and Ravens coaches — a feel for how he might be used in the offense. There were some differences from his days at Boston College.

“It’s more sped up; it’s more urgent,” Flowers said Saturday. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing. You’ve got to be able to take it from the classroom to the field.

“In college, you just have more time to learn it, and they’ll take you through [it] more. In the NFL, you’ve just got to get it and go.”

Translation: Flowers, like any rookie, admittedly made his share of mistakes. But that’s what practice is for.

It was just two days, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Flowers looked as advertised, calling him “quick” with “good hands” and “very smart.”

“He’s picking things up really quickly, playing every position right now across the board with what we’ve installed,” Harbaugh said.

A variety of roles

It’s way too early to know exactly how the Ravens will deploy Flowers this season, or the kind of impact he will have in an overhauled receiver group. Last year, the Ravens’ wide receivers ranked last in the NFL in yards. This year, they added two-time All-Pro Odell Beckham Jr. and veteran Nelson Agholor and have a healthy Rashod Bateman, whose second season in Baltimore ended after six games because of foot surgery. But there are signs, past and present, that provide at least some indication of where to expect to see Flowers on the field this season and the kinds of contributions he could make.

Harbaugh provided some insight Saturday, saying that Flowers caught punts during practice, and looked good doing so. It’s a role the team will consider for its new speedster, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

Last season, Devin Duvernay was the Ravens’ top punt returner, a position he earned All-Pro honors in 2021. He has been inconsistent as a receiver, however, during his three years in Baltimore and could be expendable this summer. Flowers, meanwhile, returned seven punts for 43 yards last season for Boston College.

But the Ravens obviously didn’t draft Flowers to be a returner.

In four years at Boston College, Flowers was on the field for 2,647 snaps (more than 55 per game), ran 1,415 routes and was targeted 347 times, according to Pro Football Focus, catching 199 of those passes, including a school-record 29 touchdowns. During that span, he played in the slot 33.9% of the time, averaging 2.35 yards per route run, compared with 1.86 yards on the outside. His combined 2.11 yards per route run since 2019 and 119 combined first downs and touchdowns also ranked fourth most among all receivers in this year’s draft class.

In other words, the Ravens aren’t likely to feature him in just a slot role.

At 30 years old and coming off a second torn ACL, Beckham isn’t the same explosive deep threat he once was and could see a significant shift to the inside. The Ravens also have one of the league’s better pass-catching tight ends in Mark Andrews, who led the team in receptions last season.

As for Flowers, he did most of his damage his last two years at Boston College lining up outside, scoring on everything from bubble screens to whip routes to deep passes, including in a 43-15 loss to Wake Forest last season in which he had 10 catches for 135 yards. The highlight was a 61-yard touchdown on which Flowers lined up outside, faked an out, ran a post and raced by two more defenders after catching the ball to score.

“He was fast enough and physical enough to be an outside receiver for them but also quick enough and shifty enough to be a slot receiver,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson told The Baltimore Sun. “He was really good with all the jet, orbit, motion stuff they would run.

“He had good hands and ran great routes but he was really good with his hands on the football, and not just after the catch but with his ability to run jet sweeps and reverses he could always make people miss. It was like, ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Every time you came out [on defense], where is he? His ability to line up as a No. 1, 2 or 3 [receiver] and in the backfield is what made it so hard.”

Clawson, whose Demon Deacons played against Boston College three of the past four years, also noted Flowers’ ability to set up routes and understanding of how to separate against man coverage as well find holes against the zone.

Against Louisville, a 34-33 loss that Clawson said Flowers almost won single-handedly for the Eagles, Flowers scored twice, including on a 57-yard bomb on which he caught the ball between two defenders going down the middle and on a 69-yard pass that began with him lined up wide right before employing a double move to get open across the middle. He finished with five catches for a season-high 151 yards and two touchdowns.

“When you watch his film, you just saw such an explosive player on tape who can play inside and out,” Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz said. “[He has] great acceleration. [He’s a] playmaker with the ball in his hands, makes big plays, contested plays downfield.”

Ready to contribute

While rookie wide receivers have historically struggled in the NFL for a variety of reasons — speed of the game, complexity of offenses, adjusting to a new quarterback — that seems less likely to be the case for Flowers. For one, data shows that rookie receiver production has increased across the league over the past four years, according to Sports Info Solutions. For another, Flowers has elements many believe will translate immediately to the next level.

“He’s not just a guy you put in slot and you throw him short passes where he can catch and run,” said Boston College coach and former San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, adding that Flowers was also the hardest working practice player he’s seen in a long time. “He can go up and get it and take the ball away from people. That’s where his biggest improvement was.

“He’s also got this incredible gift where he can sense where people are so quickly that he makes those first couple people miss so fast. He rarely takes a clean shot and he’s harder to take down than you think.”

That includes in his route running. Hafley said that Flowers made big jumps last season in his release off the line as well as his precision and attention to detail in and out of breaks.

While he was rarely pressed at Boston College, Flowers was also utilized all over the field and often sent in motion. The idea was simple: Get him in space.

All of it added up to Flowers putting up big numbers, particularly between the numbers — an area that his new quarterback Lamar Jackson likes to target. It’s also where the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator Todd Monken could use him often.

Last season, Flowers had 56 catches over the middle, according to PFF, with the majority of those coming at short and intermediate depths.

While it’s unclear where the rookies will receiver most of his targets in Baltimore, Flowers did say that Monken’s offense reminds him of what he did at Boston College.

“I love it,” he said. “I think it fits my style perfectly.”

As for where Flowers thinks he can wreak the most havoc this season, he’s not picky.

“I feel like I’m a complete receiver,” he said. “I can do it all.”


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