Ravens camp has not failed to bring excitement so far. With a few weeks to go until the regular season begins, yes, it’s coming, the action figures to continue to heat up (while hopefully the weather doesn’t). But what have we learned about the team up to this point?
The Ravens will keep four running backs
Justin Forsett, Javorius “Buck” Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon were all locks to make the roster before training camp began. I, as well as many others, didn’t see the Ravens keeping more than three backs, boy were we wrong. Terrance West has gone from an afterthought to legitimately in the starting running back conversation. He has been stellar in training camp, and shined against the Panthers in game action. West is exactly the kind of physical back the Ravens want, but he showed in the Panthers game to be quicker and be more shifty than in past years.
The Ravens could still only keep three running backs by cutting one of the original three locks. Based on recent performance, that would probably be Buck Allen. But it would be very unlikely for the Ravens to cut any of Forsett, Allen or Dixon, West may just force the Ravens to take another back.
The returner competition may not be as wide open as we thought
Coming into camp, Keenan Reynolds and Michael Campanaro seemed to be the favorites to the Ravens return man. I was a firm believer that Reynolds was the guy the Ravens were looking for, but his transition from quarterback to wide receiver/returner has been rough.
Although players like Kaelin Clay (who was cut due to muffing a punt) and Tavon Young have had opportunities, Campanaro has set himself apart. Campanaro has been more consistent in catching the ball, as well as more explosive than his competition. As long as Campanaro can stay on the field, which he has struggled mightily with, he will win the job, easily.
Kamalei Correa will win the starting inside linebacker job
Albert McClellan currently sits in line to take over Daryl Smith’s old role, but don’t expect him to stay long. Zachary Orr is a middle linebacker who the Ravens have moved to outside linebacker while Elvis Dumervil (and at the time of the first depth chart release, Terrell Suggs) is injured. Neither Orr or McClellan were particularly impressive in the first game.
Therefore, Kamalei Correa will prove to be the guy. Correa is so much more versatile than Orr or McClellan, and the Ravens covet versatility. It has been heavily reported that Correa is a perfect compliment to incumbent C.J. Mosley’s skill set. Correa will prove to be the guy by Week 1.
The Ravens have the depth to deal with injuries
Injuries have been a consistent story throughout training camp, both for good an bad reasons. Many players suffered injuries at the begging of camp, or started out on the PUP list. However, this week, the injured Ravens have been returning to the field. But while these players were gone, the guys on the field have looked great.
Likely backups such as wide receiver Chris Moore, running back Kenneth Dixon, and quarterback Ryan Mallett, have shown the ability to keep the team afloat if key starters go down with injuries again. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome worked hard to add depth all over the field, and, while only the preseason, it already looks like he hit it out of the ball park.
The Ravens have the best group of pass rushers in the AFC North
Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Willie Henry, and Matt Judon are a few of the guys the Ravens have that can collapse the pocket. The defensive front may be the Ravens strongest area, and it will show in full force.
While the secondary isn’t where the team would like it to be right now, the boys up front will be able to put the quarterback under pressure and help the secondary out. In the game against the Panthers, Matt Judon, the Ravens fifth round pick in the 2016 draft, was all over the field, stopping running backs behind the line, and putting pressure on the quarterback.
To be able to slow the Bengals and Steelers offenses, a team will have to constantly be putting pressure on the QB, and the Ravens look to have just the group of guys to do that. Pittsburgh’s defense just isn’t what is used to be. The Bengals have Geno Atkins, who might be the best defensive player in the division, but they don’t have the the Ravens. Oh yeah, I forgot about the Browns. Their pass rush is not particularly scary, and that may even be an understatement.
The season is looking really exciting, can Week 1 get here already?