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Preseason Breakout Candidates

The Baltimore Ravens will kick off its 2016 campaign with a preseason contest against the Carolina Panthers this Thursday, August 11th.

Predicting the outcome of preseason games is pointless, but regardless of what people think of them, these matches do provide fans with a chance to see which players have made the most progress throughout training camp.

Taking that into account, let’s have a look at some of the Ravens under the radar players who have a chance to do that in the upcoming preseason slate.

Tavon Young, cornerback

Young is an interesting player, and there are a few reasons that he is a breakout candidate for the team.

Taken in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Young is a defensive back with a competitive attitude and a unique skill set. The knock on him coming out of Temple University was his lack of ideal size (he is listed at 5’10"), but Bucky Brooks of NFL Media said in a pre-draft report that if Young were just a bit taller, teams would have considered taking him much higher.

"The diminutive cover corner flashes outstanding feet and movement skills in drills, yet is even more impressive in coverage." Brooks wrote on a senior bowl report for NFL.com. "Although his size could prevent some teams from viewing him as a potential starter, Young's athleticism and agility could make him an ideal nickel corner in most schemes."

Cornerback Jerraud Powers was brought into the organization via free agency this offseason to presumably start at nickelback, but he is very much a known quantity at this point. With Powers, you are getting a solid veteran starter at best.

Keep an eye on Young during this preseason because if Powers is unable to live up to that already modest billing, Young will likely be the player the coaching staff turns to for help covering the slot.

Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West, running backs

Running back has quickly turned into one of the deepest positions on the Ravens roster. Justin Forsett returns as the starter heading into the season, but two of the backs behind him have received significant buzz throughout training camp.

West was brought in late last season and didn't get much of a chance to show what he could do. Reports out of Owings Mills, Maryland indicate that West has been showing what he can do in spades in this year’s training camp. The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec gave an especially glowing report on West early into Ravens camp.

"West, the former Towson University standout, entered training camp looking to outlast a crowded roster competition at running back, and earn a spot on the team." wrote Zrebiec. "He’s not only been the most impressive back so far, he’s probably been the Ravens’ most explosive offensive player."

If this and countless other reports on West are to be believed, he is certainly a player to keep an eye on over the next month.

Another running back to watch is rookie Kenneth Dixon, who after being drafted in the fourth round from Louisiana Tech, was widely referred to as one of the steals of the draft. After an early injury kept him out of training camp for several practices, Dixon returned with a strong showing in a practice that was open to the fans.

Dixon looked fast, elusive, and noticeably decisive for a rookie. The buzz surrounding Dixon isn't built on many tangible training camp reports, but the talent is clearly there. If Dixon can combine that with the myriad of opportunities he’ll receive in the preseason, he’ll certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

Kamalei Correa, linebacker

Correa’s arrival in Baltimore happened rather quietly; after he was drafted out of Boise State in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the main concern surrounding the player was how to pronounce his name.

As soon as the pads came on, uncertainty surrounding pronunciation gave way to intrigue surrounding his position. Would Correa  be an outside linebacker, or would he see more snaps on the inside? Would he consistently rush the passer, or would his elite athleticism put him into the category of a cover linebacker?

To this day, none of these questions have been totally answered. Why is that? It is because Correa has seemingly played all of these roles at one point or another throughout camp.

The fact that Correa is a bit of an unknown quantity is somewhat frustrating right now for Ravens fans, but despite whatever he is listed at on the team’s depth chart (inside linebacker for the record) he is a football player above all else.

That alone makes "K.C." one of the most intriguing breakout candidates for the 2016 preseason and beyond.