Baltimore Ravens training camp will kick off at the ‘Castle’ in Owings Mills on July 26th. It is a pivotal time for the respected franchise as they look to snap a two-season playoff absence.
Ordinarily, the preseason lacks much intrigue for the Ravens because they are usually a veteran team with few starting gigs or roster spots up for grabs. This summer, however, Baltimore has uncertainty at several positions, including center, right tackle, tight end, defensive end, inside linebacker and slot corner.
Five bold predictions:
- Marlon Humphrey will serve as the starting slot corner
The athletic first round pick was drafted to be an outside corner, but the injury to promising cover man Tavon Young changes the equation. With teams lining up in nickel formation on roughly 60-percent of all plays, slot corner has become a crucial position. With elite agility, quickness, burst and aggressiveness against the run, Humphrey has the ideal skillset to man the slot. His performance in training camp will allow the Ravens to put their three most talented corners on the field, making veteran journeyman Brandon Boykin unnecessary.
- DT Carl Davis will be traded for a future draft pick
Seven defensive lineman is simply too many to roster, especially since Baltimore has several capable outside linebackers who can put their hand in the dirt for passing situations. Davis, a former third round selection entering his third year, has made minimal contributions for the team. And the Ravens have a pair of dominant block eaters in Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. Davis may not appear to have much trade value on the surface, yet a few teams, including the Broncos, Raiders and Saints, need a run stuffing tackle. Plus, general manager Ozzie Newsome always seems to surprise by trading a lesser known players from the trenches for draft capital.
- Maurice Canady will win the punt returner job
The returner job has been in flux since Jacoby Jones was released, and this offseason is no different. The top contenders for the job are injury plagued Michael Campanaro and developmental project Keenan Reynolds. The bet here is that the Ravens finally lose patience with Campanaro’s chronic injury issues while Reynolds spends another season on the practice squad learning the receiver position. Canady appears to be guaranteed a roster spot for his defensive ability at cornerback, but also has punt return skills. He returned punts during his senior season at Virginia, posting a 25.2 yard average and a score. A rotation of backup receivers and running backs will suffice for kickoff returns since most result in touchbacks. Handing Canady the punt return job will allow the Ravens to carry an additional red zone threat, probably Chris Matthews, at wideout.
- UDFA WR Quincy Adeboyejo will make the final roster
The prototypical size-speed prospect with a 4.42 second 40-yard dash time at 6’3”, Adeboyejo was a productive receiver for the Ole Miss Rebels. His college stats include 1,454 yards and eleven touchdowns. Quincy excels as a vertical receiver and could eventually develop into a starter if he can refine his route running. His skillset is an ideal match for Joe Flacco’s big arm and a play action focused gameplan. Between Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Danny Woodhead and even tight end Maxx Williams, the Ravens have plenty of options for the slot. Adeboyejo will not only make the squad, he will overtake Chris Moore for snaps as the fourth receiver down the stretch this year
- De’Ondre Wesley will emerge as the starter at right tackle
Right tackle is shaping up as the Achilles heel for the 2017 Ravens. The front office would love to acquire a proven veteran, but quality options available on the open market are quite slim at this point in the offseason. James Hurst is currently running with the first team, but anyone who has monitored his play understands he is best utilized as the backup swing tackle and extra blocker in heavy formations. Fellow developmental tackle Stephane Nembot is reportedly slightly ahead of Wesley in the pecking order right now. However, this should change once De’Ondre rounds into playing shape after pervious injuries. At 6’6” 325, Wesley has the ideal size and strength for Greg Roman’s power blocking scheme.