clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Sizing up the Ravens roster battles at OLB and WR

New, comments

Several players will be fighting for depth chart positioning at these two all-important positions.

NFL: Pro Hall of Fame Game-Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While there figures to be competition at almost every position this offseason, all eyes will be on the Ravens wide receivers and outside linebackers throughout OTA’s, training camp, and into the preseason. Baltimore’s receiving and pass-rushing corps contain more question marks than other areas on the roster.

The Ravens saw two of their three leading receivers (John Brown, Michael Crabtree) and their two top sack-getters (Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith) from last season depart for new teams, although Crabtree was released and is currently still a free agent. To compensate, they added a bevy of new faces via the draft and free agency: Seth Roberts, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Jaylon Ferguson, Shane Ray, and Pernell McPhee. They also scooped up several talented undrafted free agents following the draft.

How will the offseason competition between these players play out?

Wide Receiver

Projected starters: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore

Roster locks: Miles Boykin, Seth Roberts

Candidates: Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, Michael Floyd, Jaylen Smith, Antoine Wesley, Quincy Adeboyejo, Joe Horn Jr.

The Ravens offensive rebuild this offseason begins and ends at the wide receiver position, which has been an area of reoccurring makeover for some time now. The rookie tandem of “Hollywood” Brown and Miles Boykin, Seth Roberts, and returning players Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore are set to occupy the 1-5 spots on the depth chart. However, which guys fill out the last 1-2 spots is anyone’s guess at this point.

Between Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, and Jaylen Smith, as well as Antoine Wesley and Joe Horn Jr, the Ravens have several young options who have yet to prove themselves at the pro level. Recently-signed Michael Floyd has several productive seasons under his belt but has bounced around the league in recent years. Floyd has played on four teams in the past three seasons and has struggled to make an impact since leaving Arizona. Is it possible that he could revitalize his career in Baltimore? Sure, although it doesn’t appear likely.

Undrafted players like Smith and Wesley are in the mix, as well, but I think Lasley will do enough to earn himself another shot. Lasley has a good relationship with Lamar Jackson and appears to be off to a strong start at OTA’s. It wouldn’t be surprising to see any one of these guys make the 53-man roster, though.

Prediction: Chris Moore wins the #3 receiver job, Jordan Lasley beats out Michael Floyd and Jaleel Scott for the sixth spot

Outside Linebacker/Edge Rusher

Projected starters: Matthew Judon, TBD

Roster locks: Jaylon Ferguson, Tim Williams

Candidates: Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, Shane Ray, Markus Jones

In addition to drafting Ferguson and signing McPhee and Ray in free agency, the Ravens also landed undrafted free agent Markus Jones out of Angelo State. Jones is a talented pass-rusher and dominated small-school competition. However, he faces a steep uphill battle to make the 53-man roster with more accomplished names in front of him.

Baltimore is banking on improvement from Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser, the team’s second and third round picks from 2017. Williams and Bowser have yet to make a significant impact through two seasons but will now be asked to play bigger roles on defense. In my humble estimation, Williams is the more talented player and possesses a greater pass-rushing skill set. Bowser could potentially be on the roster bubble depending on how McPhee and Ray perform in training camp and preseason. There’s also the possibility of John Harbaugh and Don Martindale looking to move Bowser to inside linebacker, where the team has less depth. They tried this with Kamalei Correa and while that experiment didn’t work out so well, Bowser’s flashes of coverage skills suggest he could acclimate himself nicely to a shift inside. This seems to be his best chance to stick around, as McPhee and Ray appear to be more potent pass-rushers.

In the end, I envision this course of action occurring. Moving Bowser inside gives the Ravens more depth behind Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young, and also makes it easier for them to keep both McPhee and Ray. McPhee has struggled to find his footing since leaving Baltimore in 2014, but I think he can be productive in Martindale’s scheme. Same goes for Ray, too, granted he can stay healthy. The Ravens are thin on pass-rushers and having multiple bodies available to rotate in-and-out appears is always a plus.

Prediction: Tim Williams wins the starting job opposite Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee & Shane Ray make the 53-man roster, Markus Jones is cut