It’s finally here, ladies and gentleman. As the first Ravens first training camp practice commences, so too does the beginning of arguably the most-anticipated period of the NFL offseason. This time around, there is more buzz and excitement surrounding Baltimore than there has been in quite some time.
Here are six developments to keep an eye on throughout training camp. Of course, these aren’t the only aspects to watch for, but these six are of added importance.
1) Lamar Jackson’s development
Jackson has been working hard this offseason to fine-tune different aspects of his game, including footwork, hand placement, accuracy, and consistency in his throwing motion. While he showed some progress in OTA’s and minicamp, it’s hard to jump to any conclusions given the intensity in said portions of offseason work are light and don’t include pads. Training camp won’t tell us everything about where Jackson is in his development, but it’ll give us a much better idea. Unlike last year, Jackson will be taking all the first-team reps throughout camp and will face the starting defense.
2) Marquise Brown’s progression and integration
As he continues to work his way back from a lisfranc injury, all eyes will be on rookie receiver and first-round pick Marquise Brown. “Hollywood” did not participate fully in OTA’s and minicamp but did some light walk-through work. While he’s been working out routinely at the team facility and on his own time, nothing can truly prepare you for in-game action like suiting up with pads and playing at full speed.
Upon reporting for training camp early with the other rookies, Brown failed the original conditioning test and was placed on the non-injury football list. There’s much anticipation surrounding the following questions ahead of TC: Will Brown be limited at all by his injury? How will he mesh with Lamar Jackson? How quickly can he acclimate himself to Greg Roman’s offense? Will he step in as the #1 receiver?
3) Edge rusher competition
One of the few starting spots up for grabs prior to the start of the regular season is at outside linebacker, where only Matthew Judon is a safe, established bet. The importance of having a good pass-rush cannot be overstated and the Ravens defense is losing a combined 15.5 sacks between Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith. Baltimore is looking to their returning youngsters (Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser), free-agent signings (Pernell McPhee, Shane Ray), and third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson to replace said production.
Each of these guys possess different skill sets and are talented but are not without their flaws, too. Heading into training camp, however, all five of them are on a relatively even playing field, meaning any standout performance over the next couple weeks could give anyone a leg up on the starting job ahead of the start of the preseason in early August.
4) Wide receiver competition
The top of Baltimore’s wide receiver depth chart is all but set: Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore, Miles Boykin, and Marquise Brown - in no particular order. However, the remaining 2-3 receiver spots, assuming the Ravens opt to keep at least six receivers on the roster, are up for grabs. There’s an interesting mix of veterans and young players vying for roster spots at WR, although none of them are in contention for starting roles. Still, while the likes of Seth Roberts and Michael Floyd are more proven commodities than say, Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, there’s no telling who will emerge from the pack to solidify their chances.
5) Left guard competition
Perhaps the most interesting position battle to see unfold will be at left guard, which may be the weakest spot along the Ravens offensive line. Last season, Alex Lewis began the year as the starter but after suffering a back injury, James Hurst and Bradley Bozeman also saw playing time at that spot. These three players are again in the mix for the starting job, although there’s two new names to keep an eye on: Jermaine Eluemunor and Ben Powers, the latter of which was drafted in the fourth round this year.
Lewis is currently on the PUP list and his timeline is unclear as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. Eluemunor saw the majority of first-team reps in OTA’s and minicamp, and it’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues into training camp. Bozeman showed flashes last season, Hurst is a versatile swing player, and Powers is a highly-touted rookie. There’s far more clarity at the other four spots along the offensive line, so the pressure is on one of these guys stepping up to seize the starting job at left guard.
6) Greg Roman’s offensive scheme
Much has been made about the Ravens new-look offense this offseason, and it starts at the helm with Greg Roman. Promoted to offensive coordinator soon after the conclusion of the season, Roman has redesigned the playbook and scheme this spring and summer, essentially starting from scratch. Perhaps the only certainty about the offense is that it will be run-heavy, but to what extent remains to be seen. We can also expect to see the utilization of RPO’s, read-options, and other modernized concepts. Getting a grasp on what the offense will be has been a murky proposition thus far, but training camp should bring far more clarity and provide a better idea as to what to expect.