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Ravens News 7/29: Tumultuous training camp and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Experienced Ravens should be able to navigate tumultuous offseason - Todd Karpovich

The lack of offseason practice time could hinder some of the creativity with the playbooks, but the Ravens should still be able to run at teams just like last year.

The offensive line has four of five starters back on the offensive line, including a pair of Pro Bowl tackles in Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr.

Baltimore has a pair of talented tight ends with Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. The Ravens are young at wide receiver, but Marquise Brown was healthy throughout this offseason and is primed for a breakout performance.

The Ravens secondary led by three Pro Bowlers with cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, along with safety Earl Thomas, is also already ranked among the best in the league.

Finally, the Ravens have coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Don Martindale and special teams coach Chris Horton back and that should help continuity ,,, and could make a huge difference when the season kicks off Sept. 13.

NFL secondary rankings: All 32 units entering the 2020 NFL season - Steve Palazzolo

1. BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Baltimore Ravens have a talented and versatile group of defensive backs, but they also have a defensive scheme that uses them to attack unlike any other in football.

The Ravens led the league in blitz rate last season (41%), but they also led in the percentage of six- and seven-man rushes. Six different defensive backs on the team rushed the passer at least 15 times, with safety Chuck Clark being sent to attack 106 times over the year, the most among defensive backs in the league.

Marlon Humphrey is one of the best corners in the league in man coverage, with only Stephon Gilmore having a higher PFF grade in single-coverage situations last season. Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith represent one of the best corner trios in the league, while Tavon Young will be hoping to make it back from injury and contribute.

The cornerback group is also backed up by talented safeties. Earl Thomas III has been the prototype for the single-high free safety for his entire career, but he has been given more opportunities to line up all over the field in Baltimore. Thomas blitzed more times his first year with the Ravens (57) than he did the previous seven years combined (36). And while his all-or-nothing style of play can sometimes leave some holes — particularly in run fits — he is still a playmaker and changes the dynamic on defense and what offenses need to worry about.

The Ravens have an elite defense that has been built back to front, with resources plowed into the secondary as more and more evidence surfaces as to the importance of coverage.

Ravens’ crowded backfield is NFL’s most talented, but they love it - Jamison Hensley

Won’t this cause a problem of trying to keep four running backs happy?

“Is that really a problem to have four guys that are capable of breaking off big runs and making guys miss?” coach John Harbaugh asked. “I think that’s going to be a plus. There’s certainly going to be competition for carries and they are certainly going to have to prove themselves as blockers and pass-catchers and special-teams guys. There are roles there for those guys.”

The Ravens are touting the combination of Ingram, Dobbins, Edwards and Hill as a “four-headed monster.” It’s rare, although not unprecedented, to get quality production from four running backs in the same season.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, just two teams in the past 10 years have had four running backs with at least 300 yards rushing in a season: the New Orleans Saints in 2011 (Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Ingram) and the New England Patriots in 2014 (Jonas Gray, LeGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley). The Saints and Patriots both won 12 or more games and captured the division title in those seasons.

“Coach Roman is just committed to it. It seems like coach Harbaugh is committed to it,” Edwards said. “Everybody is just throwing around a ‘four-headed monster.’ I think everybody really wants to do it. That’s the first step and we’ll see where it goes. I’m excited, it’s a chance to make history.”

Ravens’ Most Important Training Camp Ever - John Eisenberg

The Ravens have a lot to accomplish between now and their regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 13, and they’re going to have to accomplish it all in training camp at Owings Mills.

Some analysts predict the circumstances will produce a rough start to the season across the league in terms of quality of play. If so, the Ravens really want to minimize it, as the stakes couldn’t be higher. They’re widely regarded as top-tier Super Bowl contenders.

No doubt, if they can check off some or most items on their training camp to-do list in the coming weeks, the possibilities are rich.

Meanwhile, there’s the elephant in the room looming over all – the importance of players buying into what they have to do to keep themselves healthy and keep the season on track. It goes without saying that training camp will be a key adjustment period as they become accustomed to repeated testing, distancing measures, etc.

It’s a lot to take on, with a lot at stake … important stuff unfolding in the dead of summer with an eye toward playing big games in the dead of winter.