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Ranking the Ravens strongest position groups

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens had an active offseason, adding new faces in the draft and free agency while simultaneously seeing other ones depart for new teams. As a result, many of the position groups up and down the roster look a bit different than they did in 2019.

How does each position stack up in terms of talent? Let’s take a look and break it down.

1) Quarterback

The only appropriate place to begin this conversation is at the quarterback position. It’s a good thing for the signal-caller spot to be one of the strongest on your roster, and the Ravens have this luxury afforded to them.

Lamar Jackson established himself as one of the league’s top quarterbacks last season but the team’s depth behind him further solidifies the strength of the position. Robert Griffin III is the perfect scheme fit behind Jackson and Trace McSorley showed promise as a potential future backup down the line.

UDFA Tyler Huntley also fits the mobile quarterback mold and could potentially push McSorley for a roster spot.

2) Cornerback

You could make the argument for running back to be listed here at No. 2, but it’s hard to snub cornerback from the second spot.

The Ravens are talented and deep at the cornerback position, even after losing Brandon Carr in free agency. Re-signing veteran Jimmy Smith gives the Ravens a fourth corner that is starter-caliber, a list that includes Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Tavon Young.

Humphrey and Peters are coming off All-Pro seasons while Young, health-permitting, has a chance to re-emerge as one of the league’s top nickel cornerbacks in 2020. Anthony Averett and Iman Marshall are primarily special teams contributors but possess the upside to develop into impact players on defense.

Averett played extended snaps early in 2019 and struggled a bit while Marshall spent the first half of the season on injured reserve.

3) Running Back

After drafting Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins in the second round, the Ravens already-strong running back core is now even more formidable. Baltimore is four-deep at the position now between Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and the aforementioned Dobbins.

Ingram made the Pro Bowl last season after scoring 15 touchdowns and rushing for over 1,000 yards, while Edwards was one of the most productive and efficient backups in the league. Hill showed promise towards the end of his rookie campaign, too.

Any one of Ingram, Edwards or Dobbins could start on a bevy of rosters around the NFL, while Hill would be higher than fourth on most team’s depth charts.

This group is even stronger when factoring in the presence of Pat Ricard, who established himself as one of the NFL’s top fullbacks in 2019 and made his first Pro Bowl appearance.

4) Safety

Tony Jefferson is no longer in the picture at the safety position for the Ravens, but it remains a strong group nevertheless.

Earl Thomas III made a strong impact in his first season with Baltimore. Thomas patrolled the backend of the defense and allowed only 87 receiving yards in primary coverage on the year. He also played a career-high 264 snaps in the box and recorded career-best numbers in sacks (two) and QB hits (six).

Chuck Clark earned himself a three-year contract extension after stepping into a starting role when Jefferson suffered season-ending ACL surgery. Clark assumed play-calling duties on defense and played consistent, disciplined football.

Clark’s PFF coverage grade of 81.9 placed him just one spot behind Thomas among all qualified safeties, and both players finished in the Top-10. Behind Clark and Thomas, the Ravens have a strong trio of depth in veteran Anthony Levine Sr., who was re-signed to a one-year deal, DeShon Elliott and rookie Geno Stone.

5) Tight End

Based on top-end talent alone, tight end should probably be higher on this list. Mark Andrews is arguably a top-five player at the position, at least in terms of pass-catchers, while Nick Boyle is widely considered the league’s best blocking tight end. This duo is among the best the NFL has to offer.

Most teams don’t have great depth at tight end anyways, but swapping out Hayden Hurst in favor of someone like Charles Scarff or Jacob Breeland is a noticeable downgrade. Hurst was an important cog in the Ravens offense as both as an in-line blocker and complimentary receiving threat.

Having Andrews and Boyle is a great luxury and as long as those two can stay healthy, the Ravens will be fine. However, losing Hurst is still a blow to the tight end depth.

6) Offensive Line

Baltimore’s offensive line was one of the best units in the NFL last season, but the group will look a bit different in 2020.

The biggest blow dealt to the Ravens this offseason was losing Marshal Yanda. In the wake of his retirement, the Ravens added a number of potential replacements at the interior offensive line spots in the draft and free agency.

Who will start at center and right guard is up in the air heading into training camp. Any combination could emerge from a crowded group of Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari, D.J. Fluker, Ben Powers, Ben Bredeson and Tyre Phillips.

Luckily, the Ravens are set at both tackles position with Pro Bowl talent. Ronnie Stanley was the league’s best pass-protector last season and Orlando Brown Jr. emerged as a high-end starter at right tackle. Bradley Bozeman should remain the team’s starting left guard, but it’s possible that the coaching staff could explore moving him over to center, too.

7) Defensive Line

Eric DeCosta made concentrated upgrades to the Ravens’ defensive line this offseason. The Ravens traded for Calais Campbell, signed FA Derek Wolfe and drafted a pair of defensive tackles - Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr.

DeCosta also re-signed incumbent free agents Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis, further adding to a now extremely crowded group on the front-seven.

Campbell is an established All-Pro talent who, even approaching age 35, is one of the league’s premier run defenders and interior pass-rushers. Wolfe posted a career-high seven sacks in 2019 despite playing in only 12 games. The duo will step in as starters alongside Brandon Williams, who’s set to slide over to his more natural position of nose tackle.

Ward, Madubuike, Washington, Ellis and rising sophomore Daylon Mack make up the rest of the depth chart. It’s unclear how many defensive lineman the Ravens will seek to keep but Ward and Maduibuke are likely the only “safe” bets of the group.

8) Edge Rusher

Maybe the only position with no overturn between 2019 and 2020 is edge rusher, where the Ravens’ four contributors from last season are returning.

Matthew Judon was retained in free agency via the franchise tag and will look to build upon a career-best campaign last season. Judon will be flanked by either Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser or Pernell McPhee.

McPhee started the beginning portion of the 2019 season before suffering season-ending surgery, but not before racking up three sacks and six QB hits. The Ravens re-signed McPhee to a one-year deal, which solidified their depth at the position.

In his absence, youngsters Ferguson and Bowser stepped into larger roles. If either one of them, or both, can take a significant step forward this season, it will add another dimension to the Ravens defense.

9) Linebacker

The Ravens overhauled their linebacker core this offseason in a big way. The only returning contributor from 2019 is L.J. Fort, who may be tasked with a larger role next season given he’s now the lone veteran on the depth chart.

Out of the picture are last year’s starters, Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes, who were replaced in the draft with a pair of rookies - Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison.

Queen, the team’s first-round pick, figures to step into an every-down role given his combination of athletic ability, intangibles and versatility. Harrison is more of a natural run-stopper but his limitations in coverage suggest he’ll be splitting time with Fort as the “MIKE” linebacker on the field.

Behind this trio is Chris Board and Otara Alaka, who will be battling to retain their roster spot. Board is an established special teams ace while Alaka missed the entirety of his rookie campaign last year with an injury.

10) Wide Receiver

Objectively, it’s hard to argue that wide receiver should be higher on this list.

Last season, the Ravens receiving core ranked near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories. Given the usage of running backs and tight ends in the offense, though, it’s not too surprising.

The biggest X-factor with this position group is Marquise Brown, who appears primed for a breakout sophomore season. Brown was the team’s most productive wideout last year and had a few big performances, but was limited due to having surgically-placed screws in his foot.

Brown shouldn’t have any limitations in 2020 and has all the tools to establish himself as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. If fellow rising sophomore Miles Boykin can also take a step forward, the two could form a formidable duo.

The Ravens re-signed Willie Snead IV, who will retain his role as the team’s starting slot receiver. He could potentially be pushed for snaps, though, by either of the rookie receivers drafted in the middle rounds - Devin Duvernay and James Proche.