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Ravens News 7/22: WR Battles and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking all 32 NFL offensive line units ahead of the 2021 season - Steve Palazzolo

12. BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Ravens’ offensive linemen combined for the third-best overall grade in 2019, but the group dropped off to just 23rd last season. Losing starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley to injury was a big part of that decline, as he played only 312 snaps on the year. Stanley has developed into one of the best pass protectors in the game, grading out at 92.8 in 2019 and 91.0 last season. He’s less effective as a run blocker, but he’s recorded a 65.0 grade or better in every year since entering the league in 2016.

Baltimore traded former starting right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, and the team waited until after the draft to replace him with free agent tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva has played left tackle his entire career, so it will be an adjustment moving to the right side. He’s been the model of consistency at the position, grading between 74.0 and 81.2 in each of his past five years while never grading below 77.0 as a pass blocker during that time.

The interior of the Ravens’ offensive line was a weakness in 2020, but they have a potential big upgrade at right guard in Kevin Zeitler. He’s coming off the worst season of his career, but he graded between 73.0 and 89.0 in every season since 2012. Heading into his 10th season, Zeitler has historically been a solid run blocker and an excellent pass protector. It’s worth the risk for Baltimore to see if he can get back to previous form.

Bradley Bozeman returns after starting at left guard after posting a 63.4 grade in 2019, 36th among guards, and a 64.3 grade in 2020, good for 41st. He’ll get a shot at center after the Ravens used three different starters there last year.

Patrick Mekari also returns after he was the top center on the team last season, earning a 66.9 overall grade.

Left guard is now a question mark, though, with Ben Powers, rookie Ben Cleveland, Greg Mancz and Tyre Phillips all in the competition.

The Ravens have a solid all-around offensive line, but they need a smooth transition from Villanueva and improved play on the interior in order to move up the rankings.

NFL Training Camp 2021: Three questions each AFC North team must answer before start of season - Bryan DeArdo

What are the strengths/weaknesses of Baltimore’s re-vamped O-line?

Baltimore suffered a big blow when they were forced to trade away starting Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. this offseason. To help replace Brown, the Ravens signed former Steelers Pro Bowl left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. While he has impeccable durability (his 96 consecutive games played led the Steelers), Villanueva is not as good in pass protection as he was during his Pro Bowl seasons of 2017 and ‘18. He was also part of an offensive line that produced the fewest rushing yards during the 2020 season. Villanueva attributed some of last year’s issues to the Steelers’ predicable offensive game plan. He said that he is also excited to play for a run-oriented team after playing in pass-happy Pittsburgh for the majority of his career.

John Harbaugh will have to choose his new starting left guard before the season-opener. Harbaugh recently called it a “wide open” competition between rookie Ben Cleveland and veterans Ben Powers and Tyre Phillips. Bradley Bozeman, the team’s starting left guard in 2020, is expected to replace Matt Skura (now with the Dolphins) at center. Another fresh face on Baltimore’s offensive line is Kevin Zeitler, a nine-year veteran who was quite possibly the Giants’ biggest cap casualty. Harbaugh offered glowing reviews of both Villanueva and Zeitler during offseason workouts.

Ranking all 32 NFL defensive line units ahead of the 2021 season - Ben Linsey

21. BALTIMORE RAVENS

Much of the Ravens’ pass-rushing success in recent years has been a function of scheme rather than individual talent. And Baltimore lost two of its best individual pass rushers — Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon — in free agency this offseason.

The trio of Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe on the interior is an impressive collection of run-stuffers, though. All three ranked in the 83rd percentile or better at the position in run-defense grade last season.

Training Camp Competition: Wide Receivers - Clifton Brown

Projected Starters

Brown led Baltimore’s wide receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns the past two seasons and is the team’s top deep threat. Healthy and surrounded by more talent, Brown could have his best year. There is heated competition for targets opposite Brown. First-round pick Bateman ran routes impressively during offseason workouts and looks poised to make an immediate impact. Watkins is a talented veteran with 321 catches and 33 touchdowns during his seven-year career, and he has delivered in big games. But Watkins has missed 14 games over the past three seasons and must prove he can stay healthy.

Best Battle

Every rep will be important for Boykin, Duvernay, Proche and Wallace as they compete for a consistent role in the passing game. All of them have an opportunity, but it remains to be seen who will step forward.

Ravens Wide Receivers Will Have Toughest Traning Camp Battle - Todd Karpovich

5. Tylan Wallace

Acquired: Fourth-round selection (131st overall) in the 2021 draft.

Analysis: Wallace, 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, led the Big 12 with 922 yards receiving in 2020. He has the toughness to play in the NFL and will make an impact as a receiver and on special teams as a rookie

Outlook: Probable

6. James Proche

Acquired: Sixth-round selection (201st overall) in 2020 draft,

Analysis: Proch caught just one pass for 14 yards and Proche did an effective job returning punts before being inactive late in the season because of a roster crunch.

Outlook: In the mix/practice squad.

7. Miles Boykin

Acquired: Third-round selection (93rd overall) in 2019 draft.

Analysis: Boykin, 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, was targeted just 33 times and caught 19 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns. The question is what roles does he have in this offense.

Outlook: In the mix/potential trade candidate.

8. Deon Cain

Acquired: Signed reserve/future contract in 2021.

Analysis: Cain is the wild card among this group. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, he has solid size to match up with cornerbacks. Cain was the most impressive wide receiver at the Ravens voluntary practices last week. He caught several passes in traffic and hauled in a touchdown in the corner of the end zone.

Outlook: In the mix/practice squad.