With rookies reporting for duty earlier this week, the start of training camp is now just several days away. The Ravens are widely recognized as having one of the better rosters in the league and for good reason. However, there’s no such thing as perfect — and the Ravens’ depth chart is not without it’s blemishes.
Ahead of training camp next week, let’s take a look at three areas that are cause for concern.
1) Backup swing tackle
After signing Alejandro Villanueva to replace Orlando Brown Jr., the Ravens’ starting offensive tackle duo is all but established; Villanueva and Ronnie Stanley. Villanueva is a formidable veteran starter with the versatility to play either side of the line, which is an added benefit given Ronnie Stanley’s health is a bit of a question mark.
All signs point to Stanley being fully recovered and ready to go come Week 1. However, if Stanley were absent from the starting lineup and Villanueva slid over to left tackle, who would start for the Ravens at right tackle?
The answer is likely rising sophomore Tyre Phillips, who started eight games last season at both guard and tackle. While showing promise at times, Phillips’ rookie campaign was not without growing pains. As a backup, he’s more than serviceable; be hard to be especially confident in him as a starting tackle for an extended period of time.
The Ravens appear to have faith in Phillips, though, because they opted not to draft an offensive tackle despite having plenty of opportunities to do so. Other OTs on the depth chart include Ju’Waun James, Andre Smith, Foster Sarell and Adrian Early.
James likely won’t be a factor in 2021 as he recovers from an injury. Smith is the most notable name of the remaining bunch, but it’s hard to see him, Sarell or Early making the 53-man roster. There are still some viable free agents hanging around but there’s no indication the Ravens are looking to add another tackle into the mix.
In summary: the Ravens’ best offensive tackle is recovering from a fractured ankle, their other projected starter is new to the system, and they don’t have another established veteran at the position.
It’s not ideal to be thin at a premier position like offensive tackle but the Ravens don’t have great depth at the moment.
2) Edge rusher
One of the biggest topics of discussion surrounding the Ravens this offseason has been the edge rusher position. After losing both Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngaouke in free agency, the Ravens used the draft to swap in rookies Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes.
Re-signing Tyus Bowser ensures the Ravens are comfortable at the starting SAM position, but who lines up opposite Bowser on defense remains to be seen. There have been numerous talks of Baltimore signing a veteran edge rusher still on the market, namely Justin Houston, but so far nothing has come about.
Oweh is a high-ceiling prospect but could need some more refinement and development before taking on a starter-level role. Hayes figures to be more of a rotational piece in Year 1. The other outside linebackers after Bowser include Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson.
McPhee is still a productive defender at age 32 but is at his peak level when his snap count is managed and kept relatively low. Ferguson, entering the third season of his career, is at a pivotal point; he has yet to emerge as a consistent contributor through two seasons but may be called upon with a larger role in 2021.
As a whole, the Ravens’ collection of edge rushers is intriguing and the blend of different skill sets will be interesting to watch unfold. Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale is better at pressuring opposing quarterbacks via scheme and design than just about any other coach in the NFL — but the Ravens still need production from this position group.
3) Safety depth
The Ravens returning starting safety duo of Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott is more than formidable. However, there are questions pertaining to the rest of the depth chart behind them.
Baltimore did not sign a safety in free agency nor did they select a pure safety in the draft; although there have been early talks of Brandon Stephens and/or Shaun Wade converting positions. After Clark and Elliott, the Ravens’ safety corps consists of Anthony Levine Sr., Jordan Richards, Geno Stone, Nigel Warrior and Ar’Darius Washington.
While this a “deep” group on paper, the lack of established talent and experience is cause for concern. Levine Sr. is still a special teams ace and invaluable veteran presence but no longer has the athleticism to play significant defensive snaps. Richards is almost exclusively a special teamer, and the young trio of Stone, Warrior and Washington is unproven. The latter could be a diamond in the rough after surprisingly going undrafted this year but he’s far from a certainty to make the roster.
The fact of the matter is simple; if Elliott or Clark were to miss time with injury, it’s difficult to feel comfortable nor confident about any of the backup safeties stepping into a starting role for more than a pinch.
Which position are you most concerned about on the Ravens’ roster?
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