CAMP NEEDS: Baltimore brought in Watkins to shore up the passing game, and the Ravens also drafted receiver Rashod Bateman in the first round. It’ll be important for Jackson to develop chemistry with those two as quickly as possible. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley’s return from an ankle injury will be worth watching, especially after Baltimore traded Brown to Kansas City for a package of draft picks. There’s also been plenty of chatter about a contract extension for Jackson, although he’s not due to become an unrestricted free agent until 2023. So if there’s no deal before camp, it might not be that big a distraction.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: Coach John Harbaugh said earlier this summer the left guard position was wide open. Baltimore drafted guard Ben Cleveland in the third round. Guard Ben Powers started seven games last season, and Tyre Phillips started eight.
EXPECTATIONS: The Ravens are 35-13 over the past three regular seasons. The question is whether Baltimore can take the next step to contend with Kansas City for a Super Bowl berth. Buffalo and Cleveland are on the rise, and division rival Pittsburgh is coming off a 12-4 season. In a conference where eight teams went at least 10-6 last season, there isn’t much room for error. But the Ravens have a proven running game and a 24-year-old quarterback who has won an MVP. That’s a pretty strong foundation.
Early Projection of the Ravens Final 53-Man Roster - Todd Karpovich
Starters: Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh
Backups: Pernell McPhee, Jaylon Ferguson, and Daelin Hayes
Analysis: The Ravens are bullish on Oweh and he’ll play a key role as a rookie. Bowser re-signed this offseason and could take another step in his development. McPhee, Ferguson and Hayes provide valuable depth.
Starters: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters
Backups: Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett and Shaun Wade
Analysis: The biggest question is how many cornerbacks the Ravens might carry to protect themselves from injuries. Wade is a wild card for playing time. This unit has talent.
Starters: Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott
Backups: Jordan Richards and Brandon Stephens
Analysis: The Ravens could still use more depth, especially at free safety. Ar’Darius Washington is an undrafted rookie and undersized, but has a nose for the football. He’s a player to keep an eye on but is likely headed to the practice squad.
Training Camp Competition: Safety - Ryan Mink
Behind the two starters, it’s a competition to be the top reserve to come off the bench if needed. Levine re-signed this season as a special teams ace and versatile defensive weapon with loads of experience filling in. Richards can also pinch hit and is another special teams pro.
The young safeties are intriguing, especially Stephens as he looks to make another transition in his career. A former running back at UCLA, Stephens switched to cornerback when he transferred to SMU and excelled. Now the Ravens envision him as a possible safety/hybrid considering he has the size, speed, ball skills and tenacity for the position. There’s a lot of learning to do, but Stephens seems to be picking it up well.
Stone was a seventh-round pick of the Ravens last year who was claimed by the Houston Texans but returned to Baltimore this offseason. Washington is an undrafted rookie and Warrior was an undrafted pickup last year who landed on the practice squad.
2021 Ravens training camp preview: Defensive line - Luke Jones
Projected depth chart entering training camp:
5-TECHNIQUE – Calais Campbell, Broderick Washington
NOSE – Brandon Williams, Justin Ellis, Aaron Crawford
3-TECHNIQUE – Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Jovan Swann
Big question: Can this position group fight off Father Time and identify more promise for the future?
No one doubts the ability of these accomplished veterans entering 2021, but durability is a fair concern, especially with Madubuike being the only young option to take advantage of opportunities last season. General manager Eric DeCosta faces tough choices on the future of both Williams and Campbell after the season, but Madubuike building on what he did as a rookie and another youngster like Washington or Crawford emerging as a useful member of the rotation would help make those decisions easier. The Ravens hope new defensive line coach Anthony Weaver will aid in the development of these younger players while managing the snaps of his talented veterans over a long season.
Prediction: Madubuike may not become an official starter until 2022, but he will lead all Baltimore defensive linemen in sacks and receive a starter volume of snaps by the end of his second season with the Ravens.
Pick in 2020 draft: No. 71
Madubuike claimed the title of best rookie defensive tackle in 2020, and his 72.1 PFF grade ranks 15th among first-year interior defenders over the past five seasons. He has some quickness to his game, which allows him to get off, come inside counter moves in pass-rush situations and chase down ball carriers from the backside on runs away from him.
Getting enough reps next year is going to be important. He may not be an every-down starter this season, but he’ll come off the bench and provide a spark. And that might just lead to a full-time role in the near future.