Ravens training camp preview: What to expect from Lamar Jackson, new WRs and more on offense - Jonas Shaffer
Huntley enters camp as the slight favorite for the backup job. Despite a scrapped offseason program, he outperformed McSorley for much of camp last season, and in offseason workouts this spring, he maintained a slight edge. As a runner, Huntley has solid speed and impressive open-field vision. As a passer, he has a loping windup, but he’s shown he can spread the ball downfield and out wide, and do so accurately. (He left Utah in 2020 with the school record for career completion percentage.) McSorley impressed as a rookie in preseason action, but the in-game scrutiny will be greater now, especially if he’s asked to lead the first-team offense. Turnovers could be the decisive factor in the competition.
There might not be a wide receiver who stands to benefit more from the Ravens’ coaching makeover than Miles Boykin, who’s struggled to find his niche in the team’s passing game. In the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin, a 2018 third-round pick, first-year wide receivers coach Tee Martin and pass game specialist Keith Williams have a big, strong and fast pupil — one who doesn’t seem to get open very often in games, and isn’t often targeted when he does (33 targets in 2020). If a roster spot comes down to Boykin and James Proche II, as many expect it will, Boykin’s special teams value could give him the upper hand. But a poor camp, where he excelled last season, would complicate the Ravens’ calculus. They probably won’t take more than six wide receivers into the season.
How will the Ravens shape their defensive backfield?
The Ravens’ deepest position is cornerback and they’ve also given themselves this offseason a few more safety options, although they are unproven. Let’s take injuries out of the equation for a second, even though that’s wishful thinking given the team’s health history at cornerback. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and Anthony Averett are the team’s top five corners. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are the starting safeties. Rookie third-round defensive back Brandon Stephens will likely be used in matchup situations.
That’s eight defensive backs perceived as roster locks and we still haven’t touched on rookie fifth-round corner Shaun Wade, who needs to be developed; undrafted second-year corner Khalil Dorsey, who has made a strong impression on team officials; former fourth-round pick Iman Marshall, who first needs to get healthy; core special teamers Levine, Richards and Harris; and young safeties Geno Stone, Nigel Warrior and Ar’Darius Washington.
The Ravens have an abundance of options and they won’t be able to keep them all. As mentioned above, special-teams considerations will play a major factor here and so, too, could positional flexibility. Regardless, this is shaping up to be the spot where the toughest decisions will have to be made. The Ravens will likely be forced to say goodbye to a veteran or two, along with a few young defensive backs with potential.
Training Camp Competition: Linebacker - Ryan Mink
It’s not really about who the “starter” is and there aren’t too many questions marks about depth spots. The real competition is to see who steps into bigger roles, particularly at outside linebacker. The Ravens need somebody to step up and replace some of the quarterback pressure and sacks that walked out the door with Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. Who will that be?
If Oweh, a super-talented first-round rookie, gets up to speed quickly at training camp, he could become a major part of the rotation. The Ravens already view him as a premier run-stopper, so if he develops as a pass rusher, Oweh could see a lot of snaps. Ferguson is the other young player the Ravens are looking to see emerge in training camp. Entering his third season, it’s time for the third-round pick to show why he finished as the NCAA’s career sack leader.
AFC under-the-radar training camp battles 2021: Raiders’ former first-rounders clash at safety and more - Jonathan Jones
The Ravens have so many different formations and looks that it’s hard to say what exactly this competition is outside of “the inside linebacker that’s not Patrick Queen.” Wink Martindale had a healthy rotation at this spot last year among Chris Board, L.J. Fort and Malik Harrison, with Fort getting the most snaps of the trio followed by Harrison and then Board. Fort and Harrison were the top choices on early downs for the Ravens while Board got more than a third of his snaps on third down alone. On third down he had 2.5 sacks and eight pressures. If Board can show improvement as a run-stopper this camp, he could see more time on earlier downs.
“I’ve always had a close relationship with all my quarterbacks,” Bozeman said. “It’s very important to have that open line of communication, for him to be able to come to me and say, ‘Your snap was off high left.’ And I can come to him and say, ‘Your hand placement needs to be more to your right, you need to be more firm.’ It’s huge to be able to communicate those things. Him and I are responsible for making things right. He’s got the receivers and I’ve got the o-line.”
NFL Power Rankings: As training camps begin, the Super Bowl contenders and pretenders - Lindsay Jones
2020 regular-season/playoff finish: 11-5, divisional loss to Bills
This time last year, Lamar Jackson was facing what were probably unfair expectations of how he’d follow up his MVP performance from 2019. Now, we’re a year further into the Jackson era in Baltimore, and it’s going to be interesting to see where the Ravens’ offense goes next. Baltimore has overhauled and seemingly improved its receiver corps, with the addition of first-round pick Rashod Bateman and veteran Sammy Watkins, but the offensive line is in flux, too, after the trade that sent tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City.
What I’m watching in camp: Seven-on-sevens will be a must-watch to get a sense of what the Ravens’ passing game looks like after these significant changes.