Happy training camp! The Castle is buzzing as the Ravens are back in action to prepare over the next month for the 2021 season. Lets take a bird’s eye view of what the final 53-man roster could look like as we watch Day 1 of camp.
Lock: (1) Lamar Jackson
The franchise, the MVP, and the soon-to-be check casher. Lamar is locked into this spot for a long time in Baltimore.
TC & Preseason pending: (1-2) Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley
Who will be Lamar’s back-up, Trace (Unitas) McSorley, Tyler Huntley, or both? The fellas on the Beatdown Podcast put it pretty well: if you needed a spot start, Trace McSorley would probably be the guy called on. He has that Moxy you look for in a backup quarterback, similar to a Taylor Heinicke. On the other hand, Tyler Huntley has a slighter higher ceiling and a skillset that more resembles Lamar in this offense. So unless one of these two really separates themselves in camp and shines in pre-season action, both will probably be on the 53.
Running Backs (3)
Locks: (3) J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
J.K. Dobbins is now a focal point of the offense. Gus “Bus” Edwards just secured a nice little payday as an important complementary role to both Dobbins & Jackson in the rushing attack. Justice Hill provides some juice in a pinch as the 3rd running back. He also serves as one of the best gunners on special teams. The running back group looks all but set unless the Ravens were to bring in a veteran free agent type (Todd Gurley).
Wide Receivers (6-7)
Locks: (5) Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace
Gone are the days where the Ravens had a Chris Moore or a Marlon Brown battling for a role in the offense. This 2021 wide receiver room is young, talented, and surprisingly deep. Brown, Bateman, and Watkins give the Ravens the best starting group of receivers they have had in a long time. Duvernay is an ideal 4th WR as do-it-all slot, gadget-guy, and an awesome return man. Rookie Tylan Wallace should nab that 5th spot on the depth chart, he has a chance to shine in pre-season action.
TC & Preseason pending: (1-2) Miles Boykin, James Proche
The big question at the wide receiver position is if the Ravens keep six or seven guys, and if only six, who grabs that last spot between Miles Boykin and James Proche? These two bring very different skill-sets to the table.
Boykin has found some success as a red-zone threat with his big frame. His best bet to secure his spot on the roster is due to his strong blocking and special teams prowess. Proche is primary a slot-only receiver with strong hands and some punt return ability. Coach Harbaugh and the Ravens organization do seem to like what Proche brings to the table. But he will really need to have a strong camp and preseason showing for them to want to keep seven wide receivers or for Proche to jump Boykin as the 6th. I do think Proche has a chance to catch on another NFL team as a slot WR if he doesn’t end up making the Ravens.
Tight Ends/Fullbacks (4)
Locks: (3) Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Patrick Ricard
Andrews is Lamar’s security blanket and is looking for his own nice payday, either before the season or after a big 2021 campaign. Boyle was severely missed in this Ravens offense after his scary injury last year. He is the team’s 6th offensive linemen when he is out there and a capable receiver. Ricard is a premier full-back in the league and showed he also has some soft mitts in the Wild Card game versus the Titans.
TC & Preseason pending: (1 of 3) Josh Oliver, Ben Mason, Eric Tomlinson
Most likely the Ravens will want to keep one more in this tight end/fullback group, these are the three names most likely to secure that 4th spot.
Josh Oliver was the 69th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft but the injury bug has limited him to just four career games. He does have an athletic, pass-catching profile and could stick as the 3rd TE with a strong camp & preseason. Ben Mason is pretty much a Pat Ricard clone, but was named a TE when the Ravens drafted him. His draft capital, blocking ability and special teams versatility gives Mason a really good shot to land on the 53-man roster. Tomlinson would be the veteran 3rd tight end, but his blocking-only role gives him less of a chance than Oliver and Mason.
Offensive line (9-10)
Locks: (9) Ronnie Stanley, Ben Cleveland, Bradley Bozeman, Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva, Tyre Phillips, Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers, Ben Bredeson
The offensive line situation for the Ravens seems to be fairly certain in terms of the starters and depth pieces. Four starters are set in stone, Ronnie Stanley (pending 100% health) at left tackle, Bradley Bozeman at center, and the two veteran additions - Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva will man the right guard and right tackle spots. The left guard spot is up for grabs with Ben Cleveland and Tyre Phillips as my two names to watch there. Mekari and the two other Bens (Powers & Bredeson) will provide depth all across the interior.
TC & Preseason pending: (1 of 3) Trystan Colon, Michael Schofield, Andre Smith
The Ravens went with nine linemen last year after camp & pre-season, so nine guys would seem to be a good estimate. If the team did opt to carry a 10th linemen this year, a depth center or swing tackle would be the most likely scenario. Colon was a spot start in two games last year and looked decent. Veterans Schofield, Smith, or a possible camp addition would fit the bill as a depth tackle.
Defensive line (5-6)
Locks: (4) Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike
The Monstars trio of Campbell, Wolfe and Williams return as the presumed starters while being three of the core leaders in the locker-room as well. The baby Monstar in training is Justin Madubuike, who looks primed for a 2nd-year breakout season. The three vets have taken the young d-linemen under their wing and are molding him into a full grown, game-wrecking monster. Look for Madubuike to make this more of a four man starting rotation as the season moves along.
TC & Preseason pending: (1-2) Justin Ellis, Broderick Washington, Aaron Crawford, Chris Smith
The back-up beef on the defensive line will be provided by one or two of these guys above. “Jelly” Ellis is the veteran nose tackle type, Washington & Crawford are a couple young guys with potential, and Chris Smith has a few years of playing experience in the AFC North already.
Outside linebackers (5)
Locks: (5) Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, Pernell McPhee, Daelin Hayes, Jaylon Ferguson
Unless the Ravens were to bring in a proven commodity pass rusher, (Justin Houston or Chandler Jones), this group of five outside linebackers looks fairly set. Fresh off his 4-year deal, Tyus Bowser is still a young & ascending player who has the starting SAM linebacker role locked-up. 1st-round pick Odafe Oweh could have the inside track to the starting RUSH linebacker spot with a solid camp and preseason. Fellow rookie Daelin Hayes is another guy to watch over the next month as it looks like he can get some serious reps backing up Bowser and on special teams. McPhee provides that veteran presence to this group, and “Sack Daddy” Jaylon Ferguson should have another shot after being drafted in the 3rd-round just two years ago.
Inside linebackers (4)
Locks: (3) Patrick Queen, L.J. Fort, Malik Harrison
The 3-man core at inside linebacker will be the same as last year with Patrick Queen, L.J. Fort, and Malik Harrison. The group will aesthetically look different however, as Queen and Fort will be rocking new jersey numbers, #6 & #3. Queen should continue to grow and take that next step as a 3-down linebacker. The guy to watch here in camp is Harrison. He looked the part as a thumper linebacker as a rookie, he should only command more playing time as the year goes on.
TC & Preseason pending: (1 of 3) Chris Board, Otaro Alaka, Kristian Welch
The 4th linebacker spot, and core special teams role will go to one of these three most likely. Chris Board has the inside track as he is entering his 4th year with the Ravens. Board last year showed he is capable rotational backer and blitzer, while being a leader on ST. Alaka made the 53 last year and had a ST role before getting hurt and Welch was the guy who took Alaka’s place.
Locks: (6) Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett, Shaun Wade
Arguably the deepest position on the team and perhaps in the whole NFL, the Ravens cornerbacks are locked and loaded for 2021. Humphrey, Peters, and Smith are the headliners here and will man the top three spots. A healthy Tavon Young is a welcomed back addition as a slot corner, while Anthony Averett really took a step forward last year in place of Young. Rookie Shaun Wade is a guy I'll be watching closely in TC & preseason. His role this year will majority be on special teams, but he has all the talent necessary to be a starting corner for the Ravens in the upcoming years.
TC & Preseason pending: (1-2) Davontae Harris, Iman Marshall, Khalil Dorsey
A cornerback who can really make a name for himself in August and land a spot on this roster is Davontae Harris. He joined the Ravens mid-season last year and really showed some flashes, especially in that “Covid game” versus the Steelers where the Ravens were missing half their team. Former 4th round pick Iman Marshall has one last shot to make an impact now that he is fully healthy.
Locks: (4) Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Brandon Stephens, Anthony Levine
Going from the deepest position on the team to perhaps the thinnest, the safeties. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are a really solid safety duo that provide interchangeable abilities in coverage and run support. But after those two, there is a lot of uncertainly of who can be the next guy up. Could that spot belong to rookie 3rd-round pick Brandon Stephens? It would be a tall ask for a guy who is still relatively new to the defensive back position. Stephens will be so fascinating to watch this next month as the Ravens obviously see a ton of potential in him. Anthony “Co-Cap” Levine should have his special teams and safety/linebacker role locked up as well.
TC & Preseason pending: (1-2) Jordan Richards, Nigel Warrior, Geno Stone, Ar’Darius Washington
The Ravens could potentially look to keep a couple more safeties to have a little more depth than usual. Richards is the vet and a core special teamer type. Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz said on the Defensive preview podcast that Nigel Warrior could possibly secure the 3rd safety role. Warrior is certainly a guy to watch this next month, along with undrafted rookie Ar’Darius Washington. Washington is a bit undersized but has the playmaking ability to snag a roster spot if he shows out during camp & preseason action.
Special Teams (3)
Locks: (3) Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Nick Moore
The wolf-pack is sadly no more as long-snapper Morgan Cox has moved onto the Titans. Nick Moore is on the roster currently and should have some other competition during camp as well. The dynamic duo of Justin Tucker and Sam Koch are of course locked-in as two of the best in the game.