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Ravens News 7/8: Fullback Competition and more

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Baltimore Ravens Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

‘A football guy, through and through’: Rookie FB Ben Mason fits Ravens’ mentality to a tee - Jeff Zrebiec

“Just the perfect fit,” Bredeson said. “He’s going to stand for everything that this team stands for. He’s a football guy, through and through.”

“I think I’ll fit really well into the culture here,” Mason said. “When I walked in, I just saw a bunch of hungry dudes who love football. That’s exactly the type of people I want to be around.”

There are questions about where Mason fits from a roster standpoint as the calendar moves closer to July 28 and the official start of training camp. Even for a team that runs as much as the Ravens, it would be prohibitive to keep two fullbacks on the 53-man roster, especially with the young depth the team will want to maintain at other spots. The Ravens say that Mason, who is 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds, will be utilized in other ways, including at tight end, but he had only three career receptions at Michigan and he had some drops in Baltimore’s offseason workouts. It seems unlikely that the Ravens would cut a rookie fifth-round pick. It, however, is not unprecedented.

“He’s one of the guys who you have to meet to understand,” Bredeson said. “It’s fun to be around him, because he multiplies everybody. He brings everybody up, brings energy to everybody. You look at him and he’s always serious, but he’s got an infectious personality. I see it day in and day out. He can be loud and excited and then he can focus right in and have this 1,000-yard stare and soak everything in. That’s just Ben. He’s ready to go all the time.”

The Ravens Have Tough Decision to Make on Versatile Pat Ricard - Todd Karpovich

“Pat is kind of hybrid fullback-tight end, but he did a lot of tight end-type stuff for us this year, as well,” Ravens GM Eric DeCosta said. “So, it was a different room, it was a different situation this year, and I think the coaches did an awesome job of using the personnel that we had to make us as successful as possible.”

Raven and current 49er Kyle Juszczyk is the highest-paid fullback at $5.4 million per year, Ricard has an argument that he has the same value. The question is whether the Ravens can afford Ricard with other potential deals with quarterback Lamar Jackson and tight-end Mark Andrews.

Baltimore selected Michigan fullback Ben Mason in the fifth round of this year’s draft and he has the same type of versatility as Ricard, but he needs more time to develop.

NFL players on the roster bubble entering 2021 training camps: 32 cut candidates, from veterans to former first-rounders - Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens

Veteran in danger: Andre Smith, OT

Why he could get cut: The No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft opted out last season and then skipped all of the voluntary workouts this offseason, a questionable decision given there’s a prime opportunity for him in Baltimore. The Ravens could use an experienced swing tackle because Ronnie Stanley is coming off season-ending ankle surgery and Orlando Brown Jr. was traded to the Chiefs. Smith participated in mandatory minicamp but will need an impressive training camp to grab one of the final spots on the offensive line.

2021 NFL season: One potential first-time Pro Bowler from each AFC team - Marc Sessler

Baltimore Ravens

J.K. Dobbins

It’s all about how Dobbins closed his rookie adventure. After receiving just 25 totes in September and October, the former Ohio State star put up 651 of his 805 yards down the stretch while finishing with the league’s highest yards-per-carry mark (6.0) among qualified running backs. An ideal fit in Baltimore’s RPO rushing express, Dobbins offers elite vision, powerful, knifing legs that can turn on the jets and college proof as a receiver. He’ll grow in that pass-catching role come autumn and deserves mention as a dark-horse candidate to lead the NFL in touchdowns.

2021 NFL Divisional Power Rankings: NFC West takes top spot, Cowboys in the basement with rest of NFC East - John Breech

2. AFC North

Of all the divisions in the NFL, only one of them sent three teams to the playoffs last year and that was the AFC North, which has consistently been one of the best divisions in football. As a matter of fact, over the past 10 years, there have only been five instances where a division sent three teams to the playoffs and the AFC North has accounted for three of those (2011, 2014, 2020)

Last season was a banner year for the division and there’s a chance that things are only going to get better for everyone in 2021, well, except for maybe the Steelers. On the Browns’ end, Cleveland has finally found a competent coach in Kevin Stefanski, which means the Browns could take a big step forward. The Browns already took a huge step forward with Stefanski — they won their first playoff game since 1994 — but now that they’ve tasted victory, expectations are even higher in Cleveland.

As for the Ravens, they’ve been nearly unstoppable on offense with Lamar Jackson and that will likely continue this season. The Steelers are the team with the biggest question marks in the division and those questions mainly revolve around whether Ben Roethlisberger can make it through an entire season unscathed. If he can, there’s no reason the Steelers can’t return to the playoffs.

The worst team in the AFC North is the Bengals, but they might not be the worst team much longer. With Joe Burrow returning from his ACL injury and a revamped defense, it won’t be surprising if the Bengals win several more games than they did last year.

With the NFL playoffs now open to 14 teams, it will now be possible for a division to send ALL FOUR of its teams to the playoffs, and if the Bengals can improve, the AFC North might be able to make history in 2021.