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Ravens’ position battles to keep an eye on in the preseason

Which areas should you key in on tonight?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens Rookie Minicamp Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

The preseason is finally here. Fans of all teams will finally get a look at their team’s roster in action against other teams for the first time in months.

For the Ravens, fans will have focus on the passing game, offensive line, and the young pass rushers on defense. In this article, I will go over specific position battles to keep track of during the preseason for Baltimore.

Backup Quarterback

For the first time in his career, quarterback Lamar Jackson will not have veteran Robert Griffin III backing him up. This leaves the backup quarterback position up for grabs between third-year sixth-round pick Trace McSorley and second-year UDFA Tyler Huntley. It is possible that the Ravens will carry three quarterbacks on the roster — as they have the previous three seasons — but it will be hard to do so this year with the influx of talent at various positions.

Both McSorley and Huntley saw playing time last season, albeit very little. McSorley had three completions for 90 yards and a touchdown while Huntley completed three passes for 15 yards. Huntley provides much more as a rusher, but McSorley is capable of running as well. McSorley also has more experience with the offense but Huntley has more years remaining under a rookie contract.

Expect to see a ton of each quarterback this preseason in a battle that could go down to the final game.

Left Guard

Baltimore potentially shored up the right guard position by signing veteran Kevin Zeitler, and the center position by moving Bradley Bozeman from left guard. The Ravens must now find the best player among a bevy of options to fill in at left guard.

The main candidates appear to be rookie Ben Cleveland, Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, and Ben Bredeson. Cleveland was presumed to find his way onto the field as a rookie after being drafted in the third round, but Head Coach John Harbaugh is notorious for making rookies sit in favor of experience. Phillips and Powers are the only two of the bunch with in-game experience, as both spent time at right guard last season.

No. 6 Wide Receiver

The Ravens added much-needed firepower to their receiving corps this offseason in the form of first-rounder Rashod Bateman, fourth-rounder Tylan Wallace, and veteran free agent Sammy Watkins. For the first time in years, Baltimore appears to have a deep group of wide receivers.

This leads to stiff competition for the final spot, assuming that Wallace is a lock behind Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Watkins, Bateman, and Devin Duvernay.

If the Ravens go with six receivers on the final roster, then the final spot will likely be between second-year sixth-round pick James Proche and third-year third-round pick Miles Boykin.

After barely seeing the field and only catching one pass as a rookie, Proche has been one of the stars of training camp. Meanwhile, Boykin has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Boykin disappointed after failing to take much of a step forward in his second season and seemingly struggles to get on the same page as Jackson in the passing game. While he is a great run blocker, Boykin could lose his spot on the team if Proche impresses in the preseason.

No. 3 Tight End

Baltimore opted to only go with two tight ends to start the season last year in Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. The Ravens could go back to using three tight ends if a player impresses enough to make the roster this preseason, especially considering that Boyle is still rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury and is unlikely to start the season. Fullback Patrick Ricard has been used as a tight end at times and fellow fullback rookie fifth-round pick Ben Mason could see time at the position as well.

The list of players competing for the third tight end role includes Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Eli Wolf, and Tony Poljan. Oliver — who Baltimore traded a conditional 2022 seventh-round pick for — has been a standout in camp thus far with his athleticism and pass-catching ability. Tomlinson spent time on the active roster last season following Boyle’s injury, helping to fill Boyle’s blocking role in the offense. Wolf and Poljan, undrafted in 2020 and 2021 respectively, have yet to play in an NFL game.

This battle will likely come down to Oliver and Tomlinson and whether the Ravens value receiving or blocking ability more from their third tight end.

Safety depth

Beyond starters Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott, Baltimore has nothing but question marks at the safety position. Rookie third-round pick Brandon Stephens should be a lock to make the roster, but behind him is a crowded competition between the likes of Geno Stone, Jordan Richards, Nigel Warrior, Ar’Darius Washington, and even longtime special teams standout Anthony Levine Sr. The Ravens will at most only carry five safeties on the roster.

Levine has long been a leader on the team and is the current captain of special teams, but his contributions on defense have dwindled recently. Stone was drafted by the Ravens in the seventh round of the 2020 draft but has already spent time with another team after being claimed off waivers as a rookie. Washington is the name to watch in this group, as many were surprised to see the TCU playmaker go undrafted.

Cornerback depth

Another position that will be hotly contested for the last few roster spots is cornerback. The Ravens have their top five locked in already in Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, and Anthony Averett. The battle for the last one or two spots will be between Khalil Dorsey, Davontae Harris, Shaun Wade, Iman Marshall, and Chris Westry.

Dorsey and Harris both spent time with the team last season. Wade was a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and is a potential backup plan at slot corner if Young goes down. Marshall has spent the majority of his first two seasons on injured reserve since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Westry — undrafted in 2019 — has received the most praise of the bunch during training camp. At 6-foot-4, Westry has the physical makeup of a true boundary corner.

Preseason will be instrumental in determining which corners deserve to make the final roster in such a crowded competition.