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Ravens News 8/26: AFCN Supremacy and more

Baltimore Ravens v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Practice Report: James Proche II Returns, Greg Roman Not Worried About His Preseason - Clifton Brown

Ben Powers and Cleveland both got plenty of reps as the battle to start at left guard continued. Roman was pleased with Powers’ play during Saturday night’s victory against the Carolina Panthers. “I thought he had a good game the other night,” Roman said. “Ben is a tough guy. Really, really dialed in. He’s more experienced now, so I think he’s improving and doing well. I think he’s taking advantage of the opportunity bestowed upon him.”

Patrick Queen yelled at himself after allowing Ty’Son Williams to catch a flair pass out of the backfield. Queen has improved in pass coverage, but he’s hard on himself whenever he feels he made a mistake. That drive is part of the reason he’s having a strong camp.

Safety DeShon Elliott had a nice interception, showing good range to make an over-the-shoulder catch on a pass thrown by Tyler Huntley. Elliott did not practice Tuesday but his legs looked fresh Wednesday. Cornerback Chris Westry had the day’s other interception, continuing his bid to make the 53-man roster.

Competition For Ravens’ No. 3 Running Back Job Heating Up - Bo Smolka

John Harbaugh clearly saw something he didn’t like during the team’s opening special teams session. Before splitting the team into their offensive and defensive groups as usual, Harbaugh huddled the players together and loudly berated them for a couple of minutes.

On one of the hotter days of training camp, with the team not working at full speed, the defense made several key plays. In an early 11-on-11 run period, Calais Campbell burst through the line to record what probably would have been tackles for loss on three straight plays. Later, Odafe Oweh had a certain sack had it been allowed as his speed was too much for Tyre Phillips. And Justin Madubuike sniffed out a pass play designed for Nate McCrary, who would have been flattened if contact were allowed.

One of Lamar Jackson’s best throws was a floater down the sideline to Mark Andrews, just past the reach of Geno Stone. With so many top receivers sidelined, Andrews’ role as Jackson’s security blanket is even more obvious, and the Ravens continue to have a lot of trouble defending him.

Ravens 53-man roster projection: As final cuts loom, here’s how team could come together - Jonas Shaffer

Interior offensive line (5): Kevin Zeitler, Bradley Bozeman, Ben Cleveland, Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers

The uncertainty at left guard has ripple effects on the Ravens’ roster construction, but for now, there’s only so much mystery here about who’ll stick around. Mekari’s versatility makes him a valuable reserve. Powers bounced back against the Panthers and is still a candidate to start Week 1.

If the Ravens keep a sixth interior lineman — NFL roster rules encourage teams to activate eight offensive linemen on game day — Trystan Colon could get the nod. He has experience at center; played more as an undrafted rookie last year than Ben Bredeson, a 2020 fourth-round pick; and has held his own in camp.

Safety (4): Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone

Anthony Levine Sr., still a special teams stalwart and respected locker room voice, figures to have a spot on the roster for his 10th season in Baltimore. But as a vested veteran, he’s not subject to the waiver wire until the trade deadline passes, meaning the Ravens could release and then re-sign him as part of a corresponding move with an IR-bound player.

Stone is the slight favorite to edge undrafted rookie Ar’Darius Washington for a roster spot — he’s bigger, has more experience and picked off two passes against New Orleans — but those odds could flip this weekend.

2021 preseason All-AFC North Team: Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt front a dominant defensive unit - Jared Dubin

Offensive skill positions

QB: Lamar Jackson (BAL)

RB: Nick Chubb (CLE)

WR: Tee Higgins (CIN), Chase Claypool (PIT), Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE)

TE: Mark Andrews (BAL)

FLEX: Joe Mixon (CIN)

Offensive line

OT: Ronnie Stanley (BAL), Jack Conklin (CLE)

G: Joel Bitonio (CLE), Wyatt Teller (CLE)

C: JC Tretter (CLE)

Defensive backfield

CB: Denzel Ward (CLE), Marlon Humphrey (BAL), Marcus Peters (BAL)

SAF: Minkah Fitzpatrick (PIT), Jessie Bates III (CIN)

FLEX: John Johnson III (CLE)

Specialists

K: Justin Tucker (BAL)

P: Sam Koch (BAL)

RET: Devin Duvernay (BAL)

I won’t lie, I deferred to our resident expert, John Breech, when it came to the kickers and punters. He told me that Tucker was the best kicker and Koch the best punter in this division, and I believe him. Duvernay averaged a very strong 27.5 yards per kick return last season, and was one of only a few players to take a kickoff back for a touchdown. He’s a dynamic player with the ball in his hands.

2021 NFL season preview: Ranking all eight divisions - Jeffri Chadiha

2) AFC North

THE GOOD: It says plenty about the strength of the AFC North when last year’s champion went 12-4 and is now the third-best team in the division. Say what you will about the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they’re still employing one of the top coaches in the business (Mike Tomlin) and that defense has some of the best young playmakers in the game (outside linebacker T.J. Watt, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and inside linebacker Devin Bush, who’s returning from a torn ACL). The Cleveland Browns have built one of the best rosters in football. They used the draft and free agency to load up on athletic players to improve a mediocre defense, while quarterback Baker Mayfield has learned to maximize all the talent around him on offense. The Baltimore Ravens also know their window to win a Super Bowl with this current core won’t stay open forever. They’ve given quarterback Lamar Jackson plenty of weapons to bolster the passing game. Now he has to make that dream a reality.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Browns look like the biggest threat to the Kansas City Chiefs for AFC supremacy, while the Ravens could also be in that conversation if Jackson turns the corner as a quality passer.