After 17 practices and the first of three preseason game completed, the current 85-man roster for the Ravens saw numerous players increase their stock and put themselves in a position to crack the 53-man roster. There were also players who didn’t deliver to expectations.
Isaiah Likely, TE: The fourth-round rookie tight end may have delivered the best camp of any Raven. He was mentioned more on a daily basis than arguably any other player, save fellow tight end Mark Andrews. His targets were frequent and with them came plays being made downfield. Many speculated whether it would translate to the field in their preseason exhibition against the Tennessee Titans, and Likely heeded the call, catching all four targets thrown his way for 44-yards, including a 22-yard grab over a defenders head.
I’ve said it on multiple occasions, but the Pittsburgh Steelers trading ahead of the Ravens to nab the wide receiver they were interested in may be a blessing. Both Andrews and Lamar Jackson have compared Likely to the All-Pro ahead of him on the roster.
To so quickly gain the trust of Jackson and develop chemistry with his quarterback has proven valuable. Throughout camp, the two have connected on multiple red zone touchdowns along with chain-moving catches. By seasons end, Likely could be the third most targeted pass-catcher on this roster and it wouldn’t surprise anybody.
The description frequently said of Likely’s catching is his ‘soft hands,’ but he’s played anything but soft. There’s a level of aggression when the pass is heading his way. He’s attacked the catch point, outstretching and diving for receptions. When a receiver let a ball come to him during team drills, Likely shouted from the sideline to go and grab it, not just let it come to him. He looks every bit the pro you could ask of a rookie, with the playmaking to boot.
Ben Powers, G: The battle at left guard is not officially over, but Powers has surged ahead in the competition. He was the incumbent on Day 1 and done everything to defend it from those attempting to usurp his role. The coaching staff has sung their praise of Powers working hard this offseason to better understand his assignments and becoming a stronger player. Though guard Tyre Phillips continues to compete and saw the most action of any Raven against the Titans, Powers has gained more ground.
The Ravens haven’t finished testing Powers’ mettle, giving him opportunities at center to demonstrate his versatility. With an intensity akin to his play, Powers expressed his determination to bring value to his team.
“I’m going to go out there and do whatever my coaches need me to do to make this team better,” Powers said.
Mark Andrews, TE: Can his stock go higher? Probably not, but if you asked who played the hardest in camp the resounding response from those on the sidelines each day would unanimously answer Andrews.
If anybody earned a day or a play off it would be Andrews, but I’ve yet to see it. The conviction with which Andrews plays on the practice field is likened to a playoff atmosphere.
There’s also been a swagger about Andrews on the field. In the one-on-one drills he often threw up the ‘Randy Moss hand’ after his release, confident he had already beaten his man. Few times was he wrong, hauling in catches a step or two past his defender.
Jordan Stout, P: It felt comical at times watching the offense and defense work on install drills against trash bins when on the far field an echoing blast would come from Stout nuking a punt which mocked gravity. About twice per minute, just when ones attention would get refocused on which defensive lineman were lining up as the starters to practice their assignments another boom would turn heads.
It wasn’t just the sky-high punts that drew attention, but the accuracy in which Stout pinned them. They bounced toward the sideline within the 10- and 5-yard line consistently.
Great speculation on the Ravens ensued when they picked Stout in the fourth round. But the ability to force opposing offenses to drive 80+ yards every time they step onto the field is invaluable.
Of course, Stout’s added value has been holding for the NFL’s most accurate field goal kicker in history, Justin Tucker. With Tucker and his mentor being Tucker’s former holder, Sam Koch, he’s quickly become the player the Ravens wanted to fill the shoes of Koch, and the transition has been seamless.
Daniel Faalele, OT: Take it from Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, Faalele is “coming along by leaps and bounds.”
During minicamp, he was visibly struggling with the heat and humidity. It was fair to worry how Faalele would fair against the Ravens’ infamous conditioning test. On Day 1, he accompanied his team on the field, meaning he conquered the trial.
According to Roman, the reason for such improvement was due to Faalele’s commitment to stay at the facility post-minicamp to work with the strength and conditioning staff. Faalele shared why he made the decision.
“It was just important to me to stay around the facility, and get acclimated to the weather, and stay in the program and just keep working with [head strength and conditioning] Coach [Steve] Saunders,” Faalele said. “I just wanted to make that commitment to myself and to my teammates that I’m all in, and I want to be at my best when training camp comes around.”
The maturity from a rookie to acknowledge there are sources supplied for him to improve and the need to do so can be a hard fact to face. Nonetheless, he did so and it’s shown on the field. But that’s not the sole reason his stock is up.
He’s improving his technique at right tackle. His feet are quicker and the reps he takes show growth. Though there is work to be done it’s clear Faalele is relishing the opportunity.
Travis Jones, DT: Rookies frequent stock up lists due to their ‘initial price’ being unknown. But somebody whose stock continues to climb is Jones. Our Spencer Schultz covered in great detail why Jones could be a special player.
“His unique blend of size, power, technical prowess in terms of hand usage and body control, quickness and movement skills align to a Frankenstein’s monster-like skillset that could show an instant impact as a third-round pick once the regular season rolls around,” Schultz wrote. “It would be unsurprising to see Jones emerge as the most valuable rookie in the Ravens’ defensive class, or perhaps across the entire league.”
Frequently, Jones was witnessed thrashing blockers in the one-on-one pass-rush vs. blocking drill. Arguably the most enthralling drill at practices which aggravatingly appear on the far field of practice, regardless of which one the most action takes part it. It’s also a drill that coaches appear to crave the most, flocking around as the combatants get set for the bout. Jones could be featured heavily this season, paired with veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Michael Pierce.
Justice Hill, RB: Coming off an Achilles tear, it was worth monitoring how the fourth-year running back would rebound. Hill removed all doubt by looking every bit as fast if not faster than the last time he was on the field.
It’s tough to judge running backs in training camp. as they aren’t being tackled but I asked running backs coach Craig Ver Steeg how you can evaluate them.
“You look for things like vision. You know every play has an entry point, and we coach that,” Ver Steeg said. “‘G-Ro’ does a great job – probably as good as anyone I’ve been with – at kind of designing the entry point. But then, every runner has creativity, and his vision comes along with that. When do they see the cut? We don’t coach a guy and come back and say, ‘Oh, you’re wrong. You should have cut the ball over there.’ You’re in the driver’s seat; you make the cut. But it’s more like, ‘What’d you see; why’d you see it,’ anticipation and the cut.”
In that regard, I’ve seen the most explosiveness and vision from Hill among the running backs at camp. He’s consistently found yards on the ground and his ability to weave through the blockers and get a gain before first contact has shown he can navigate well.
Typically, Hill’s mention is his value as a special teams player, then his play at running back. He’s flipped the narrative this camp and wouldn’t be surprised at him getting reps to begin the season while running back J.K. Dobbins gets back to 100-percent.
Shemar Bridges, WR: There are few things which can garner more attention than a big-bodied wide receiver making plays in the preseason for the Ravens. Quickly, Bridges game against the Titans vaulted him above the masses in the wide receiver competition.
His size alone brings about a hope for a different prototypical receiver in an room filled with speed and agility. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds, Bridges could become the No. 5 or even No. 4 wide receiver on the 53-man roster due to the need of a red zone target along the boundary.
Chuck Clark, S: It’s unlikely the Ravens part ways with Clark, who has become one of the few players capable of defending Andrews in practice.
True. Chuck has had a good camp. Love seeing him step in to take Mark 1-on-1. Chuck's the only guy who has matched Andrews at times. https://t.co/BsptJQzlnz— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) August 15, 2022
Clark has remained steadfast in the starting rotation, paired alongside free agent acquisition Marcus Williams. I’m speculating Clark will be the green-dot-sporting player on this defense. It doesn’t look like he’ll be leaving the field frequently, as the Ravens would rather add an extra safety in rookie Kyle Hamilton rather than remove Clark in favor of him. Especially with a thin inside linebacker unit.
Honorable mentions: Ju’Waun James, OT; Devin Duvernay, WR; James Proche, WR; Steven Means, OLB; Jaylon Moore, WR; Brent Urban, DE; Damarion Williams, CB; Odafe Oweh, OLB
Tylan Wallace, WR: It was not a great camp for the second-year wide receiver. I don’t recollect many, if any, big-time catches or impressive grabs. His routes appeared limited in camp to four-yard outs. Along with his minimal impact in camp, he’s now been sidelined due to a knee injury in the Titans game. With so many wide receivers competing for a roster spot, Wallace needed a better camp.
Kyle Fuller, CB: The Ravens all but showed they are keeping Fuller on the final 53-man roster; he wasn’t active for the first preseason game. His contract with the Ravens was a one-year, $2.5 million deal and cutting him wouldn’t save a dime, either. But, I didn’t find many impressed with his training camp.
There’s an argument to be made that some players aren’t practice players. Hell, cornerback Jimmy Smith never had his best moments in training camp, but come the regular season, would put the clamps on a No. 1 wide receiver. Hopefully, it’s the same for Fuller.
The concern for Fuller is he struggled last season with the Denver Broncos. Coming off a down year, it would be beneficial to see him make a few plays in camp but alas, there were few.
Trystan Colon, C: It’s hard to see Colon fitting on this roster after the Ravens drafted their starting center in the first round and have super-sub Patrick Mekari on the roster. To make matters worse, the Ravens have begun to test Powers at center. I don’t envision the Ravens to keep three centers, which would leave Colon the odd-man out.
Daelin Hayes, OLB: During minicamp, Hayes was a frequent mention in my practice notes. Here was my final excerpt on the pass rusher.
“I keep writing it. I keep saying it in person. I’m ready to see linebacker Daelin Hayes in full pads and in a preseason game. He was a camp standout last year and has done the same through OTAs and minicamp.”
That’s a far cry from what I saw in training camp. Hayes was given every opportunity to stand out this training camp. The need for an outside linebacker to step up on this roster with Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo both recovering from torn Achilles was a prime chance for Hayes to break out. Rather, we saw Vince Biegel and Means make plays and earn snaps with the starting team at times. I’m not sure what happened but it appears Hayes has taken a step back.