Five things we learned from Ravens 2022 training camp - Childs Walker
Odafe Oweh looks like the pass rusher who was promised.
Rather than add to this uncertainty, the 2021 first-round pick blocked it out with the excellence of one dominant practice performance after another. Did you see how the Cardinals struggled to keep Oweh out of their backfield during his brief run in the second preseason game? That was him every day against the Ravens’ offensive tackles.
We knew Oweh’s remarkable athletic upside coming out of Penn State. We saw him convert promise to production with a string of signature plays in the first half of his rookie season. We also saw him out of position because of overeager reads and worn down by injuries late in the season. After shoulder surgery in late January, would he make a leap in Season 2?
The early returns are beyond promising. Oweh’s range is the same, but he keeps his hands more active and has learned to bend his 6-foot-5, 257-pound frame so blockers cannot get a clean shot at him coming around the edge. He has promised we will see a “different Odafe” once the real games begin. New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald has said without reservation he could become a dominant player as soon as this season.
It’s difficult to overstate how big a deal that would be for the Ravens, who have not knocked it out of the park developing pass rushers in recent seasons. Macdonald can scheme up pressure, just like Don “Wink” Martindale did before him. But there’s no substitute for star-level talent at one of the NFL’s premium positions.
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Malik Harrison, ILB: It’s been far from perfect for Harrison, who has missed a few tackles and gotten caught in the wash at times. Still, the defensive coaches have to be excited that Harrison is playing faster than what he’s shown the previous two years. He denied the Cardinals a touchdown late in the second quarter with back-to-back tackles. In the preseason opener, he caused a fumble. Harrison may have never been in jeopardy of not making the 53-man roster, just because the Ravens are so thin at linebacker. It was important, though, that the former third-round pick played with a little more urgency and he’s done that this preseason.
Isaiah Mack, DL: With all the attention on rookie Travis Jones and the team’s veteran defensive linemen, Mack has flown under the radar. Yet, he’s flashed throughout camp and he played well against the Cardinals with three tackles and two quarterback hits. Mack has shown an ability to get penetration. The Ravens saw that from him last year, too. It isn’t clear whether there’s a 53-man spot available for Mack. There are seemingly six interior defensive linemen in front of him and keeping seven could be prohibitive. Mack, though, has proven that he’s an NFL-caliber defensive lineman and there should be a spot on a 53-man roster for him somewhere.
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Who’s on the hot seat: LB Patrick Queen
It’s a critical time for Queen because the Ravens will have to decide whether to exercise his fifth-year option next offseason. He hasn’t become the every-down middle linebacker that was originally envisioned. Queen has struggled in coverage and getting off blocks, which is why he was moved to weakside linebacker. But new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who was Queen’s position coach in 2020, said the game has slowed down for him. It took until Queen’s third season before he broke out at LSU. The Ravens are hoping Queen can do the same this season after being Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2020.
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Ross has already been making his presence felt in coverage in each of the Ravens’ two preseason outings. Against Tennessee, he allowed two catches on three targets for 10 yards with a pass breakup, then gave up just one catch on two targets for -1 yards against Arizona this past week. He hasn’t been all over the field racking up stops, per se, but Ross hasn’t made any glaring mistakes, either. The UDFA may not challenge for a starting role, but he should at least secure a roster spot.
Likely is already being declared one of the steals of the draft after catching all 12 of his targets through two weeks for 144 yards and a score. To secure those, the fourth-rounder has gone 4-of-4 on contested catches so far. That’s not even close to the most impressive thing about Likely’s game, though. On those 12 catches, he’s broken an absurd seven tackles and averaged nearly 5.9 yards after the catch per reception. Likely is about to bring a whole new element to the Ravens’ offense that it desperately needed.
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10. Patrick Ricard
Believe it or not, there’s one person on a football team who gets less love than the offensive line: the fullback. It’s a thankless job. The guy running behind your block often gets the notoriety, but there are several special players at the fullback position who do their jobs extremely well and earn that shine. Ricard is one of those guys. He’s made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons and plays a major role in the Ravens’ dynamic rushing attack, which has ranked among the league’s top three in each of the last four seasons.
It’s the year of Justin Tucker! He set the NFL record for the longest converted field goal — a nail-biting, crossbar-hitting 66-yarder that led to a Ravens victory in Week 3 — received a four-year contract extension, and lastly, was the No. 94-ranked player in the Top 100 Players of 2022 (his first time in the players’ list). The five-time first-team All-Pro’s 91.1% field-goal conversion rate ranks No. 1 among kickers since 1938. If he’s not already, Tucker should be considered equals with legends like Morten Andersen and Adam Vinatieri.