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Ravens News 8/7: Blocking Commitment and more

NFL: Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports

50 Words or Less: Ravens Defense Has Numerous Potential Breakout Stars

Ryan Mink,

Justin Madubuike’s sack production has at least doubled each of his first three seasons. If the defensive tackle doubled again, it would be 11 sacks. That’s lofty, but Madubuike has the tools and I like his mentality. He said he keeps scratching out his 2023 goals and making them higher.

Patrick Queen is in a similar situation. Also entering a contract year, Queen is looking to earn a hefty payday, and we’ve seen him make the kind of plays that get paid. Queen wants to put the league on notice, and a full year next to Roquan Smith will help.

Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo are freakish athletes who are getting the tools from new coach Chuck Smith to take their game to the next level. I talked with both this week and they are extremely hungry. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Oweh is having a “stellar” camp so far.

Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton could both make the Pro Bowl this year. Williams is playing with a ton of swagger and Hamilton has looked like a natural in his altered role. Big plays have been few and far between for the first-team offense in camp because of these two.

The defense’s potential Achilles heel is at cornerback, where the Ravens are trying to determine their starter opposite Marlon Humphrey (Rock Ya-Sin or Jalyn Armour-Davis) and who will play the slot. Maybe there’s enough promising options that one or two pan out. A weak spot would get picked on.

Ravens tight ends Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar search for their place in Todd Monken’s offense

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

With perennial Pro Bowl selection Mark Andrews reigning as the big dog at tight end, Likely and Kolar could be crowded out no matter how well they practice.

So how do they ensure their relevance? With a commitment to blocking and with faith that the ball will find many different hands in Monken’s play designs.

Given the playmaking talent above him on the depth chart, Kolar said “worrying about target share is just a total waste of time.”

Both second-year tight ends were known as catch-first prospects coming out of college, with Likely often referred to as a bulked-up wide receiver and Kolar touted as a rangy, reliable target in the Andrews mold. Monken, however, steered the conversation to blocking when asked about their chances for earning playing time in 2023. The Ravens need someone to step in for the departed Josh Oliver, who evolved into one of top blocking tight ends in football and an unsung hero for last year’s team. That need is more acute with Patrick Ricard on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from hip surgery.

2023 NFL training camps: First-stringers who could lose starting jobs

Eric Edholm,

Patrick Ricard

Baltimore Ravens · FB

In February, the fullback celebrated his fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance — a pretty remarkable achievement for an undrafted defensive lineman out of Maine — as a dirty-work run blocker and unsung hero for the Ravens. He’s filled multiple roles and increased his offensive snap count in each of the past four seasons.

But with former offensive coordinator (and Ricard fan) Greg Roman gone, that role might no longer exist. Ricard is nearing 30 years old, remains on the PUP list following hip surgery this spring and might not be a perfect fit in new coordinator Todd Monken’s system, which traditionally hasn’t used a lot of two-back sets or hulking, blocking-heavy tight ends.

Would Ravens Keep Keaton Mitchell Over Melvin Gordon?

Geoff Magliochetti, Sports Illustrated

Keaton comes to the Ravens out of East Carolina, where he barely beat out All-Pro Chris Johnson for the third-best rushing tally in Pirates history (3,027). He proved equally effective in the receiving game, picking up an additional 580 yards on 60 receptions.

Among the undrafted, the young Mitchell is starting to stand out in the eyes of an unforgiving tenured coaching staff. Head coach John Harbaugh, for example, praised Mitchell for ”show(ing) he can run (and having) good hands” while newly-minted offensive coordinator Todd Monken noted his “elite speed” in a report from Brian Wacker of the Baltimore Sun.

The offensive minds aren’t the only ones excited about Mitchell can bring to the table, as special teams boss Chris Horton hinted that he could take on box score roles in his department.

“I think he’s got the right mindset, he’s got the right makeup,” Horton said, per Wacker. “We’re going to let him return some punts. We’re going to let him return some kicks. We’re going to let him play some punts out at gunner. We’re just going to give him every opportunity to make this football team and put himself in position to make this football team.”

Every NFL team’s most likely future Hall of Famer: Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers locks; T.J. Watt closing in

Bryan DeArdo, CBS Sports

Baltimore Ravens: K Justin Tucker

Current Hall of Fame “lock”? No, but close

Tucker has made 90.5% of his career field goal attempts

Lamar Jackson, a former league MVP, is also putting together a career that may one day be worthy of enshrinement. But this spot currently belongs to Tucker, a five-time first-team All-Pro who is only getting better with age. In 2021, Tucker booted a 66-yard field goal while making a league-high 94.6% of his FG attempts.