As the Ravens walked off the practice fields at Owings Mills last month, heading for their summer break, it was easy to imagine what the team might look like in January, but harder to project who might be in September.
The Ravens’ best offensive tackle was missing. So were his two best runners. And one of his starting cornerbacks. And his starting nose tackle, his most productive outside linebacker, his second-round pick, to name just a few injured contributors who aren’t available at mandatory minicamp.
With less than a month to go until training camp, the Ravens’ roster strengths and weaknesses are, in some cases, open to interpretation. How much faith can you put into a position still reeling from last year’s catastrophic injury blunder? A lot can and will change before Week 1. But for now, here’s a look at the ranking of the groups (special teams not included) from weakest to strongest.
10. Wide Receiver
The Ravens’ best wide receiver, Rashod Bateman, had a promising rookie year marred by injuries (46 receptions for 515 yards in 12 games). His oldest receiver, 25-year-old James Proche II, has recorded a catch in just six games of his career. Their most experienced wide receiver, Devin Duvernay, has never eclipsed 45 receiving yards in a game. His only other projected contributor, Tylan Wallace, was primarily a special teams contributor as a rookie, finishing with two receptions for 23 yards.
After the departure of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, the Ravens will have plenty of plays to go around. But heading into training camp, this group’s potential far outweighs its output.
9. Outside linebacker
On paper, this is the Ravens’ most talented collection of forward running backs in years. In practice, the depth of the position is very fine. Tyus Bowser, who led the team with seven sacks last season, is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and might not be ready for Week 1. Second-round pick David Ojabo tore his Achilles tendon in March and might not play this season.
Odafe Oweh, who underwent shoulder surgery after an impressive rookie year, was limited in offseason workouts but should be complete in training camp. The same goes for Daelin Hayes, who barely played last season after a solid offseason. But with the sudden death of Jaylon Ferguson, and with the Ravens yet to add a big-name free agent, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will have to look forward to quick recoveries and a healthy preseason. Even with a promising kernel, the group’s margin for error is small.
8. Inside linebacker
Josh Bynes and Patrick Queen were solid rushing defenders in their first year together, but neither saw regular action on obvious passes. They also weren’t factors in the Ravens’ quarterback run, finishing with a combined four sacks and nine pressures. Can first-year inside linebackers coach Zachary Orr help take their association to another level?
With the Detroit Lions signing Chris Board this offseason, the Ravens’ depth at the position is somewhat tenuous. Malik Harrison entered offseason workouts as a candidate to cross-train at outside linebacker, though he lined up primarily inside. Kristian Welch has played sparingly defensively during his first two years in Baltimore. Behind them are a handful of undrafted free agents, including Diego Fagot from the Navy.
By the end of the year, the Ravens could have one of the best running backs in the NFL. But if the season started in August, his top two choices would likely be Mike Davis, a veteran who has traveled extensively and averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season, and Tyler Badie, an undersized rookie the Ravens drafted in the sixth. round.
Davis and Badie, along with a healthy Justice Hill, can contribute this year. But as long as JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards are sidelined for knee rehabs, the Ravens’ running game will be suboptimal. Dobbins led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in 2020 (6 yards per carry) and showed growth as a receiver last summer. Edwards, one of the best short-yard rushers in the NFL, averaged at least 5 yards per carry in each of his first three seasons in Baltimore.
6. Offensive line
The Ravens’ right side of the line should keep quarterback Lamar Jackson happy and upright. At center is rookie Tyler Linderbaum, whose athletic ability opens offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s playbook. Kevin Zeitler was one of the best right guards in the NFL in his first year in Baltimore. Right tackle Morgan Moses is a dependable pass protector and well-suited for the Ravens’ running game.
On the left side, however, there is uncertainty. If Ronnie Stanley’s ankle problems persist, the Ravens could turn to versatile Patrick Mekari. Ja’Wuan James is another option, though his injury history and inexperience at left tackle could be tough to beat. At left guard, the Ravens have a handful of young options (Tire Phillips, Ben Cleveland and Ben Powers), but no clear favorites. Rookie Daniel Faalele needs more time before he’s ready to contribute.
5. defensive line
Running against the Ravens’ defensive front isn’t going to be easy. Michael Pierce should be an upgrade at nose tackle over Brandon Williams. Calais Campbell was ranked as one of Pro Football Focus’ best running fill-in linemen last season. Justin Madubuike is quick enough to beat zone lock schemes and strong enough to take on double teams. Brent Urban and Broderick Washington are more than capable backups.
The challenge for the line, once again, will be generating pass pressure. Rookie Travis Jones has intriguing potential, Madubuike has shown flashes of brilliance and Campbell is determined to reach 100 career sacks for him. But if the Ravens’ running backs struggle, it might be hard to find an inside push.
The Ravens entered training camp last year with enviable depth at cornerback, only to see it fall apart in the months that followed. This year, they have similar quality and better luck with injuries. Marlon Humphrey is back from a season-ending pectoral injury and should bounce back from a disappointing 2021. Marcus Peters, whose ongoing recovery from a torn ACL has impressed Ravens officials, is expected to meet with him at some point.
Whoever is out there should have a lot of help. Brandon Stephens lined up everywhere in the secondary as a rookie and should take another step forward in 2022. Baltimore native Kyle Fuller has a history of stealing balls. Rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams have impressed, and Kevon Seymour played nearly 250 snaps on defense last season.
3. Close/Side Wing
The Ravens have a Pro Bowl fullback in Patrick Ricard, and it’s fair to wonder where they’ll need him this season. Such is the depth of the Ravens at tight end. Mark Andrews broke the Ravens’ single-season receiving record last season (107 catches for 1,361 yards) and emerged as one of the best playmakers in the NFL. Nick Boyle, when healthy, gives the offense a versatile blocker who can present himself as a great target up the middle. Ricard’s game has become more complete each season in Baltimore.
They will all have young talent pushing them. Rookies Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar shone in offseason workouts, and Josh Oliver is a solid backup. Andrews is irreplaceable, but the Ravens have a well-stocked group behind him.
As long as Jackson is under contract and healthy, the Ravens will feel good about their starting quarterback. He impressed at mandatory minicamp and made a commitment to meet with his receivers during the team’s offseason break. That’s all you can ask of a potential NFL MVP in July; well, maybe also some progress in the contract negotiations.
Tyler Huntley didn’t need much time to prove his ability off the bench last year. He may not be good enough to lead the Ravens to victory, but he can be trusted not to lose a game.
When the Ravens’ options for their two starting safeties are a playmaking center fielder (Marcus Williams), a respected and reliable signal-caller (Chuck Clark) and a first-round pick who might ultimately be better than both ( Kyle Hamilton), maybe it’s time to consider starting three. Even if Clark is traded before the start of the season, the secondary would still have two safeties whose range of coverage and skill in run defense make them essentially interchangeable.
Their backups aren’t bad either. Tony Jefferson apparently turned his career around in his return to Baltimore, intercepting two of Jackson’s passes on the first day of minicamp. Geno Stone has starting experience and played more than 20% of the defense’s snaps last season. A foot injury ended Ar’Darius Washington’s quiet rookie season, but he showed enough promise to make the Ravens’ starting 53-man roster.