This week, thesidelinereport.com takes a look at the AFC North’s respective teams and how they shape up going into training camp. We’ll examine the current roster, likely camp battles and subsequent roster cuts, and what each team must do to address weaknesses. We’ll begin with the Baltimore Ravens.
Roster and Depth Chart
Quarterback Lamar Jackson was seemingly given the starting nod after winning six of his seven starts in 2018 and securing a division title. Backup QB Robert Griffin III has been reborn with some humility (if not football acumen) and represents a viable alternative should Jackson falter. Third-string QB Trace McSorely will most likely see a hybrid, “slash”-type role, although a move to the practice squad wouldn’t be unwarranted for 2019. Odds of keeping all three on the roster appear slim, but the Ravens are installing a new offensive system, so the old “rules” of roster configuration may not apply. Likely quarterback camp cuts: Aaron Bailey, Zach Terrell
Running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards appear to be locks for a rotation with rookie Justice Hill penciled in as a passing down option, leaving oft-injured swing back Kenneth Dixon, despite his considerable skill set, squarely “on the bubble”. He’ll need an excellent camp to secure a firm roster spot, although the club is expected to have a marked emphasis on the running game, which may buy Dixon time to prove he still belongs. Obvious camp cut: De’Lance Turner, although there’s been cursory discussions about him assuming a FB/H-Back role if needed. I wouldn’t count on it.
The wide receiver room appears crowded for a change, with 13 on the roster. With the Ravens expected to carry no more than six (and acknowledging their historic struggles at the position), this will be the most scrutinized position on the roster. Of the current slate, four appear to be locks – holdover Willie Snead, rookie Marquise Brown, rookie Miles Boykin and, due mostly to his special teams acumen, veteran Chris Moore. The remainder includes a mix of cast-off veterans, undrafted rookies and second year-players still hoping to fit somewhere. At a glance, I’d guess the remaining two slots will be filled by veteran Michael Floyd, whose size gives him a distinct advantage, and the multi-dimensional Seth Roberts. Camp cuts: Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley, and the rest of the “do-little’ gang.
The offensive line was bolstered greatly by the return of venerable guard Marshal Yanda, but the Ravens need to begin looking for his successor now, regardless of whether they feel that player is already on the roster. Both tackle positions appear set with standout LT Ronnie Stanley, second-year holdover RT Orlando Brown Jr. and backup Jermaine Eluemunor, but guard (other than Yanda) appears problematic, as the Ravens seem reluctant to rely on the inconsistent Alex Lewis or the versatile but mediocre James Hurst as long-term options. Second-year swingman Bradley Bozeman will most likely back up at both guard and center, but given the 2018 struggles of starting center Matt Skura, Bozeman will probably see more time there during camp than at guard, thinning out any quality depth at either spot. Expect to see a lot of rookie guard Ben Powers during camp in an effort to mollify the situation. Obvious cuts: C.J. Toogood, Patrick Vahe, Marcus Applefield
The tight end group also appears largely set with holdovers Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, whom the Ravens retained despite a surprising amount of free agent interest. Without the benefit of a scouting department, I have no earthly idea who’ll be retained among the sterling trio of Barrett Burns, Cole Herdman or Charles Scarff, but I suspect it’ll be one of them. Guesses are welcome.
Despite some significant offseason losses, the Ravens’ defensive line looks formidable, especially if DE/DT Michael Pierce loses some of the offseason weight he retained despite impending minicamps. Expect a heavy (no pun intended) interior rotation to include Pierce and DTs Brandon Williams, Chris Wormley and Willie Henry. DE/OLB hybrid players will include edge rushers Matthew Judon, rookie Jaylon Ferguson and last-chance LBs Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser, who are both almost finished tiptoeing around the “bust” label and must actually earn a position in camp this season to avoid it. Possible camp cuts: Gerald Willis III, Pernell McPhee, Shane Ray
Interior linebacker remains a mystery for the Ravens, who lost team captain and locker room leader C.J. Mosley to free agency and made no overt moves to replace him. This could mean they have confidence in holdovers Kenny Young and Patrick Onwausor to pick up the leadership mantle and on-field production, or it could be financially driven, as the Ravens haven’t invested much financially in the position since the retirement of Ray Lewis in 2013. Young and Onwausor will see increased competition from veterans Chris Board and Shane Ray, and Board in particular could see significant playing time. This is one of the few camp battles to watch. Camp cut: Silas Stewart
The secondary, supposedly doomed to be rudderless after the departure of probable Hall of Fame safety Eric Weddle, received a major boost with the addition of probable Hall of Fame safety Earl Thomas, who will pair with FS Tony Jefferson in a formidable, versatile defensive backfield replete with quality cornerbacks, including ascending cover corner Marlon Humphery, experienced-but-injured Jimmy Smith and dependable Brandon Carr. The Ravens will have to part with some prized younger players here, including Maurice Canady and Anthony Averett, who won’t last long on the market should they be released.
Not much to say here. The longtime Pro Bowl duo of punter Sam Koch and kicker Justin Tucker continues to be one of the best in the NFL; any camp additions or subtractions will presumably be to motivate this immovable pair and not much else. Morgan Cox is expected to continue his understated, yet standout performance as the team’s long snapper. The Ravens will most likely continue to employ CB/PR Cyrus Jones and WR/KR Chris Moore in return roles, although neither particularly shined there in 2018.
Stay tuned for the Cleveland Browns’ review Wednesday.