Four position battles to watch in Ravens training camp – Boston Herald

When the Ravens open training camp in Owings Mills on Wednesday, quarterback Lamar Jackson will once again be the center of attention, with intrigue over his contract negotiations obscuring the extraordinary state of the team’s roster: to win. There are not many jobs. . At least not yet.

Certainly, ongoing maintenance will force some backups to virtually first-string roles. And, yes, injuries will inevitably shake up the Ravens’ depth chart. But for the most part, the most interesting roster battles for general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh are near the top of the Ravens’ projected depth chart.

Here’s a look at how the four camp contests are shaping up ahead of the Ravens’ first week of practice.

Starting left guard

The Ravens need another Bradley Bozeman here: a young, capable lineman who can make it through the season. Bozeman, before moving back to center last season, didn’t miss a start at left guard in 2019 or 2020. Tyree Phillips, his immediate successor in 2021, lasted less than a half-time in the season opener before getting injured. Ben Powers started the next 12 games, often splitting reps with the injured Ben Cleveland. Then Powers got hurt, and Cleveland started the Ravens’ last four games.

Powers, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, was perhaps the most consistent of the Ravens’ left guards, with the lowest overall blown block rate of the three (1.6%), according to Sports Info Solutions. ended with But if Phillips and Cleveland enter camp with a low floor, they also have high ceilings. Phillips, who struggled when pressured into tackle duties last season, was solid in his 40 snaps at left guard, with no blocks, according to SIS. Cleveland, meanwhile, impressed in pass protection as a rookie but lacked the knockback power he showed in Georgia’s running game.

No. 3 running back.

Depending on the availability of JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, both still recovering from season-ending knee injuries suffered last preseason, the battle for the reserve job could turn into a battle for the starting job. Is. That was the case last season, when Tyson Williams emerged from the wreckage of the Ravens’ running back room with a weak spot atop the depth chart.

This year, the challengers are fourth-year veteran Justice Hill, newcomer Mike Davis and sixth-round pick Tyler Biddy. After missing his 2021 season with a torn Achilles tendon, Hill participated in mandatory minicamp and should be in even better shape for training camp. He was a special teams standout in 2020, an asset that is even more valuable now with the offseason losses of defensive back Anthony Leone Sr. (retirement) and linebacker Chris Board (free agency). But his fit in the offense remains to be determined.

Davis, 29, was quickly finding his footing in the Ravens offense after being signed in May. But he will need to show more than he did last season with the Atlanta Falcons, when he finished last among qualifying running backs in average rushing yards. According to the NFL’s Next Gen statistics. Then there’s Badi, who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing last year and impressed as a receiver in offseason workouts. His biggest obstacle may be his inexperience. Neither Dobbins nor Edwards broke out until November of their rookie year.

No. 3 wide receiver

Devin DuVernay’s production as a receiver has been inconsistent in his two years in Baltimore, but he enters camp with good job security as the Ravens’ No. 2 wide receiver. Less certain, and perhaps less important, is the Ravens’ No. 3 option: James Proche II or Tylon Wallace?

Proche easily cleared Wallace last season in both total yardage (23 to 202 receiving yards) and relative efficiency (1.2 yards per route to 0.5 yards). But Wallace, much like Proche in his rookie year, didn’t have much of a sample size to draw from. He played just nine offensive snaps through Week 10, and three games with double-digit snaps.

Regardless of how they stack up — Proche has better hands and is a more advanced route runner, while Wallace should project as a more dangerous downfield threat with inside-out flexibility — both Should play regularly this season. The biggest obstacle to circulation can be grouping of “heavy” personnel. If the Ravens rely more on two or three tight ends, fewer snaps will be available to their wide receivers.

Reserve protection

There may be no tougher competition for disability. Given the uncertainty surrounding a potential trade market for Chuck Clark, Kyle Hamilton’s versatility in the first round and the Ravens’ willingness to play three or more safeties — not to mention overall depth at the position — it’s worth knowing. It’s hard to tell how many places De Costa will reach. Reserve for safety.

Marcus Williams, Hamilton and Clarke are sure things if they stay. But how many others will make the 53-man roster, and who? Geno Stone took a step forward in his second season in Baltimore and is among the Ravens’ third-most special teams returners in 2021. Tony Jefferson impressed as a late-season addition and was a problem in coverage of quarterback Lamar Jackson in minicamp. And Ar’Darius Washington, who missed minicamp with an injury, was promising enough as a rookie to make last year’s starting roster.

If a final spot comes down to special teams eligibility, Stone will likely be the favorite. If veteran leadership is the deciding factor, Jefferson has the upper hand. And if the Ravens can’t afford to part with either, they’ll keep both.

Preseason, Week 1

TITANS@RAVENS

Thursday, August 11, 7:30 p.m

Television: Chs. 11, 4

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

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