After one of the NFL’s most eventful offseasons, the Ravens are finally coming together.
With the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp starting Tuesday in Owings Mills, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta will have their best look yet at a talented, if unproven, roster. Harbaugh said last week he expects the Ravens’ full 90-man offseason roster to report, though injuries could keep some players from participating in the noncontact practices.
As the team prepares for one last week together before training camp kicks off in late July, here are 16 players and coaches to watch at the Under Armour Performance Center.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken
The first-year play-caller has been one of the stars of the Ravens’ offseason, not just for his new approach to the offense — more autonomy for the quarterback, less reliance on the run game — but his activity level at practice as well. Monken has been hands on in ways few coordinators are, unafraid to make clear his expectations for details as particular as the depth of a receiver’s route. And, if it takes an obscenity to make the point, so be it.
At minicamp, Monken is expected to have his full complement of playmakers for the first time since replacing Greg Roman. The week of practice should be revealing, especially for the team’s veterans who didn’t report or suit up during organized team activities. Monken’s offense, and his teaching methods, will take getting used to.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson
After reporting for OTAs, Jackson enters minicamp with less mystery surrounding how he’ll look. In the Ravens’ three open practices, Jackson impressed physically but struggled at times with the new offense. His downfield passing touch was off, and there was the occasional mix-up with his execution.
It shouldn’t take much to address those issues, though, and Jackson could take the field Tuesday with more skill position talent at his disposal than ever before. After a busy offseason, his chemistry this week with the refurbished receiving group will be scrutinized. So will his plans for the team’s looming hiatus. Are any quarterback-receiver summits in the works before training camp?
Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman
Beckham skipped voluntary OTA practices, and his expected level of activity at minicamp is unclear. Still, after missing last season while rehabilitating from a torn ACL, Beckham is optimistic about where he stands medically. He told ESPN in April he’s “probably about as ready to play as everybody else in the league at this time in the offseason,” and he tweeted last month that he was “grateful for the time off I had to heal.” Although the Ravens can’t rush their $15 million investment onto the field before he’s ready, practice repetitions with Jackson would be significant.
Bateman’s recovery from season-ending Lisfranc (foot) surgery, meanwhile, seems ahead of schedule. The 2021 first-round pick participated in two of three open OTA practices, though he was limited to positional drills in both. A healthy Bateman is likely a happy Bateman; he hasn’t spoken to reporters since expressing his frustration in early March with DeCosta’s comments on the wide receiver group, among other targets.
Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards
Neither player practiced during the team’s open OTAs, though for different reasons. Dobbins has kept his distance from the facility since the end of last season, when he fumed over his limited role in the Ravens’ playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Weeks before, he’d hinted that not all team officials had supported his decision to undergo midseason arthroscopic knee surgery. Now, after two injury-riddled seasons, Dobbins enters the final year of his rookie contract looking to reestablish himself as a blue-chip back.
Edwards, meanwhile, could be limited this week. During OTAs, his workload at open practices was limited to sessions with the athletic trainers. Harbaugh said Edwards will be “partially ready” for minicamp and “fully ready” for training camp. Edwards, who like Dobbins missed the 2021 season with a knee injury, dealt with minor hamstring and knee problems last year.
Fullback Patrick Ricard
Ricard, a spectator during OTAs, is one of the most intriguing pieces in Monken’s scheme. He played nearly two-thirds of the offensive snaps last season, clearing paths for ball carriers and setting up the play-action passing attack. But, for all he accomplished last season — a fourth straight Pro Bowl selection, career highs as a receiver and runner — Ricard is not the kind of dynamic target Monken has typically featured in his offenses. How big a role will Ricard have in 2023, and what will that role look like?
Offensive linemen Ben Cleveland, John Simpson and Daniel Faalele
Another year in Baltimore, another battle for a starting guard position. This time, the Ravens have to find Ben Powers’ successor at left guard. Harbaugh said last week, “It’s going to be quite a fight for that spot.”
Cleveland, the seldom-used 2021 third-round pick who struggled with his conditioning last offseason, has been a regular at team workouts, where he’s practiced at different spots along the line. Simpson, a 2020 fourth-round pick who joined the practice squad in December, has impressed coaches with his development. And Faalele, the hulking 6-foot-8 tackle and 2022 fourth-round pick, got reps inside last week. The job won’t be won until the pads come on in training camp, but Cleveland and Simpson, in particular, can’t afford any setbacks this week.
Outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith
“Dr. Rush,” as he’s known, looms large in the development of the Ravens’ oft-criticized pass rush. The first-year outside linebackers coach has worked extensively this offseason with Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo, who last month called Smith a “guru.” Oweh and Ojabo, two of the team’s most athletically gifted defenders, combined with Tyus Bowser for just six sacks last season; with help from Smith and improved health, that total could more than triple. Smith’s also working with the interior pass rushers, who face a tall task in replacing defensive lineman Calais Campbell’s production.
Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser
The circumstances of Bowser’s one-sack 2022 can’t be overlooked. That he played at all, much less half the season, was a minor miracle. Bowser tore his Achilles tendon in January 2022, in the last game of a strong seven-sack season. Only 10 months after what can be a career-altering injury, he was back in action. The defense will lean on Bowser’s versatile skill set, but his ability as a pass rusher will be crucial. If Bowser, who didn’t practice during open OTAs, looks like his old self this week, DeCosta might feel less inclined to spend on a free-agent edge rusher — like, say, Justin Houston.
Defensive backs Brandon Stephens, Damarion ‘Pepe’ Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis
The Ravens have spent a handful of midround picks on their secondary, and they need to see better returns. Stephens, who’s bounced around the defensive backfield over his first two years, could be in line to replace safety Kyle Hamilton in the slot. Williams, who didn’t practice during OTAs, watched his role shrink over the second half of his rookie season. Armour-Davis, who was limited to positional drills when he did practice during OTAs, played just four games in his first year and is coming back from season-ending hip surgery. If the team’s depth at cornerback is an issue throughout minicamp, DeCosta won’t wait long to address it in free agency.
Safety Kyle Hamilton
Hamilton emerged as the Ravens’ nickel back last season, but coaches have ticketed the 2022 first-round pick for a more traditional safety role this year. That doesn’t mean he’ll be easy to track in Mike Macdonald’s defense. “Nobody is really trying to pin me in one place at this point,” Hamilton said. As his comfort in the system grows, so, too, will his range of possible roles, from playing as a center-field safety to lining up in the box to rushing the passer as a first-level defender.