If a team is only as strong as its weakest link, the Ravens will enter training camp next month on solid ground. Last year, they spent much of the summer sorting through the fallout from their 2021 season’s injury bonanza, hoping for the best at key positions like wide receiver, outside linebacker and running back. This summer, their least trustworthy position group might feature an established star.
There are no perfect rosters in the NFL. Even in the AFC North, the Ravens’ might only be second best. But their team is certainly well-rounded. With less than a month before camp opens in Owings Mills, here’s a look at where the Ravens’ position groups rank — special teams not included — from least to most trustworthy.
The Ravens’ best corner, Marlon Humphrey, is one of the NFL’s best, a versatile playmaker and physical presence who didn’t allow a touchdown in coverage last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Their second-best corner is Rock Ya-Sin, who was still available in free agency in May and last played more than 13 games in a season in 2019. Their third-best corner — or at least the one best suited to start in the slot, if it’s not Humphrey or a safety — might have limited starting experience.
Despite the Ravens’ investment efforts, functional depth is an issue here. Jalyn Armour-Davis (one start) and Damarion “Pepe” Williams (no starts) struggled as rookies and were limited through offseason workouts; Williams, still recovering from an undisclosed injury, might not be ready for the start of camp. Kyu Blu Kelly, a fifth-round pick, lacks the athletic traits of a top-end cornerback. Trayvon Mullen has bounced around the league over his four years. Kevon Seymour is best suited for a special teams role. All of which makes a free-agent addition seem likely.
9. Wide receiver
After an offseason overhaul, the group’s potential is tantalizing: Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged at mandatory minicamp earlier this month that it could be the Ravens’ best-ever wide receiver room. Four former first-round picks — Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor — are in line for big roles, and Devin Duvernay, who through eight games last year was on pace for a 650-plus-yard season, could be the NFL’s most overqualified reserve wideout.
For now, though, the Ravens look better on paper than they do in practice. Bateman has flashed star potential but needs to stay healthy. Beckham hasn’t played in more than a year. Flowers is undersized and could struggle early as he acclimates to the NFL. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken, a former wide receivers coach, will some time as well to figure out how to optimize this group.
8. Outside linebacker
Maybe no one in Baltimore raised their offseason stock more than David Ojabo. An Achilles tendon injury limited the second-round pick to two games as a rookie, but Ojabo, finally healthy, looked once again like a blue-chip prospect in offseason workouts. With his get-off and bend, he could be the first Raven since Terrell Suggs in 2017 to record a double-digit-sack season.
There’s reason for optimism elsewhere. A minor knee flare-up limited Tyus Bowser’s practice time in minicamp, but he’s the Ravens’ most well-rounded outside linebacker and another year removed from his own Achilles tear. Odafe Oweh has first-round pedigree, a more muscular frame and a new position coach, the well-regarded Chuck Smith. Even fourth-round pick Tavius Robinson showed good burst in organized team activities. Still, the group could use a reunion with free agent Justin Houston, who led the Ravens in sacks last season.
7. Defensive line
With Calais Campbell’s offseason release, the Ravens lost a team leader and their most valuable interior pass rusher. Justin Madubuike’s production wasn’t far behind, though. In his breakout third season, he finished with a career-high 5 1/2 sacks, tied with Campbell for second on the team, and had 32 pressures, according to PFF, just behind Campbell’s 35. Madubuike, entering the final year of his rookie contract, is also a reliable run defender, especially against zone schemes.
The line’s pass-rush potential is a question mark, but the Ravens, who finished No. 7 in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ run defense rankings last season, should again be stout up front. The ever-improving Broderick Washington trailed only inside linebacker Patrick Queen in run stops last year, according to PFF. Michael Pierce, when healthy, is a proven gap-clogger with some pass-rush juice. Travis Jones is still developing, but his raw strength can make him just as hard to displace. Brent Urban and Angelo Blackson should round out a solid group.
6. Running back
As with the wide receiver position, the Ravens’ offseason workouts provided only so many answers here. J.K. Dobbins skipped the voluntary OTAs and missed minicamp, much to Harbaugh’s chagrin. Gus Edwards’ workload was limited as he eyed a full return to health by training camp. Justice Hill was solid as a runner and receiver, but running back ability can be hard to gauge in noncontact practices.
And as with the wide receiver position, there are maybe as many red flags here as there are reasons for optimism. Dobbins and Edwards, sidelined in 2021 by season-ending knee injuries, missed nine and eight games last year, respectively. Neither has developed into a dynamic receiver out of the backfield, a key element in Monken’s offenses. But when they were on the field last year, Dobbins and Edwards produced. Both rushed for more yards than expected, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, and both averaged at least 5 yards per carry. If even one can stay healthy, the Ravens should have one of the NFL’s most dominant rushing attacks.
5. Offensive line
The Ravens’ emergence up front last season just happened to coincide with a plague of injuries elsewhere on offense. Over its final seven regular-season games last year, the team averaged 12.5 points. Not because of its offensive line, though. In that end-of-season stretch, the Ravens had PFF’s No. 6 tackle (Morgan Moses), Nos. 5 and 35 guards (Kevin Zeitler and Ben Powers, respectively) and No. 5 center (Tyler Linderbaum). Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, meanwhile, allowed just one sack over 298 pass-blocking snaps overall after returning from a series of ankle injuries.
The Ravens have to replace Powers, but an intriguing competition has already developed at left guard between Ben Cleveland, John Simpson and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. Whoever emerges will step into a line that should be far more cohesive than it was a year ago, when Stanley was rehabilitating, Linderbaum was an NFL newcomer and Moses was finding his footing. Among the Ravens’ reserves, Patrick Mekari offers valuable versatility as a do-everything lineman, while tackle Daniel Faalele has the size to help as a sixth lineman in obvious rushing situations.
In Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens have a starting safety duo with complementary talents and massive expectations. Williams, one of the NFL’s best deep-lying ball hawks, had four interceptions and eight passes defended in just 10 games in his first year in Baltimore. Hamilton played primarily in the slot as a rookie, blanketing tight ends, blowing up screens and faring well as a run defender. With Chuck Clark traded away, Hamilton’s move to a more traditional safety role could include even more responsibilities.
Backing them up is Geno Stone, who filled in capably last season while Williams was sidelined by a wrist injury. Brandon Stephens, who’s lined up as a deep safety, outside cornerback and inside cornerback, could succeed Hamilton as the Ravens’ top nickelback. Ar’Darius Washington is pushing for a role as well.
Lamar Jackson’s long-awaited extension mercifully ended the uncertainty over his long-term future with the franchise. But after injuries cut short promising seasons in 2021 and 2022, Jackson enters his sixth season in Baltimore under renewed scrutiny. Can he stay healthy? Will he mesh with Monken? How will he look with a remade wide receiver room? Jackson is one of the NFL’s most electric players, but the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player needs a playoff breakthrough to reset his career’s narrative. That won’t be easy in a loaded AFC.
There are also questions at QB2. Tyler Huntley is a mobile, accurate and affordable backup, but he took a step back last season. Tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and a less-than-stellar receiving corps were partly to blame, but Huntley again finished with more interceptions than touchdowns, and his impact in the run game waned considerably. If he struggles in the preseason, Josh Johnson and Anthony Brown could make a run at the job.
2. Tight end/fullback
It could be a while before the Ravens have a suboptimal tight end group. Mark Andrews is one of the NFL’s best at the position, and the move from one tight-end-friendly coordinator, Greg Roman, to another, Monken, can’t hurt. Isaiah Likely showed flashes of greatness last season and has developed into a surprisingly capable run blocker. Charlie Kolar has the size and hands to be a red-zone weapon. All that’s missing from the group is a sturdy in-line option.
At fullback, Patrick Ricard is coming off his fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance and his busiest season yet. While offseason hip surgery has delayed Ricard’s integration into the new offense, Ben Mason’s earned valuable repetitions in his absence.
1. Inside linebacker
Patrick Queen said earlier this month that he considers the Ravens’ starting duo the best in the NFL. He’s not far off. Roquan Smith earned first-team All-Pro honors last season, and Queen played at a Pro Bowl level after Smith’s midseason arrival. Smith averaged 9.6 tackles per game in his nine starts for the Ravens, while Queen averaged 6.9 per game and finished with a team-high 117. Both are true three-down linebackers, capable of winning on a blitz, blowing up run plays and disrupting receivers in coverage.
There’s good depth behind them, too. Malik Harrison led the team in special teams snaps last season and is a solid run defender with starting experience. Third-round pick Trenton Simpson is an athletic specimen and, with Queen’s free agency looming, the heir apparent next to Smith. Kristian Welch, Del’Shawn Phillips and Josh Ross could all be significant special teams contributors.