By Ashley Anderson
Baltimore Ravens Strengths and Weaknesses Heading Into 2021
Each year, Eric DeCosta and Company work to assemble a Baltimore Ravens roster with premier talent and excellent depth. However, with only 55 spots available, some areas are thinner than others. Here is a ranking of each position group from thinnest to thickest going into 2021 for the Baltimore Ravens.
Projected starters: Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott
Backups: Jordan Richards, Geno Stone, Nigel Warrior, Ar’Darius Washington
Analysis: Chuck Clark is the leader of the pack, having signed a $15.3 million deal last February that will keep him in Baltimore through 2023. DeShon Elliott emerged last year after injuries derailed his first two seasons, but he is a free agent at year’s end. Behind them, things get dicey. Entering his eight-season, Jordan Richards has primarily been a special teamer. Undrafted out of Tennessee, Nigel Warrior spent 2020 on the practice squad, not seeing regular-season action.
After not adding a safety in this year’s draft, Baltimore quickly snatched up Ar’Darius Washington, who appears to be a steal. However, when the top backup is a special teams guy, and everyone else lacks experience, concerns about depth are legitimate.
10.) Outside Linebacker
Starters: Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser
Backups: Odafe Oweh, Jaylon Ferguson, and Daelin Hayes
Analysis: Many experts believe this is the biggest weakness on Baltimore’s roster. Pernell McPhee is getting up there in age, while Tyus Bowser is just rounding into form. Behind them, Jaylon Ferguson is entering his third year, still looking to duplicate his college success. After that, it is a young man’s game with two unproven rookies in Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes. It would not hurt to add another veteran to maximize depth.
9.) Defensive Line
Starters: Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell
Backups: Justin Madubuike, Justin Ellis, and Broderick Washington
Analysis: Things would be looking grim for this group if not for the return of Derek Wolfe. He and Campbell are listed as the only true defensive ends on the Ravens’ current roster, which could be of concern. However, players and coaches alike are raving about youngster Justin Madubuike, who figures to apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks in his second campaign. Justin Ellis is serviceable if not flashy depth piece behind stalwart Brandon Williams. If Broderick Washington keeps his nose clean, he could see increased playing time, but he may still see league discipline.
8.) Tight End
Starters: Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle
Analysis: Beyond Mark Andrews, things are a bit worrisome here. Nick Boyle is trying to come back from his first major injury, so nothing with him is guaranteed. Josh Oliver has looked the part of the number three tight end in minicamps, but he is very new to the offense. Eli Wolf and Tony Poljan may not make the active roster, yet they are competing for the final TE slot.
Starter: Lamar Jackson
Backups: Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley
Analysis: It would be a stretch to say a position is thin when you have a unanimous MVP leading the pack, but beyond Lamar Jackson, there are question marks. The Baltimore Ravens obviously feel confident that either Trace McSorley or Tyler Huntley will emerge as a solid backup to Jackson, which is why they released Robert Griffin III. However, neither has a ton of in-game experience, so it is fair to wonder how well they would perform if forced into regular action.
6.) Inside Linebackers
Starters: Patrick Queen and L.J. Fort
Backups: Malik Harrison and Chris Board
Analysis: Baltimore made a wise move re-signing L.J. Fort this offseason to be the veteran leader in a young core. A bit of a journeyman, Fort found his niche in purple and black, and he is known to have a nose for the ball. The Ravens have high hopes for sophomores Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, the later of whom could overtake Fort as a starter at some point soon. Chris Board has been a solid presence on special teams throughout his career, and he is adequate when called upon defensively.
5.) Wide Receiver
Starters: Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman
Backups: Devin Duvernay, Miles Boykin, James Proche, Tylan Wallace
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Analysis: Youth is the name of the game with this group. Sammy Watkins is the elder statesman at 27, but he is new to the offense. Marquise Brown, on the other hand, is hoping to truly blossom in his third season, especially now the Ravens have added more talent. Rookies Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace come in with tons of potential, but they are still rookies. Second year pros Devin Duvernay and James Proche are hoping to see their roles expand, as is third-year man Miles Boykin. This group is deep but inexperienced.
4.) Offensive Line
Starters: Ronnie Stanley, Ben Cleveland, Bradley Bozeman, Alejandro Villanueva, and Kevin Zeitler
Backups: Tyre Phillips, Ben Bredeson, Ben Powers, Patrick Mekari, Michael Schofield
Analysis: This group got some major upgrades this offseason with the additions of Alejandro Villanueva and Kevin Zeitler. Drafting Ben Cleveland allows Baltimore to move Bradley Bozeman to center, his natural position. Baring a setback, Ronnie Stanley is expected to resume his role as blindside protector for Lamar Jackson. Behind them, tackle depth is a bit concerning, but Tyre Phillips and Patrick Mekari are versatile enough to play guard and tackle. Michael Schofield is more veteran depth, and Ben Bredeson and Ben Powers are still duking it out to start at left guard.
Starter: Patrick Ricard
Backup: Ben Mason
Analysis: Fullback is not a key position on most teams, but in the Ravens run-heavy offense, it certainly is. Fortunately, they have one of the best in Patrick Ricard, and Ben Mason appears to be cut from the same cloth. No concerns with this group.
2.) Running Back
Starter: J.K. Dobbins
Backups: Gus Edwards and Justice Hill
Analysis: Dobbins enters his second season as the 1A running back with Edwards providing a 1B role. Both emphasize yards per carry, and Dobbins was a touchdown machine at the end of 2020. Coaches are emphasizing Dobbins getting more involved in the passing, which is also an area where Hill contributes. This group will likely lead the NFL in rushing again along with Lamar Jackson.
1.) The Baltimore Ravens top position: Cornerback
Projected Starters: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young
Backups: Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, Shaun Wade, Brandon Stephens, Davonte Harris, Khalil Dorsey, Iman Marshall, Chris Westry
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Analysis: Holy cow, this group is LOADED! It isn’t very often that your backup corner is a Pro Bowl-caliber former first-round pick, and your top guys are the best turnover machines in the NFL. Tavon Young is a top slot corner when healthy, and the Ravens added Shaun Wade as a contingency plan in case that doesn’t happen. Anthony Averett could easily be a starter on another team, and Dorsey and Harris have flashed at times. As Ozzie Newsome always said, you can never have enough healthy corners, and Baltimore is living by that mantra.
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