Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions as Ravens Travel to the Windy City

By: Ashley Anderson

Coming off an embarrassing 22-10 loss against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night football, the Baltimore Ravens had to do some soul searching this week. With a few extra days rest, they travel to Chicago on Sunday to take on the Bears. Led by rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears are currently 3-6. Their record is deceiving though, as they have played a number of close games. Here are the big questions leading into Week 10.

3.) Can the Baltimore Ravens find a way to limit big plays defensively?

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” – Cool Hand Luke, 1967.

When people think of the Baltimore Ravens, they typically think of bruising defenses led by the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Although there is plenty of talent on the 2021 squad, it seems like the Ravens are struggling to put them all together. Nearly every week, even if the defense plays well as a whole, they experience lapses. Big plays have become the norm rather than the unexpected.

Somewhat astonishingly, Baltimore has allowed six plays of 50 or more yards in just the past three weeks. Their busted coverage on a 64-yard catch and run by Albert Wilson evaporated any chance of a comeback against Miami. Even in the win against Minnesota, they surrendered a 50-yard touchdown to Justin Jefferson.

Long-time fans are baffled by the overall performance of the unit, which is typically prideful and dominant. There are plenty of factors, including injury, that point to the down year. The biggest issue, however, seems to be a lack of communication within the group.

For some time, the Ravens were struggling with tackling, leading to explosive plays. They seemed to have that figured out a bit in recent games, but there have still been several big plays. Often, there appears to be a breakdown in pre-snap communication. Safety Chuck Clark wears the green dot on his helmet, so he is ultimately responsible for relaying the play calls. Marlon Humphrey has also taken responsibility for his part in the lapses.

All-in-all, chunk plays are a dagger for any defense. The Ravens know this is an area of weakness and one that must improve if they hope to make a playoff run this season. Facing a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields should help them get things right this week.

2.) Will the running game get back on track?

For years, the bread and butter of Baltimore’s offense was their rushing attack. It seemed they could run against any and every team in the NFL. However, there has never been another season where the Ravens lost all three of their top running backs prior to the start of the year.

The losses left the front office reeling as they searched for help. Ty’Son Williams made the 53-man roster out of camp, and Baltimore quickly added Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell. Since then, they also added Nate McCrary back to the practice squad.

Murray missed the past three games with an ankle injury, and the run game suffered as a result. Most weeks, quarterback Lamar Jackson is actually the leading rusher, and none of the backs separated from the pack. With Murray finally getting healthy, the Ravens made the surprise choice to part ways with Bell.

Much of the blame for the run game struggling can be placed on the offensive line. Without Ronnie Stanley, the unit was forced to shift Alejandro Villanueva to left tackle. Patrick Mekari had finally stabilized the right tackle role before he went down with an ankle injury. Second-year man Tyre Phillips is not built to be a tackle, but Baltimore was forced to use him there. Ben Powers and Ben Cleveland were rotating at left guard before Powers suffered a knee injury. Powers struggled in his absence.

Cleveland may be ready to return this week, and Mekari is also getting healthy. As the weather turns cold, Baltimore is certainly hopeful that someone or something can provide a spark on the ground. Could this be the week Nate McCrary finally gets a call-up?


1.) How will mid-week absences from Lamar Jackson and Bradley Bozeman affect the offense?

Both Lamar Jackson and Bradley Bozeman were sent home from practice Wednesday with non-Covid related illnesses. Jackson is virtually the only reason the Ravens are 6-3 at this point, but he has now missed practice time four separate weeks. Meanwhile, Bozeman has been the anchor of an offensive line that has faced a ton of adversity this season.

It is never a good thing when starters miss practice time for any reason. What makes matters worse is that Jackson and Bozeman are the most crucial pieces of an offense that would look dramatically different without them. At this point, there is no reason to believe either will miss Sunday’s game. The missed practice time, however, could throw off the rhythm of the entire offensive unit.

Jackson has shown an uncanny knack for building chemistry with his receivers despite the repeated absences. Still, there are moments when the timing seems just a touch off with this offense. For example, in his return from a three-game absence, Sammy Watkins was targeted early on a deep pass against the Dolphins. Unfortunately, he either believed the ball to be overthrown, or he lost it in the lights, and a would-be touchdown landed incomplete. Slightly better timing between Jackson and Watkins may have made a difference.

Losing Bozeman would be equally damaging. Last year, the Ravens struggled mightily with poor snaps, but Bozeman virtually eliminated the issue. He has been one of the top centers in the league and easily the best lineman in Baltimore. Without him, the Ravens would have to turn to Trystan Colon, who has primarily been used as an additional lineman in heavy packages. Colon would then have the responsibility of making pre-snap reads and trying to gel with a line that, as previously mentioned, already dealt with its fair share of change.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: A full examination of the Greg Roman situation

All-in-all, it is too early to panic here, but the situation bears watching (no pun intended). Jackson and Bozeman may both return tomorrow fine as fiddles, and this question becomes irrelevant. Any other scenario, however, could put the Ravens at a huge disadvantage.

Posted in Pregame Content

3 keys for Baltimore Ravens offense against the Detroit Lions

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens offense has to do some heavy lifting against the Detroit Lions. It’s hard to know what to expect from the defense with so many players being out due to Covid-19 on top of their injury concerns. So how can the offense continue to step up to the challenge in the third week of the season? How can the offense give the Ravens as easy of a win as is still possible? Let’s dive into the offense here:

Baltimore Ravens key 1: Run the ball

The Baltimore Ravens have never been shy about running the football. While the Ravens want to keep expanding the passing game their bout with the Lions is the perfect excuse to lean into their ground and pound identity. The Ravens literally can’t run the ball enough in this game- providing they have anywhere near their normal success on the ground. The more the Ravens take the air out of the ball, the more they can run the clock out. The more the offense has the ball, the less their stretched-thin defense can be exposed.

It’s not rocket science and just about every pundit is going to ask the Ravens to lean on their ground game. It’s exactly what you expected me to say and sometimes the obvious idea is obvious for a reason. The Ravens have to find a hot hand in the run game and they need to open rushing lanes up. Ben Cleveland played 32 snaps this season and according to his Pro Football Focus grade did much better in pass protection than in the run game. If the Ravens are going to keep tinkering with their left guard rotation in this game it must be to prioritize success on the ground.

Ty’Son Williams has been exciting for good and bad reasons. He’s made mistakes and his fumble against the Chiefs was a lucky one that didn’t ruin a touchdown run. Williams has looked like the most explosive and effective running back the Ravens have. He hits the point of attack with a full head of steam and when it works it really works. Williams has to clean up the other parts of his game (pass protection, receiving out of the backfield, ball security) because he’s the best running back the Ravens have.

Key 2: No Lamar Jackson turnovers

Lamar Jackson has been great this season. He’s the biggest reason the Ravens beat the Kansas City Chiefs and the only reason the Ravens had a chance in a tough loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. That being said, Jackson needs to do a better job protecting the football. Jackson had two interceptions against the Chiefs and two fumbles against the Raiders. Even if you take the opening pick away from the Chiefs game because Sammy Watkins slipped, Jackson has been a little uncharacteristically unsafe with the football.

Jackson cannot force throws in this game. Against the Chiefs, he threw a pass into triple coverage. He has to show that not only did he understand it was a dumb play, but that he’s not going to have to learn his lesson the tough way again. Jackson needs to be disciplined because when he’s on point he’s the best player on the field.

Key 3: Greg Roman has to have a nuanced game plan:

So we know the Ravens want to run the ball and have long drives that bleed the clock. We know that, so the Detroit Lions know it also. Roman boasted about the number of runs he used against the Chiefs and that he had more. Great. The run game is great. The key is to have nuance to the play-calls. If you’re going to overdo it with the run game you have to have calls that surprise the opponent. Timely play-action passing is important. It’s important to let Jackson make an impact as a passer and to take advantage of a defensive over aggressiveness against the run.

When the Ravens are on offense they need to avoid becoming predictable. They need to keep the passing game involved while keeping the offense on the field. Roman also can’t call the game exclusively to keep the offense on the field for long drives.

NEXT POST: Ravens vs. Lions got interesting: 3 big questions for the game

When a shot is there, he has to know to go for it. The Ravens game plan isn’t complicated or unpredictable so serving it in a nuanced way will be a big key.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: 10 predictions for the preseason

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens start the three-game preseason next Saturday on the 14th. They host the New Orleans Saints for their first preseason bout. Here is a look at what I see going down in the three preseason games:

1. A slow start for the offense: 

The Baltimore Ravens offense hasn’t had a great start to training camp. There have been some injuries hampering their receivers, while Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards haven’t been able to practice due to Covid-19. Getting everything going isn’t an instant thing. With very limited practice time with the starting quarterback, if we see the starting offense against the Saints it may be a little less sharp than fans want to see.

2. Ben Cleveland is going to make an obvious push for being a starter:

The Baltimore Ravens need the offensive line to be a strength in the 2021 season. Ben Cleveland literally a huge addition to the unit. His massive size and power will shine through. The preseason is a good chance to develop Cleveland. Cleveland has some on-the-job training ahead of him. I could see him getting preseason reps against starters and backups. It’s going to be the most game-like scenario the Ravens will see Cleveland in. Expect him to work out some rookie kinks and to win a starting job.

3. At least one receiver on the back-end of the depth chart will get the Baltimore Ravens Flock way too excited:

I’m not talking about the receivers we keep talking about here. I’m talking about the players like Deon Cain and Binjimen Victor. There will be at least one wide receiver who doesn’t have a realistic chance at a roster spot, that will make plays. It happens on a yearly basis. One of these receivers will make plays against backups. The fans will fall in love with him and the Ravens will cut him. I’m not talking about a Miles Boykin or a James Proche here. I’m talking about the camp bodies who will have to look for chances elsewhere unless maybe, they impress enough on special teams. It happens every year, especially in a receiver starved city.

4. Odafe Oweh gets two sacks in the preseason:

Oweh is in an interesting position going into the preseason. He’s supposed to be a raw player with the goods athletically. Most first-round picks are protected and reserved for most of the preseason action. I could see Oweh getting more playing time than you might expect. If Oweh plays against backups he’s going to win the battle. I think he may be able to beat some starters off the edge just because he’s so explosive. Give Oweh two preseason sacks that will get Baltimore going.

5. Jaylon Ferguson will come on strong:

Jaylon Ferguson is on the roster bubble. When the Ravens signed Justin Houston, that bubble became just a little bit more uncomfortable. Ferguson is going to be hungry. The good news for Ferguson is that he looks like a lean machine. He had the traits that you look for when he was drafted and this could be Ferguson in his best shape. I expect a strong showing from the former Louisiana Tech product. We’ll have to see if it’s too little too late though.

6. The Ravens will go 3-0 this preseason

Do the Ravens ever lose in the preseason anymore? They’ve won 17 straight games in the preseason. These games don’t matter from a results perspective, but you have to think the Ravens put emphasis on winning these games.

The Ravens never treat these as throwaway games, they treat them as work in a game setting. After years of watching John Harbaugh coached Ravens teams in the preseason, the biggest compliment I can give is that they almost make the preseason fun football.

More importantly, the Ravens have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. The Ravens have role players and backups that are better than what’s out there on most NFL rosters. The Ravens have a tendency to win preseason games and one of the most stacked rosters. This makes me see three meaningless wins coming right up.

7. The Ravens won’t give much away about their new passing game:

One of the big advantages of the Ravens is that nobody knows what to expect from their new passing game. The Ravens have Keith Williams and Tee Martin as the new passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. It’s a given that the passing attack will change. Expect the Ravens’ offense to be very vanilla in the preseason. They probably have no motivation to give things away. Much like Eric DeCosta played us when he talked up his comfort level at wide receiver before the draft, I expect the coaching staff to keep their secrets.

One thing I do expect though is you will see a higher level of quality out of the wide receiver group as a whole. This is a position group that needed a coaching update. With mostly young receivers the coaching should take incredibly well and show its impact in the games.

8. Rashod Bateman will shine:

Sticking with the wide receivers, Rashod Bateman will have a nice preseason. I’m done saying that Bateman will be good because football season is here and he obviously is good. The Ravens have never had a rookie wide receiver with more talent. Bateman will become one of the best receivers in the NFL soon enough. For now, he’ll have a nice little highlight reel in the preseason.

9. Tyler Huntley will earn QB2:

My expectations for Tyler Huntley are high. In a year where there is no promise that the Ravens hold on to three quarterbacks, Huntley has a chance to earn the second spot at quarterback. Arm talent is what I believe to be the biggest separator between Huntley and McSorley. Huntley has a more powerful arm. He has a lot of skills in common with Lamar Jackson and he makes the most sense as the backup.

Is he ever going to be a Jackson-level quarterback? Probably not. I could see him becoming the best backup in the league and earning a starting spot elsewhere eventually. That’s on the table. Huntley is talented.

10. Nate McCrary makes a legitimate run for the third running back spot:

Justice Hill hasn’t been the player I was expecting him to be. To be fair, the Oklahoma State product hasn’t had much of a chance behind Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards in 2019 and Edwards and Dobbins in 2020. The third running back spot is arguably up for grabs. The player that Justice Hill has to worry about is Nate McCrary, an undrafted free agent out of Saginaw State.

McCrary looks the part with a 6-1 and 225-pound build. He had 1060 yards in the 2019 season and he scored 10 touchdowns. It may just be at Saginaw State, but McCrary is an interesting player to watch. That’s my only promise here, that McCrary makes it interesting. He may not make the roster, but he’s going to make a strong argument for himself that will be worth the price of admission.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens training camp: What to be excited about

Doesn’t it feel good to start thinking about football games again? We’ll be here all season. Let’s go!

Posted in Uncategorized

Ravens rookies: Top concern for each member of 2021 draft class

By Chris Schisler

Making the leap from college football to the NFL isn’t always a seamless transition. The Ravens have a very exciting crop of rookies ready to start their first training camp at the Castle in Owings Mills. What could hold each one back? What do they have to be mindful of as they prepare for their first season. That’s what we’re talking about today.

Rashod Bateman: Finding his spot in the offense

Bateman is just like any rookie, he has to learn a new offense and find his place in it. The good news for Bateman though, is that the passing attack should be fairly new for all parties involved. Kieth Williams and Tee Martin are entering their first season as the passing game coordinator and the receivers coaching positions. Sammy Watkins is a veteran and this is going to be new for him too. This honestly could cushion the transition for Bateman.

The 27th overall pick has to develop a chemistry with Lamar Jackson. The Ravens also need to figure out where he is in the receiving pecking order. Bateman may have more talent than any of the receivers. Still, Watkins is a veteran and Marquise Brown is Jackson’s favorite target. The Ravens will obviously like to get Bateman going. On a team that probably won’t average over 30 passing attempts per game, and with two proven targets at his position, will it get in the way of a breakout rookie season? That’s the top concern for Bateman.

Odafe Oweh: Learning on the job

Odafe Oweh is a phenomenal athlete. The Ravens are tasked with making their gifted phenom a great football player, not just an athlete with the things you can’t coach. Oweh has a long wingspan. He’s quick off the ball and he’s powerful as well. From a physical traits standpoint, Oweh has nothing to worry about.

Oweh’s top concern is being ready to get to the quarterback in the NFL. He’s a raw pass rusher with a limited set of pass rush moves. With Oweh, it won’t take long for opposing offensive tackles to surmise what is coming. The big worry for Oweh isn’t that he doesn’t belong on the stage. We know he does. Quite frankly, the man was born to play football, he’s got the goods. That worry is whether or not he’ll be ready to play at a high level as a rookie. If there is a draft pick of the Ravens with something to prove, it’s him.

Ben Cleveland: When being massive isn’t enough

Ben Cleveland has a strong possibility of winning a starting job at left guard. The Ravens drafted Cleveland to be the dominant and imposing presence for the offensive line and he looks the part. Cleveland is a massive human being. He’s 6-6 and weighs 357 pounds. Let’s be honest, he makes some offensive tackles seem small. Is that enough in the NFL. Much like Oweh, Cleveland can’t solely rely on the fact that he won the genetic lottery and has the things you can’t instill in a player with coaching.

If there is one concern that I have for Cleveland, it’s that he may rely on his strength too much at the expense of technique and footwork. This is a player who is just used to being bigger and badder than his opponents, even in the mighty SEC. There’s a ton of competition at left guard and Cleveland has to win the job. The best-case scenario sees Cleveland do just that. One way or the other though, the Ravens will have a rookie offensive linemen who will probably need some polish.

Brandon Stephens: Will he be typecasted as a special teams player

The Ravens have an abundance of talent at cornerback. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are two of the four Aces in a deck of cards. Jimmy Smith is at least a Jack. Tavon Young can be an elite nickel corner if he can stay on the field. Baltimore should be very excited about Shaun Wade. Stephens is in a crowd there.

Stephens may be a safety when it’s all said and done. Well, there’s a logjam there. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott. Smith can be used as a safety and undrafted free agent Ar’Darius Washington may be the unproven player to watch in camp. Stephens will have to make an impact on special teams. He already knew that. The question is how involved can he get with the defense?

Tylan Wallace: Will he pay the Ravens’ rookie tax?

Tylan Wallace was one of two picks at the wide receiver position. Sammy Watkins was brought in as a free agent. If Bateman has to find his role in this offense, it may take longer for Wallace. Bateman has the luxury of being a number one pick, he’s getting chances to show off. Wallace doesn’t have that expectation right away.

Wallace has to find any and every way to contribute that he can. He has to avoid being this year’s James Proche, a mostly ignored rookie. The Ravens traditionally favor experience over potential. That’s why Willie Snead got a lot of playing time that probably should have gone to Devin Duvernay. Speaking of Duvernay, that’s Wallace’s main competition for playing time. Wallace has big potential, but he may have to wait to really show it.

Shaun Wade: Can he be a job thief?

I know, competition is a theme here. It’s the biggest pothole that rookies find themselves stuck in. The thing is, Shaun Wade may struggle to get playing time. If they stay healthy Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith are Baltimore”s best extra corners. What if Brandon Stephens ends up being a stud cornerback? Anthony Averett is still here. Like Stephens, he’s coming into the most crowded secondary unit in the NFL. You may not see Wade really get his chance until year two or three of his career. Where he was drafted this may actually be part of the plan. 

Ben Mason: Copycat of another Ravens player

This isn’t too complicated. The Ravens already have a Ben Mason and his name is Pat Ricard. MAson comes into the league with almost the same exact skill set as Ricard. The Ravens already have one, do they need two fullbacks? If you count Mason as a tight end, he’s a poor man’s, Nick Boyle. Does Mason give the Ravens anything they were lacking?

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Three Big Questions at the Wide Receiver Position

The Baltimore Ravens season is almost here. That means the Purple and Black Nest gets to ramp up the football talk. When you need your Baltimore Ravens football fix, PBN is a great way to get it. We’re the small little Ravens blog that could. This football season I hope you hop on for the ride.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Ravens Offensive Line Facelift Key to 2021 Success

By: Ashley Anderson

It is no secret the Baltimore Ravens struggled in their passing attack during the 2020 season. After a prolific 2019, they took a big step backward, finishing dead last in the NFL in pass attempts and yards. Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic played a role, but there were internal issues as well. Following a brutal loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, General Manager Eric DeCosta knew he had his work cut out for him, and it did not take long for him to make a move.

Hours before the official start of free agency, the Ravens inked former New York Giants guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year, $22 million deal. For Baltimore, Zeitler perfectly fits their “right player, right price” mentality, as he does not count against the compensatory pick formula after being cut by the Giants.

The former first-round pick is an instant upgrade over the pairing of Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker who were part of the patchwork 2020 offensive line. Fans were certainly excited to see their franchise quarterback get some better protection, however, many still had one thing on their mind: a big-name wide receiver.

To the fans’ dismay, things instead got eerily quiet in Baltimore after Zeitler came on board. As one major wideout after another popped in for a visit only to sign elsewhere, Ravens Flock became restless. DeCosta finally addressed their concerns (sort-of) by signing former Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins to a one-year, $6 million contract.

The oft-injured wideout was a bit of a consolation prize to those who had their sites set on Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay, but DeCosta worked his magic in the NFL Draft, nabbing Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman in round one and Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace in round four. Still, some fans are adamant the Ravens should pursue Julio Jones.

Missing the Point

At this point, those fans are failing to see the bigger picture. Having a star receiver is great, but not even the best quarterbacks of all time can complete passes while laying on their backs. Look no further than Super Bowl LV where Patrick Mahomes spent so much time running for his life that the Chiefs’ high-powered offense was held to just nine points. Games are won and lost in the trenches, which is why the upgraded offensive line is actually what will propel the Ravens to success in 2021.

Related Post: How to scout offensive linemen for the NFL Draft

DeCosta prioritized the offensive line from the word go this off-season, and he made some bold moves to bolster the unit. Adding Zeitler was the first piece of the puzzle, then DeCosta executed a trade that sent Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs. Kansas City is known to be a formidable foe to the Ravens, leaving some pundits scratching their heads as to why Baltimore would send an important, young player to a rival. However, DeCosta was able to deal an unhappy player, who already made it clear he wanted out, for significantly more capital than the comp pick Brown Jr. would have represented had he left in free agency.

The NFL Draft saw Baltimore come away with a steal in Georgia guard Ben Cleveland. Head Coach John Harbaugh is so high on the kid that he pleaded with DeCosta to move up and select him. Having stood pat, the Ravens still got their guy who figures to win the starting left guard job. As a result, last year’s starting left guard, Bradley Bozeman, will shift back over to his natural center position. A two-year starter and captain at Alabama, Bozeman will look to eliminate the snap issues that plagued the Ravens last year, particularly in the playoffs.

As for the gaping hole at right tackle, DeCosta patiently waited until after the Draft to lure former Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva to Baltimore. Locking Villanueva into a $14 million deal over two years allows the Ravens to rely on a savvy veteran while looking to develop Phillips for the future. All-in-all, only left tackle Ronnie Stanley figures to remain in his role from last season.

Ravens offensive line 2021 Outlook

At this point, the projected offensive line from left to right is Stanley, Cleveland, Bozeman, Zeitler, and Villanueva. In pounds, that is 315, 357, 325, 315, and 277, for a total of 1,589. In other words, the Ravens now have a massive wall in front of Lamar Jackson to help keep him upright and healthy. Not only should this help improve the passing game, it should also allow Baltimore to continue dominating the ground game for which they are so well known.

Ravens bottom line:

A top free agent wide receiver may have been the shiny new toy Ravens fans wanted, but the fleet of Hummers they got instead will prove more valuable. Baltimore has always emphasized their rushing attack, and that was not going to change for the sake of adding a player like Robinson or Jones.

NEXT POST: 3 forgotten Ravens of the month vol 1.

Thanks to masterful drafting by Eric DeCosta and Co., the cupboard is hardly bare as far as receiving weapons go. Now, Jackson can focus on taking the next step in his development rather than protecting himself from opposing defenders. DeCosta did all of this on team-friendly, low-cost deals, and the future is bright in Charm City.

Posted in Uncategorized

2021 Baltimore Ravens: Camp battles

By Ronald Toothe

Ravens fans, before we dive into the meat and potatoes of this article, I’d first like to take a moment to express my thanks to Chris Schisler and my excitement in being here at the Purple and Black Nest.

How we got here

While all of us would’ve loved to continue growing the Ravens Flock community that we established at our old company, sometimes life doesn’t work out as you planned. Whether it’s in our professional lives or our personal lives, all we can do during our time on this floating rock in outer space is roll with the punches and embrace every new opportunity.

With that said, this new journey you’re all taking with us is one full of those opportunities. We now have the freedom to bring you all types of new, exciting Ravens content in a multitude of different mediums.

You’ll soon start seeing more and more familiar faces here at the Purple and Black Nest. People who only want to bring you what you deserve. That’s the BEST Baltimore football content consistently. So thank you all for sticking with us, the love we put into what we do has been exceeded only by the love shown to us by all of you over the last few weeks. The Ravens Flock truly is the best fan base in all of sports, and I for one can’t wait to see what the future holds.

The Ravens opened up their OTAs this week in force, with 80 players in attendance including former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. It’s clear that the team is highly focused on silencing the critics in 2021, and bringing another championship to Baltimore in the process.

The work truly starts now for the Ravens, and there’s bound to be plenty of storylines coming out of camp as we head into the Summer months. Many of those storylines will be in the form of positional battles for starting jobs, so let’s take a look at some of the key matchups fans should be keeping an eye on.

Left Guard: Ben Powers vs Ben Cleveland

Kicking things off is a battle of the big men to determine who will flank Ronnie Stanley on the left side of the offensive line.

At the end of last season, Ben Powers showed a lot of promise filling in after Stanley’s injury forced an offensive line reshuffle. The running game began to look even more like it did when it was smashing records in 2019, and Powers was a big part of that. Even given the massive human being who will be competing with him for the job, Powers will have every opportunity in camp to take the role as the incumbent.

Speaking of that massive human being, Ben Cleveland is a player that John Harbaugh has gone on record as saying was one of his favorites in this entire draft. A mean mauler with a physical stature only comparable to The Mountain in Game of Thrones, Cleveland spent his college career pushing defensive linemen around in the toughest conference in football at Georgia.

Now he has his shot to be a professional starter and do the same thing for Lamar Jackson and company, and the smart money would bank on him being the opening day starter for the Ravens.

Ravens Number 4 receiver/Number 2 slot: Devin Duvernay vs Tylan Wallace

This battle will likely stay the same whether the Ravens trade for Julio Jones or not, although the playing time that goes along with it will inevitably decrease in a pretty massive way.

Assuming the Ravens stick with who they have, Devin Duvernay will have stiff competition for a larger target share in this offense coming off his rookie year. His contributions in the return game were massive for Baltimore last year, finishing 9th in the league in kick return yards with a touchdown.

While that kind of production and potential assures he’ll have a role on the 2021 Ravens, it could also motivate the coaching staff to have him focus more exclusively on that role while giving their fourth-round draft pick the majority of the reps.

Tylan Wallace did a little bit of everything during his time as a member of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but his skill set very much lends itself to that of a consistent slot receiver in the pros.

A scrappy competitor who runs crisp routes while displaying great body control, Wallace is just the type of receiver Lamar Jackson needs over the middle on those tough 3rd and 7 type scenarios late in ball games. He’s not the type of player who will break off 50-yard chunk plays consistently, but he’s more than capable of being an added security blanket for this offense.

Ravens Slot Corner: Tavon Young vs Shaun Wade

Tavon Young is coming off two straight season-ending injuries, but after signing the richest nickel corner contract in football just two years ago the Ravens will give Young every opportunity to maximize their investment in him. His talent is certainly undeniable, but the name of the game in 2021 for Tavon Young is not his ability, but his availability. As long as he can be out there on the field, he’ll likely be the clubhouse leader to take back his starting job.

Shaun Wade out of Ohio State would love nothing more than to usurp that position from Young though, as somebody who scouts thought would be an easy first-round selection heading into last season.

Wade had an up-and-down 2020. A combination of a turf toe injury and a switch to the outside corner position caused his stock to fall all the way into the fifth round. Make no mistake though, in his two seasons as the starting slot corner for the Buckeyes, Wade was the best player on the field more times than not. He has all the athletic potential in the world to translate that success to the next level. Tavon Young won’t be handed this job, and as his contract comes towards its end perhaps the Ravens would like to look to the future at the nickel.

Next Post: Nest Talk: Keep underselling the Ravens offense

As we head into the Summer months, more competitions are likely to take shape as the Ravens continue to build the 2021 team. These are just a few to really take note of as we progress through this week into the rest of the offseason team activities, and all three will be crucial to the success of the Ravens this year.