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queen

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Ravens rookies make Week 1 impact despite challenging offseason

Posted on 14 September 2020 by Luke Jones

Rookies were supposed to be at a major disadvantage in this unusual 2020 season, but you wouldn’t know it watching the Ravens in their Week 1 win over Cleveland.

First-round inside linebacker Patrick Queen starting in the middle of the Baltimore defense was always anticipated, but he was just one of seven 2020 draft picks to make their NFL debut against the Browns. Of those seven, three started and five played at least 20 snaps on either side of the ball. In contrast, the 2019 draft class featured only three players — wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin and running back Justice Hill — who were active in Week 1 last year. Queen and second-round running back J.K. Dobbins — who scored two touchdowns on seven carries for 22 yards — garnered the attention on Sunday, but it was another rookie who saw the most snaps of the three. After playing left tackle at Mississippi State last year, third-round pick Tyre Phillips made the start at right guard, beating out veteran D.J. Fluker this summer to replace the retired Marshal Yanda. John Harbaugh labeled it “pretty remarkable” that the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Phillips made his first start at a position he didn’t play in college, and the head coach generally liked what he saw from Phillips’ 56 snaps.

“He has a long way to go. He can improve so much, but I look at that as a real positive,” Harbaugh said. “He’s only going to get better because he’s really smart and he’s really a detail-oriented person. He’s the kind of guy who once he’s experienced it, he corrects it. He’s going to learn from every single snap that he takes out there. He had a few things, but he cleaned them up right away. He’s a heck of an athlete [and] a real strong guy.

“I would say he graded out a plus, for sure, in the game. He had a good game.”

Queen’s debut was encouraging with a team-high eight tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble in 54 snaps despite the LSU product being targeted in pass coverage twice for two receptions totaling 20 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“He did a good job with his run-fits. He was downhill. I thought he showed his explosive speed a couple times where he went and made some plays,” Harbaugh said. “But generally speaking, [he was] just very solid in terms of the basics; the run-fits, the angles he took, the zone-drops, the way he related the routes, the patience he showed there. He didn’t panic at all. I felt like that was the best thing about it as a start. He should only improve from here.”

Harbaugh was also pleased with fellow rookie inside linebacker Malik Harrison, who also drew a start in Baltimore’s base defense and played 21 defensive snaps in a rotation that also included veterans L.J. Fort and Chris Board. Harrison, a third-round selection from Ohio State, registered four tackles and deflected a pass intended for Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Fifth-round defensive tackle Broderick Washington recorded a tackle on 28 snaps in the defensive line rotation while rookie wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche handled the kickoff and punt return duties respectively. Duvernay averaged 32.0 yards on his two kick returns and also caught one pass for 12 yards while Proche returned two punts for 26 yards to shake off a second-quarter gaffe that resulted in a Cleveland punt being downed at the Ravens’ 1-yard line.

The performances left room for growth and roles frequently change this early in the season, but the poise and confidence with which the rookies played was impressive considering the group didn’t have the opportunity to play in any preseason games this summer.

“We’re all in the same place, doing the same thing, and we’re all trying to make a statement,” Queen said. “Anytime our number is called, we’re coming to play and coming to dominate. Everybody that comes in, they’re going to get our all, and that’s all we can ask as a team. As a coaching staff, they just want us to play 100 percent.”

Stanley’s status

Harbaugh had no update on left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who sustained a left ankle injury on the opening drive of the second half and didn’t return.

The 2019 Pro Bowl selection remained on the sideline and walked only with a slight limp, encouraging signs for his Week 2 status against Houston.

“I haven’t been told anything serious,” Harbaugh said. “They’re working on him down in the training room. I’d say Wednesday we’ll have a pretty good idea. But again, I expect him to be out there practicing Wednesday. That’s my expectation at this point.”

Week 1 notes

The Ravens became the first team in NFL history to win three straight season openers by 30 or more points after registering blowout Week 1 wins over Cleveland (38-6 in 2020), Miami (59-10 in 2019), and Buffalo (47-3) in 2018). … Sunday marked the third 99-yard drive in franchise history and the first since one in the 2001 postseason that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Elvis Grbac to Travis Taylor in a wild-card round win at Miami. … Queen (21 years, 1 month) became the second-youngest player ever to start a game for the Ravens as only former Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis (21 years, 18 days) was younger as a rookie in 2000.

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decostaharbaugh

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Predicting the initial 53-man roster for the 2020 Ravens

Posted on 03 September 2020 by Luke Jones

Only two weeks of open training camp practices and the absence of preseason games make the exercise of predicting the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster more challenging than ever despite so much continuity from last season.

With no shortage of unknowns that coaches and team officials aren’t exactly eager to discuss and the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the 2020 season, Saturday’s 4 p.m. cut-down deadline could bring a surprise move or two as well as an altered roster-building strategy with virus testing results threatening to disrupt the season at any point. The practice squad has expanded to 16 players with six spots open to veterans of all experience levels, meaning teams could be more strategic than ever trying to keep familiar players in the fold. On the flip side, organizations may be more reluctant to claim unproven players off waivers without as much as a single 2020 preseason snap to evaluate.

“Being on the practice squad this year, in my mind, is like making the team,” head coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week. “I think most teams are going to really want to hold on to their guys for their practice squad because they know the system. They’re kind of schooled up now on the offense and defense. You have to assume that there’s a possibility that those guys will be playing any given week.”

It’s also worth noting that teams may protect four players from their practice squad for a portion of every game week and are permitted to promote up to two players from the practice squad the day before a game to essentially create a temporary 55-man roster. Beginning this year, teams may have up to 48 players active for games — the previous limit was 46 — as long as at least eight are offensive linemen.

These dynamics could lead to Eric DeCosta and other general managers retaining more draft picks and veteran role players with higher profiles around the league and cutting more undrafted rookies — including even the ones they like most — in hopes of passing them through waivers and re-signing them to the practice squad. Such a strategy would be notable with the Ravens having kept at least one rookie free agent on their Week 1 roster for 16 consecutive years.

Below is my final projection of the initial 53-man roster ahead of the 2020 regular season:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
IN: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Tyler Huntley
OUT: Trace McSorley
Skinny: Going solely off the eyeball test from practices open to reporters, Huntley has outplayed McSorley and deserves the No. 3 job. However, the Ravens didn’t want to expose McSorley as a sixth-round rookie to waivers last summer and presumably want to keep both in the organization. Is another quarterback-light team more likely to claim McSorley — who flashed in preseason games last year — or an undrafted free agent without a single snap of preseason tape?  There’s also the question of their respective understandings of Greg Roman’s offense with McSorley having the extra year under his belt. Earlier this week, Harbaugh noted the four quarterbacks are “all in different places right now in their development.” With that in mind, my prediction could change here by Saturday afternoon.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
IN: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
OUT: Kenjon Barner, Ty’Son Williams
Skinny: Missing a portion of summer workouts with an undisclosed injury, Hill is currently a distant fourth in the pecking order, which is a precarious place to be in the event of injuries and roster needs at other positions. However, the 2019 fourth-round pick could be in the kick return mix and is valuable depth for a team that runs the ball more than anyone. In the same way Dobbins was drafted in the second round with an eye toward the future, Hill may have a more prominent role in 2021 and beyond, but he’ll need to be a special-teams contributor to be active on game days. Signed only last week, Williams flashed in last weekend’s scrimmage and could land on the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Chris Moore
OUT: Jaleel Scott, Jaylon Moore
Skinny: Even after missing all of open training camp with a broken finger, Chris Moore is one of Baltimore’s best special-teams players and still figures to have a roster spot for the regular season. Scott, a 2018 fourth-round pick, just hasn’t shown enough growth in his third summer to make the 53-man roster, but Jaylon Moore, a rookie free agent from Tennessee-Martin, could be a solid developmental addition to the practice squad after making some tough catches in practices.

TIGHT ENDS & FULLBACKS (3)
IN: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Patrick Ricard
OUT: Jerell Adams, Eli Wolf, Charles Scarff
Skinny: Ricard is a Pro Bowl fullback and not a permanent answer behind Andrews and Boyle, but the No. 3 tight end competition never really materialized this summer. Adams has the most experience of the three projected to be on the outside looking in and could be re-signed at any point, but there’s little incentive keeping an underwhelming third option if you can retain another player at a different position for the time being while exploring outside alternatives. Wolf showed some skill in the little bit of time he was on the practice field, but availability has been an issue for the undrafted rookie, making the practice squad a logical place for him.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari, D.J. Fluker, Tyre Phillips, Ben Bredeson, Ben Powers
OUT: Will Holden, Parker Ehinger, Trystan Colon-Castillo
Skinny: Skura’s health could determine whether the Ravens keep him on the roster or place him on injured reserve with a designation to return requiring only a three-game absence this year. Powers, a 2019 fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, has been a popular choice to be cut after an underwhelming summer, but the Ravens prefer not to give up on draft picks too quickly and he’s much more likely to be snatched up by another team than the three linemen left out here. Phillips, a third-round rookie from Mississippi State, has built late momentum to start at right guard, which could leave the veteran Fluker as a versatile inside-outside backup. Ideally, you’d like to have a swing tackle to back up both Stanley and Brown, but neither Holden nor Ehinger showed enough to devote a roster spot there as the Ravens will instead lean on the versatility of their interior linemen.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)
IN: Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Justin Ellis, Broderick Washington
OUT: Aaron Crawford
Skinny: The week-to-week knee injury to Madubuike — another conceivable IR return candidate — eliminates any perceived doubt about Ellis, who has had a good summer and is the primary backup to Williams at nose tackle. The additions of Campbell and Wolfe dramatically upgraded the starting defensive line, but there isn’t a ton of depth here with the rookie fifth-round pick Washington having a quiet camp. The good news is that the Ravens spend very little time in their traditional 3-4 base defense, so there isn’t the need for as many traditional defensive linemen active for games.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, L.J. Fort, Chris Board
OUT: Otaro Alaka, Kristian Welch
Skinny: No one in this group improved his roster standing as much as Board, who went from the roster bubble to potentially being in the defensive mix in sub packages. Alaka still shows potential, but trying to keep five inside linebackers is difficult when acknowledging how much dime package defensive coordinator Wink Martindale likes to play. Both Alaka and Welch, an undrafted rookie from Iowa who’s had a solid camp, figure to be good candidates for the practice squad, giving the Ravens additional developmental depth at a position that’s undergone great change since last year.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Pernell McPhee, Jihad Ward, Tyus Bowser
OUT: Aaron Adeoye, Chauncey Rivers, Marcus Willoughby
Skinny: Despite the never-ending discussion about the Baltimore pass rush, there’s little to say here from a roster standpoint with the top five seemingly set. McPhee and Ward both have the ability to move inside in certain sub packages, which should quell some of the short-term depth concerns on the defensive line. Keeping an edge rusher or two on the practice squad is a good bet with Judon, McPhee, Ward, and Bowser all scheduled to become free agents after this season.

CORNERBACKS (5)
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett
OUT: Terrell Bonds, Khalil Dorsey, Josh Nurse
Skinny: The three young corners may not have seriously challenged an improved Averett for the No. 5 spot, but their quality of play was impressive compared to past summers when the Ravens would struggle to identify a couple passable depth options out of a group of veteran retreads and camp bodies. Some combination of Bonds, Dorsey, and Nurse should be on the practice squad.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine, Jordan Richards, Nigel Warrior
OUT: Geno Stone
Skinny: The Earl Thomas saga allows the Ravens to keep Richards, a veteran special-teams player who won’t offer much on defense. The interesting decision could come down to retaining Stone or Warrior. Stone, a seventh-round rookie from Iowa, had a fairly quiet camp while Warrior, a rookie free agent from Tennessee, has turned some heads with his nose for the football. That said, both young safeties would probably pass through waivers and make it to the practice squad, so there’s no guarantee that either makes the roster, especially with Smith looking good cross-training as a safety this summer.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
OUT: Johnny Townsend, Nick Moore
Skinny: As usual, there’s nothing to see here with the continuity provided by this trio being more valuable than ever in such an unusual 2020 campaign.

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Harbaugh talks Madubuike’s absence, Dobbins’ role, No. 3 quarterback

Posted on 01 September 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens improved their defensive line more than any other position group on paper this offseason by adding five-time Pro Bowl selection Calais Campbell and former Super Bowl champion Derek Wolfe.

But it appears they’ll be without an important depth piece to begin the 2020 season as rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike remains sidelined with an injury suffered in last Saturday’s scrimmage at M&T Bank Stadium. His absence will further test a unit already leaning heavily on Campbell, Wolfe, and nose tackle Brandon Williams, who are all on the wrong side of age 30.

Head coach John Harbaugh wouldn’t disclose specifics of Madubuike’s ailment or exactly when the third-round rookie from Texas A&M is expected to return, but his availability for the season opener against Cleveland is in clear doubt.

“It’ll be a little bit, but it won’t be [anything] close to season-ending,” Harbaugh said. “It won’t even be multiple weeks during the season. He got caught up in a little pile. He’s kind of I would say a little more than day-to-day — maybe week-to-week here for a couple weeks. We’ll just see where he’s at, but he’ll be OK.”

Madubuike’s absence should immediately improve the roster standing of veteran nose tackle Justin Ellis, whom some had projected to be on the bubble this summer. It may also press fifth-round rookie Broderick Washington into active duty on game days, especially against a run-oriented opponent like the Browns in Week 1.

Of course, the Ravens have rarely worked out of their “base” 3-4 defense in recent seasons and can also turn to hybrid rushers like Pernell McPhee and Jihad Ward to provide some situational snaps, but there are high hopes for Madubuike, who has flashed some skill as an interior pass rusher this summer.

How even a short-term absence might impact a first-year player already trying to overcome an abbreviated training camp remains to be seen, but early reviews about his approach have been favorable.

“The kid can play. He’s going to be a good football player. He’s a great rookie,” said Wolfe about Madubuike last week. “He’s strong, he’s tough, physical. He wants to be good. He listens, he writes down everything. That’s all you can ask for. He’s always asking questions, always trying to get better.”

Fitting Dobbins into crowded backfield

There’s been no shortage of camp hype for rookie running back J.K. Dobbins, whom Harbaugh said is “definitely going to have probably a significant role” in a backfield already including Pro Bowl veteran Mark Ingram, short-yardage bruiser Gus Edwards, and 2019 fourth-round pick Justice Hill.

Despite only so many carries available in a run-first rushing attack led by record-setting rushing quarterback and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, Dobbins should be in the mix immediately as a rusher or as a receiver out of the backfield, an area in which he’s especially shined during camp.

“He’s looked really good in practice. He works really hard. He’s just the most coachable guy,” Harbaugh said. “He has a lot of talent, and he’s very coachable. He wants to be good; he wants to play. He’s confident. Confidence plus coachability plus talent — it’s a pretty good combination, and he has all of that.”

It’s difficult to predict whose workload might suffer the most due to Dobbins’ presence considering the 30-year-old Ingram ranked seventh in the NFL at 0.5 yards per carry above expected, according to Next Gen Stats. That metric indicates Ingram’s 5.04 yards per carry and 1,018 rushing yards weren’t simply a product of Greg Roman’s scheme and Jackson’s dynamic presence putting pressure on opposing fronts.

It’s reasonable to anticipate Dobbins taking a modest number of carries from Ingram and Jackson, but many have predicted the bulk of his touches coming at the expense of Edwards, who’s merely averaged 5.3 yards per carry over his first two seasons. Harbaugh doesn’t think anyone should be overlooking the 238-pound Edwards, however.

“He’s respected by defenses, and they know that he’s a must-stop player in terms of the way he runs the football,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have a big role. He’s better than he was last year. When you watch him in training camp, he really has worked on the things that he could to improve. I think he’s going to be even better than he was last year, so I’m looking forward to seeing him play this year.”

But again, there’s only one football to go around.

No. 3 quarterback competition

The third-string quarterback job has been one of training camp’s more interesting competitions between 2019 sixth-round pick Trace McSorley and undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley.

Many assumed Huntley would have a difficult time without a normal spring or preseason to learn the offense, but Harbaugh acknowledged it will be “real tough” to decide on the third quarterback behind Jackson and veteran backup Robert Griffin III. Huntley has performed better overall in practices open to media, but gauging his grasp of the offense compared to McSorley’s edge in experience leaves some unknown, especially without being able to watch either play in preseason games this summer.

“We’ll see. They’re all doing well. I like what they’re doing,” Harbaugh said. “They’re in different stages of their careers. It plays out every day, but we like them both. We like all four of our guys. They’re all doing a good job, but they’re all in different places right now in their development.”

Regardless of which way the decision goes, the odd man out would figure to remain a candidate for the expanded 16-man practice squad.

Stadium practice

The Ravens will conduct a closed practice at the stadium on Wednesday afternoon before returning to Owings Mills for three more practices leading up to Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline to trim the roster to 53 players.

“We have a script that we’re going to use. It’s not going to be a contact practice. It’s going to be an execution, operation practice,” Harbaugh said. “A lot of situational work, a lot of technique-type work. But it will be a competitive scrimmage like we had on Saturday night.”

Injury report

In addition to Madubuike, McPhee, cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Josh Nurse, wide receiver Chris Moore (finger), running back Kenjon Barner (leg), and tight end Eli Wolf weren’t participating in the portion of Tuesday’s practice open to media.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Day 3 of open training camp

Posted on 19 August 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens conducting their third day of full-team practice on Wednesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Fighting the monotony of camp isn’t easy, but a spirited defense won the day with the highlight being a goal-line pop from Jimmy Smith on Nick Boyle to prevent a 1-yard touchdown. Defensive players erupted in celebration and mobbed Smith. Fun stuff with games still 3 1/2 weeks away.

2. John Harbaugh embraced the morning rain with ball security even more critical for an offense that runs almost exclusively out of the pistol or shotgun and requires precision at the mesh point. Footing was occasionally a problem, but the offense protected the ball well overall.

3. Patrick Queen is well on his way to starting Week 1, but L.J. Fort will have a strong say before the Ravens start two rookies at inside linebacker. Malik Harrison has flashed in coverage, but Harbaugh acknowledged there’s a learning curve compared to what he did at Ohio State.

4. J.K. Dobbins has shown off his speed and skill set over the first few open workouts, but he competed with an edge on Wednesday, jawing with safeties DeShon Elliott and Nigel Warrior at different points. The rookie running back doesn’t look like he’ll be intimidated at the next level.

5. Many veterans tend to keep to themselves and sometimes go through the motions during camp, but Marlon Humphrey remains enthused with a willingness to tutor youngsters like when Khalil Dorsey was flagged in coverage during one drill. Seeing that from one of the NFL’s best young cornerbacks is impressive.

6. One of the more entertaining drills was 1-on-1 blitz pickup in which reserve inside linebackers Chris Board and Otaro Alaka prevailed over multiple running backs. Potentially fighting for one roster spot, these two — and other bubble players — must find different ways to stand out without any preseason games.

7. James Proche made the play of camp thus far with a diving catch on a deep ball from Robert Griffin III (see the 0:19 mark below). The play technically didn’t count since Griffin was touched in the pocket for a sack, but you remember a spectacular grab like that.

8. Rookie guards Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson are finding their NFL legs and working their way up the depth chart after not having a normal spring, but they beat rookie defensive tackles Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington respectively during 1-on-1 drills. I feel for the rookies’ steep climb this summer.

9. Harbaugh said Monday that Jaylon Ferguson isn’t expected to miss much time, but he’s the kind of young player who needs as many reps as possible. Ferguson establishing himself as at least an intermediate answer is crucial with every other notable edge defender entering a contract year.

10. One player who’s benefited from Ferguson’s absence is Tyus Bowser, who impressively pushed Boyle back into Jackson on one rush snap. The 2017 second-round pick quietly took a step forward last season with five sacks and 10 quarterback hits, and Baltimore needs more of that in 2020.

11. Rookie receiver Jaylon Moore is an extreme long shot, but he didn’t flinch competing in a punt drill despite losing a shoe. The Tennessee-Martin product also made a terrific high-point catch over rookie corner Josh Nurse and chucked the ball in the air in celebration. I like the passion.

12. “Just being where we feel at home with all our best friends, all our teammates, getting better at what we do and what we love every day. That’s the most normal I feel during this pandemic — out at practice.” Boyle’s words on football resonate with anyone invested in the game.

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jimmysmith

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Twelve Ravens thoughts counting down to full-team practices

Posted on 10 August 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens only a week away from finally beginning full-team practices ahead of the 2020 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Lamar Jackson describing himself as “Bubble Boy” prompted talk about isolating quarterbacks to reduce the odds of catching the coronavirus, but it’s just not practical from a competitive standpoint. A ton of work on and off the field goes into what we see for only three hours every week.

2. Even if the Ravens applied that idea to a backup with a great understanding of the offense, it’s a diminishing return when Robert Griffin III isn’t building any on-field chemistry with teammates. As we often say about offseason injuries, you can’t keep these guys in bubble wrap and expect success.

3. Jimmy Smith’s position is a popular topic, but are we too quick to assume Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey outside and Tavon Young at nickel is the superior alignment to Smith and Peters outside with Humphrey wreaking havoc all over the place like last year? An interesting question to track.

4. Calais Campbell was in Jacksonville last year, but his thoughts on handling major expectations fit this team appropriately. “You can’t win the Super Bowl today. I don’t care how good you are in August; you’ve got to go through the process. You can’t even win the first game today.”

5. This should be an interesting season for Willie Snead, who is seven pounds lighter, entering a contract year, and still only 27 years old. His blocking ability should help in trying to hold off younger options, but there are only so many targets from the slot to go around.

6. The Ravens waiving 2019 fifth-round pick Daylon Mack emphasized the age on which the defensive line is depending. With Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe all 30 or older, rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington need to offer dependable depth as well as long-term upside.

7. Mark Andrews said he never considered opting out of the 2020 season despite dealing with Type 1 diabetes. The Pro Bowl tight end also offered high praise for Baltimore’s virtual offseason program, noting that he’s stronger and carrying less body fat than ever. Barring injury, I see a 1,000-yard season.

8. With no shortage of questions about the interior offensive line, the presence of All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley is as important as ever in terms of both play and leadership. For what it’s worth, Stanley says ongoing contract talks are “not really at the forefront of my mind.”

9. The pass rush remains a hot topic with Jaylon Ferguson being the only established outside linebacker under contract beyond 2020, but Football Outsiders ranked the Ravens third in pressure rate in 2019. Strong coverage allows defenses to scheme pressure, but poor coverage often negates pressure against today’s quick passing offenses.

10. The expected addition of Kenjon Barner provides an experienced option in the return game mix, but you’d still like to see rookie wide receiver James Proche win the punt returner job. Positional versatility is more important than ever with teams holding their breath over every virus test outcome.

11. John Harbaugh confirmed the plan to again keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, which makes more sense considering the learning curve for a system so different from what most of the league is running. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth quarterback on the expanded practice squad either.

12. Picturing fall without a college football season is difficult enough, but how would that impact the NFL draft next spring? How do you trust the game tape when there isn’t any? As NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah noted, the 2021 scouting combine could become more important than ever.

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Ranking paths to prominent first-year roles for Ravens draft picks

Posted on 25 May 2020 by Luke Jones

With the draft having taken place a month ago, we normally begin gaining a better feel for where Ravens rookies stand when organized team activities begin and are open to local media.

Of course, full-team workouts are expected to take place until training camp because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving more guesswork and a greater need to temper expectations for draft picks and rookie free agents alike. With those realities understood, I’ve ranked the path of Baltimore’s 10 draft picks to prominent playing time from most likely to least likely:

1. ILB Patrick Queen (first round)
Skinny: The absence of a normal offseason program will hurt even first-round picks around the NFL this year, but the shortage of veteran options at the inside linebacker position should give the LSU standout a direct path to a starting job. The Ravens love Queen’s athleticism, vision, and ability to play in coverage, so something will have likely gone wrong if he’s not starting Week 1.

2. ILB Malik Harrison (third round)
Skinny: For the same reasons spelled out for Queen, Harrison could have an easier road to the field than any other Day 2 pick despite him being the fifth player selected by the Ravens in the draft. Questions about Harrison’s pass coverage could make a platoon with veteran L.J. Fort the most likely outcome, but his physicality playing the run and ability to blitz could lead to substantial playing time.

3. RB J.K. Dobbins (second round)
Skinny: The perceived starter of the future has the talent to push for significant playing time sooner than later, but some have been a bit too quick to dismiss Pro Bowl starter Mark Ingram and top backup Gus Edwards, who both averaged over 5.0 yards per carry last season. There’s a ton of competition for carries in this offense — especially with a record-setting rushing quarterback — so time will tell here.

4. DT Justin Madubuike (third round)
Skinny: The third-round pick is stuck behind Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe, but all three are over age 30, making it likely that Wink Martindale will need to rely on Madubuike more heavily at some point, especially if the pass-rushing ability he showed at Texas A&M translates to the pros. That said, snaps are at a premium for defensive linemen in this multi-look system.

5. WR Devin Duvernay (third round)
Skinny: The organization has raved about Duvernay’s hands and physical running style, but the presence of Willie Snead and Mark Andrews — who plays more as a slot receiver than as a traditional tight end — complicates his path to early playing time. The way San Francisco used Deebo Samuel in its running game last year could offer clues for offensive coordinator Greg Roman using Duvernay.

6. S Geno Stone (seventh round)
Skinny: The seventh-round pick being this high on the list sounds odd, but there could be some earlier-than-expected playing time for the Iowa product if Martindale uses the three-safety dime package as often as he did in the second half of 2019. Of course, Stone would still be competing with DeShon Elliott and Anthony Levine for the No. 3 safety job in that scenario.

7. WR James Proche (sixth round)
Skinny: A sixth-round wide receiver lacking blazing speed or dynamic physical traits doesn’t look like a strong candidate for immediate playing time on offense, but Proche should compete for the punt returner job. There’s also the fact that Eric DeCosta traded a 2021 fifth-round pick to draft the very productive SMU product, which elevates his first-year standing a bit.

8. G Ben Bredeson (fourth round)
Skinny: A four-year starter at a Big Ten program like Michigan shouldn’t be ruled out in a crowded interior offensive line competition, but you rarely see Day 3 offensive linemen start as rookies and an abbreviated offseason only heightens that reality. A technician and competitor like Bredeson should fit well with offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, but his road to immediate playing time will be tough.

9. OL Tyre Phillips (third round)
Skinny: The 6-foot-5, 345-pound mauler brings upside that made him a late third-round pick, but questions about his pass protection and inexperience at guard won’t help him in the interior battle. With Andre Smith being the only veteran offensive tackle on the roster behind Pro Bowl starters Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., Phillips may vie for James Hurst’s old role as the swing tackle.

10. DT Broderick Washington (fifth round)
Skinny: The Ravens liked what they saw from their fifth-round pick at the Senior Bowl, but Washington didn’t show enough as a pass rusher at Texas Tech to predict a clear path to rotation snaps as a rookie. At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, he profiles as more of an option at the 3- and 5-technique spots where the competition is pretty tough.

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McPhee, Ravens agree to one-year deal for 2020 season

Posted on 05 May 2020 by Luke Jones

After not adding an edge rusher during the 2020 draft, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta turned to a familiar face to add viable depth to the position.

Baltimore announced a one-year agreement to re-sign outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who returned to the team who originally drafted him last year and started seven games before a torn triceps against Seattle ended his 2019 season. McPhee, 31, finished tied for third on the team with three sacks and tied for fifth with six quarterback hits while effectively setting the edge against the run.

McPhee’s injury pushed 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson into a starting role in the second half of the season, but the veteran was able to revitalize his career after failing to register a sack in 13 games for Washington a year earlier. Selected by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Mississippi State, McPhee relished the opportunity to return to the place he won a Super Bowl and spent the first four seasons of his career, signing a one-year, $1.03 million last May.

“He wanted to prove himself. He wanted to get back on track and demonstrate that he still could play,” said head coach John Harbaugh after McPhee’s season-ending injury last October. “And to do it here, to be the leader that he was, he’s been instrumental. He’s been instrumental with the young guys. He’s been a very good player for us.

“I see no reason why he can’t recover from a triceps injury and be back next year stronger than ever.”

With Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon continuing to man the strong side after receiving the franchise tag earlier this offseason, the trio of McPhee, Ferguson, and Jihad Ward are likely to compete for the starting rush linebacker job. Regardless of how the rotation plays out, the Ravens would like to keep McPhee on a more limited snap count after he averaged a career-high 42.5 defensive snaps per game through the first six weeks of 2019 as an edge defender and an inside rusher in passing situations.

Over nine NFL seasons, McPhee has collected 34 sacks, six forced fumbles, and 15 pass breakups in 116 games.

In other roster news, the Ravens have signed 2020 fifth-round defensive tackle Broderick Washington, the first of their 10 draft picks to ink his rookie contract.

Baltimore also signed the following undrafted free agents: Utah defensive back Josh Nurse, Elon defensive end Marcus Willoughby, Tennessee-Martin wide receiver Jaylon Moore, Northern Arizona cornerback Khalil Dorsey, Tennessee safety Nigel Warrior, and Georgia tight end Eli Wolf. The Ravens have officially added 14 rookie free agents since the conclusion of the draft.

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What to expect from Ravens’ 2020 draft picks

Posted on 25 April 2020 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2020 draft, so what can we expect from the Ravens’ 10 selections?

Time will tell whether the NFL will have anything resembling a regular training camp and a 2020 season starting on time, but below is an early look at how each rookie fits now and in the future:

LB Patrick Queen
Drafted: First round (28th overall) from LSU
2020 projected role: Joining Ray Lewis and C.J. Mosley as the only inside linebackers to be drafted in the first round by the Ravens, Queen should start from Day 1, most likely as the weak-side backer whose coverage ability will keep him on the field for virtually every defensive snap.
Long-term view: Queen’s slight 6-foot, 232-pound frame brings questions, but a big defensive line in front of him should allow the athletic linebacker to effectively show off his speed to make plays. The growth shown over his one full season as a starter at LSU makes it reasonable to believe Queen has only scratched the surface of his potential and could eventually develop into a Pro Bowl linebacker.

RB J.K. Dobbins
Drafted: Second round (55th overall) from Ohio State
2020 projected role: Selected in the same spot as Ray Rice in the 2008 draft, Dobbins enters a crowded backfield behind 2019 Pro Bowl selection Mark Ingram, but his workload eclipsing Gus Edwards’ 133 carries from a year ago seems quite plausible.
Long-term view: The real value of this pick begins in 2021 when Ingram will be entering his 11th season and scheduled to earn $5 million, factors that could shorten Dobbins’ path to the starting role. A 796-touch workload in college shouldn’t prohibit the 212-pound back from thriving for at least a few seasons in a Lamar Jackson-led offense using the pistol looks from which he ran very effectively as a Buckeye.

DT Justin Madubuike
Drafted: Third round (71st overall) from Texas A&M
2020 projected role: The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman will compete for a rotational role behind a veteran starting group, particularly as a situational pass rusher after collecting 5 1/2 sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for a loss last season.
Long-term view: With Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, and Justin Ellis all age 29 or older, Madubuike could move into a starting role as early as 2021, especially if he more consistently channels the dominance flashed at the collegiate level. The Ravens haven’t had many pass-rushing defensive tackles in recent years, but Madubuike has the tools to be a complete player as a 3-technique.

WR Devin Duvernay
Drafted: Third round (92nd overall) from Texas
2020 projected role: One of the best slot receivers in this year’s draft class, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Duvernay has sure hands and an uncanny ability to gain yards after the catch that could prompt offensive coordinator Greg Roman to work him into the offensive mix sooner than later.
Long-term view: Built like a running back, Duvernay has drawn comparisons to the likes of Golden Tate and Albert Wilson, but how he adapts to press coverage will be key in his development, especially working from the slot. The creativity of this offense suits unconventional players, and veteran slot man Willie Snead only being under contract through 2020 could clear a path to an even bigger role.

LB Malik Harrison
Drafted: Third round (98th overall) from Ohio State
2020 projected role: A downhill tackler at 247 pounds, Harrison will have the chance to compete for an early-down starting job as the “Mike” linebacker next to Queen.
Long-term view: Harrison plays exactly how one used to view the inside linebacker position, but his limitations in pass coverage and the propensity with which the Ravens use sub packages may prevent him from ever becoming a three-down linebacker in the modern game. However, there remains a place for run-stopping options, making him a rock-solid pick at the end of the third round.

G Tyre Phillips
Drafted: Third round (106th overall) from Mississippi State
2020 projected role: Spring workouts being canceled by the pandemic won’t help his immediate development, but the former tackle could still put himself in the mix for the starting right guard spot.
Long-term view: Phillips’ 6-foot-5, 330-pound frame makes him an impressive mauler as a run blocker, but the big question will be his pass blocking as he transitions to the inside. The Ravens like his size and physicality and offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has the teaching reputation to make you believe Phillips can develop into a starter while possibly remaining a backup option at offensive tackle.

G Ben Bredeson
Drafted: Fourth round (143rd overall) from Michigan
2020 projected role: In the same boat as Phillips this spring, Bredeson was a four-year starter at left guard in the Big Ten and should have the chance to compete for a starting job right off the bat.
Long-term view: An impressive technician as a pass blocker, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound guard isn’t considered as strong a run blocker despite his extensive experience against high-level competition. With the way guys like Matt Skura and Bradley Bozeman have developed under D’Alessandris, however, Bredeson seems like a reasonable bet to become a starter eventually.

DT Broderick Washington Jr.
Drafted: Fifth round (170th overall) from Texas Tech
2020 projected role: A run-stopping 3-technique option and a three-year starter in college, Washington will compete for a spot as a rotational contributor behind the likes of Williams and Ellis.
Long-term view: Washington looks the part at 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, but his lack of pass-rushing ability will probably limit his odds of becoming much more than a rotational piece. However, the current age along the starting defensive line helps his chances of sticking around as he tries to develop under defensive line coach Joe Cullen.

WR James Proche
Drafted: Sixth round (201st overall) from SMU
2020 projected role: Cracking the wide receiver mix won’t be easy in such a run-heavy offense, so Proche’s ability as a punt returner seems to be his best chance to see action right away.
Long-term view: The 5-foot-11, 201-pound slot man doesn’t stand out from an athletic standpoint, but his excellent hands and ball skills don’t reflect a sixth-round billing in what was a deep draft class of wide receivers. He caught a whopping 204 passes and 27 touchdowns over his final two collegiate seasons, making him an interesting late-round pick for whom the Ravens moved up to draft.

S Geno Stone
Drafted: Seventh round (219th overall) from Iowa
2020 projected role: His path to a 53-man roster spot and playing time as a rookie will be as a special-teams contributor, which is how current starter Chuck Clark began as a sixth-round pick in 2017.
Long-term view: Evaluations of his play are mixed, but the Ravens like Stone’s ability to quickly process what’s happening on the field, a crucial trait for a safety. Odds say his best best to eventually secure a defensive role will be as a dime safety as he saw time in the box, covered the slot, and played deep zone at Iowa, experiences that should help his development at the next level.

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