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Examining Ravens position battles: Third safety/dime back

Posted on 04 August 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens ramping up their activity level before the start of full training camp practices later this month, we’ll take a look at some key position battles ahead of the 2020 season.

Below is a look at the competition for the third safety/dime back job:

The terms “base defense” and “front seven” are no longer the norm in today’s NFL with the Ravens being no exception.

After running its conventional 3-4 defense just 16 percent of the time in 2018, Baltimore used its base front a league-low nine percent of the time last season, according to Football Outsiders. While the nickel featuring five defensive backs has become the real “base” defense around the pass-happy NFL, Wink Mardinale deployed a dime package (six defensive backs) 41 percent of the time in 2019, up from 26 percent in his first season as defensive coordinator.

With the overwhelming strength of the Ravens defense being its secondary, it makes sense for Martindale to lean more heavily in that direction, but will the trend of increasing dime usage continue in 2020? The acquisitions of defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and the drafting of inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison reflected the desire to improve a middling run defense, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens will suddenly turn back the clock on the way defense is played, especially if they enjoy leads as often as they did last season.

Even if Martindale has more faith in Queen, Harrison, and veteran L.J. Fort to use two linebackers in passing situations more frequently, the dime figures to remain a prominent part of Baltimore’s defense, which brings us back to that sixth defensive back spot. Outside cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, safeties Earl Thomas and Chuck Clark, and nickel corner Tavon Young are the established starting five, but ex-Raven Brandon Carr served as the third safety with Clark often moving into the box in the second half of the 2019 season.

Many have discussed the possibility of veteran Jimmy Smith — re-signed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal in March — transitioning from cornerback to that third safety role, but head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the idea of Smith making a definitive position change like Carr did midway through last season. Smith also remains the Ravens’ best outside corner option behind Humphrey and Peters.

“Jimmy has already done what Brandon Carr did last year,” Martindale said in June. “We put him against good tight ends to cover in special situations, whether it’s a third down or two-minute [drill] or what have you or different kinds of packages. The thing that comes out about that is the best 11 will play, but it could be a different set of 11 for every package and matchup that we want to do with whatever situation it is.”

The Ravens also re-signed the 33-year-old Anthony Levine, who excelled as the primary dime back in 2017 and 2018 before seeing his playing time diminish last season. The most intriguing options for the No. 3 safety spot are a pair of young players who’ve combined to play only 40 defensive snaps in the NFL.

Injuries have limited 2018 sixth-round pick DeShon Elliott to six career games, but the the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Texas product turned heads last spring and summer with his physicality and range in pass coverage. That skill set would seem to be a good fit for Elliott to enter as either a deep safety or a dime back playing in the box, but Elliott will need to show he’s fully recovered from a serious knee injury sustained last October.

Elliott will face competition from seventh-round rookie Geno Stone, whom the Ravens didn’t evaluate closely until he declared for the draft in early January. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Iowa product may not stand out from a physical standpoint, but team officials like his football intellect and processing ability, making him an interesting first-year player to watch in a defense known for its flexibility and deception.

As Martindale indicated, the Ravens won’t feel compelled to stick to one player for that sixth defensive back spot as game situation and opposing personnel will prompt different looks. The arrivals of Queen and Harrison may allow Baltimore to lean more on the nickel package than a year ago, but the dime isn’t going anywhere, meaning this summer will be a key time for Ravens coaches to sort through both their veteran and younger options.

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Queen, third-rounder Duvernay

Posted on 22 July 2020 by Luke Jones

With rookies beginning to report to team facilities around the NFL for the start of training camp this week, the Ravens have agreed to contract terms with first-round pick Patrick Queen and third-round selection Devin Duvernay.

Queen, an inside linebacker from LSU, was the 28th overall selection in the 2020 draft and projected to receive a four-year, $12.16 million contract in the league’s slotted system. Queen will turn 21 next month and is expected to start for a top-shelf defense that lost veteran inside linebackers Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor in free agency this offseason.

The 6-foot, 232-pound Queen started only 15 games in his college career and is undersized by traditional standards, but his skill set is ideal for Wink Martindale’s defensive system valuing versatility. He finished his junior year with 85 tackles (12 for a loss), three sacks, one interception, and three pass breakups and was named defensive MVP in LSU’s national championship win over Clemson.

“When you watched the film, you saw the instincts and the speed and athleticism,” director of player personnel Joe Hortiz said in May. “You were like, ‘Wow, he’s a 20-year old kid who’s showing this right now. What would he have been next year if he would have been another year starter with 12 more, 14 more starts under his belt? How much more instinctive would he be?’ I think you project that out forward.

“He’s a smart kid, he works his butt off, he loves the game, and he’s a great character kid. You say to yourself, ‘Man, as this guy gets experience in the NFL, he’s just going to get better and better.’ We really think he’s got a high ceiling and also a high floor.”

Queen was the first LSU player ever drafted by Baltimore and the third inside linebacker selected in the first round by the Ravens in their 25-year history, joining Hall of Famer Ray Lewis (1996) and C.J. Mosley (2014). Those two combined for 17 Pro Bowl selections in their time with Baltimore, leaving high expectations for the talented rookie.

The 92nd overall pick out of Texas, Duvernay was a standout performer for the Longhorns in 2019, catching 106 passes for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound slot receiver earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2019 and finished his collegiate career with 176 receptions, 2,468 yards, and 16 touchdowns.

With his entire draft class now under contract, general manager Eric DeCosta could now be faced with some unfortunate roster decisions entering camp with the league expected to reduce the preseason roster limit from 90 players to 80 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic requiring social distancing and new health protocols. The Ravens entered Wednesday with 89 players on their roster.

The roster reduction and the elimination of preseason games are expected to have a particularly harsh impact on undrafted rookies vying to make the regular-season roster, but expanded practice squads will allow teams to keep more developmental talent, which will be especially helpful with the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

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Ravens sign Malik Harrison, leaving two 2020 draft picks unsigned

Posted on 14 July 2020 by Luke Jones

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed the signing of 2020 draft picks around the NFL, but the Ravens moved a step closer to signing their entire class on Tuesday.

Baltimore officially announced its deal with third-round pick Malik Harrison, making the Ohio State linebacker the eighth of 10 selections to be under contract. First-round inside linebacker Patrick Queen and third-round wide receiver Devin Duvernay are the only Ravens picks yet to sign as the tentative start of training camp is just two weeks away.

The Buckeyes’ leading tackler in each of the last two seasons, Harrison is expected to compete with veteran L.J. Fort for a starting role next to Queen after veterans Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor departed as free agents this spring. The 6-foot-3, 247-pound linebacker played as a traditional downhill thumper in Ohio State’s defense, but the Ravens liked what they saw in Harrison’s coverage ability at the Senior Bowl.

“Sometimes you have to wait until he gets to an All-Star game where he’s in more man-[coverage] type settings or deeper zone drops,” said director of player personnel Joe Hortiz in early May. “With him, you saw enough of it — you did. They had him walk up to check the back, and he would release out with the back. You saw the speed and the length for him to be able to run with backs and tight ends vertical.”

In 52 career games including 28 starts at Ohio State, Harrison registered 205 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, three fumble recoveries, nine pass breakups, and an interception.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on training camp preparations and other topics

Posted on 10 June 2020 by Luke Jones

With Ravens coaches returning to the Owings Mills headquarters this week and the NFL releasing protocols for training facilities, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The July 28 report date for training camp is seven weeks away, but much work remains regarding COVID-19 protocols. The recent expansion and renovations of the team facility helps, but spacing lockers six feet apart for a 90-man roster will be quite a challenge by itself.

2. NFL Network’s report on the possibility of the preseason schedule being shortened was hardly a surprise since there was growing support for that long before the pandemic. The bigger question might be whether that sparks permanent change to the exhibition schedule.

3. Pittsburgh moving its camp to Heinz Field raises a fair question for teams that already struggled to find space for 90 players before even factoring in social distancing. A shorter preseason makes you wonder if that high number is absolutely necessary if you want to minimize health risks. Difficult questions.

4. Patrick Queen, Devin Duvernay, and Malik Harrison are the only 2020 Ravens draft picks yet to sign, but we’re approaching the time when you’d expect those rookie deals to get done. Of course, the pandemic could always complicate that timing.

5. Social media hardly provides a complete picture of the work so many players are putting in right now, but James Proche has logged recent workouts with Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, and Trace McSorley. Good for the sixth-round rookie wide receiver getting acquainted with Baltimore quarterbacks.

6. You won’t find a more respected person in the organization than tight ends coach Bobby Engram, who was nominated for the PFWA’s George Halas Award for overcoming adversity to succeed. I recommend this piece from The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec if you’re unfamiliar with the Engram family’s story.

7. The value of the return specialist isn’t what it used to be due to rule changes in the game, but I can’t recall the last time we weren’t talking about that spot being a question mark around this time of year. The days of Jacoby Jones?

8. In contrast, Sam Koch is the only player to have any punts for the Ravens since 2006 and Justin Tucker is the only one to make a field goal since 2012. That continuity is just remarkable compared to most teams. Tennessee had four different kickers last season alone.

9. We’ve talked so much about inside linebacker the last couple years that I couldn’t help but notice Ravens coaching analyst and former player Zach Orr celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday. He thankfully escaped football without serious injury, but you wonder how much better he might have become.

10. Dick Cass, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Ray Rice, Steve Smith, Calais Campbell, and Queen were among the current and former Ravens joining over 1,400 sports figures in signing a letter to Congress requesting an end to qualified immunity. I applaud them for making their voices heard.

11. Have you ever imagined what might have happened if Baltimore signed Colin Kaepernick? Does he replace a Joe Flacco who had a bad back in 2017? Reunited with Greg Roman, does Kaepernick thrive and keep the starting job? Does Lamar Jackson then wind up elsewhere? Quite the potential butterfly effect.

12. Kudos to the Ravens for putting out the following video for high school and college graduates. We all had different school experiences, but I can’t imagine not being able to enjoy those final weeks or to celebrate these accomplishments with friends and family.

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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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Ravens announce jersey numbers for 2020 draft picks

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Though some players had already leaked the information over the last couple weeks, the Ravens have officially announced jersey numbers for their 2020 draft class.

These are subject to change when final cuts are made at the end of the preseason, but below is a look at the digits rookies will be wearing.

ILB Patrick Queen — No. 48
Lowdown: This jersey number goes from one Patrick (Onwuasor) to another, but few others have worn it in team history.

RB J.K. Dobbins — No. 27
Lowdown: A handful of players have donned Ray Rice’s old number since his infamous 2014 release, but Dobbins will certainly draw comparisons with the last Ravens running back drafted 55th overall.

DT Justin Madubuike — No. 92
Lowdown: Wearing Haloti Ngata’s old jersey is a lot to live up to, but Madubuike’s pass-rush ability gives him a good chance to be a factor in the rotation right away.

WR Devin Duvernay — No. 13
Lowdown: John Brown is the only notable player to have worn this number for the Ravens, so the slot man from Texas has a chance to make it his own.

ILB Malik Harrison — No. 40
Lowdown: I prefer linebackers wearing numbers in the 50s or 90s, but the Ravens certainly hope Harrison works out better than Kenny Young, who last wore this number.

OL Tyre Phillips — No. 74
Lowdown: Phillips takes James Hurst’s old jersey number, but the Ravens would also like him to assume his role as the primary backup offensive tackle.

G Ben Bredeson — No. 67
Lowdown: If you remembered anyone other than Lawrence Guy donning this number for Baltimore, I tip my cap to you — and might suggest picking up another hobby or two.

DL Broderick Washington — No. 96
Lowdown: Domata Peko most recently more this jersey, but Adalius Thomas was easily the most accomplished player to sport it as he made two Pro Bowls in seven years with the Ravens.

WR James Proche — No. 11
Lowdown: Former Ravens wide receivers to wear this number include Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Seth Roberts, and Patrick Johnson, so the bar isn’t very high for the sixth-round rookie.

S Geno Stone — No. 26
Lowdown: Baltimore will be thrilled if the Iowa product can be more like Dawan Landry than Matt Elam at the safety position, but Rod Woodson set the very high standard for this jersey number.

In other #FashionTweets news, third-year cornerback Anthony Averett has switched from No. 34 to No. 23, taking Tony Jefferson’s old number.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 2020 schedule release

Posted on 11 May 2020 by Luke Jones

With the NFL unveiling the 2020 regular-season schedule late last week, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. What we know about the alarming incident between Earl Thomas and his wife doesn’t — and shouldn’t — provide any grounds to jeopardize his employment, but the Ravens’ terse statement made clear their disenchantment about being left in the dark. Practically speaking, a public figure’s right to privacy only goes so far.

2. The schedule release highlighted what we already knew about Baltimore being in tremendous shape from a travel standpoint with the longest trip of the season being to Houston in Week 2. Already dominant on the road last season, the Ravens should be able to continue such away success.

3. Even if one argues the Ravens are better from a talent standpoint and have a favorable schedule on paper, ESPN’s Mike Clay presented some data that should make you take pause before boldly predicting another 14-2 or better finish. What they did offensively last season just isn’t easy to duplicate.

4. With five prime-time games, four in a five-week period from November into early December, and the reigning NFL MVP, the Ravens have never carried a brighter national profile than they do right now, which is saying plenty for an organization with two Super Bowl titles in the last 20 years.

5. Asked about the center spot in a call with season-ticket holders, Eric DeCosta mentioning Bradley Bozeman was interesting, especially since left guard was seemingly the only stable interior line spot entering 2020 after Bozeman started every game there last year. Will we see three different starters inside?

6. When an elite player retires at the top of his game, speculation can persist about a comeback, but Marshal Yanda left no doubt by losing 45 pounds in two months after his final game and looking even thinner on “The Pat McAfee Show.” He looked lighter than the ex-Indianapolis punter.

7. No matter how you felt about the second-round selection of J.K. Dobbins, I don’t get the rush some have to trade Gus Edwards or Justice Hill for what would likely be an inconsequential draft pick. If more depth at running back was important, hastily diminishing the group makes little sense.

8. DeCosta acknowledged the Ravens having limited avenues to clear meaningful salary cap space without striking a long-term deal for Matthew Judon or Ronnie Stanley, who carry two of their five largest cap numbers for 2020. These negotiations and decisions won’t get any easier.

9. First-round pick Patrick Queen bought his mother a new Range Rover over the weekend. Seeing a young player fulfill his NFL dream after years of hard work and finally be able to gift a token of appreciation to a parent never gets old.

10. Asked once again — this time by a season-ticket holder and not the media — whether the Ravens were interested in signing Antonio Brown, DeCosta provided a “filibuster” non-answer that would make Dan Duquette smile.

11. With Joe Flacco undergoing neck surgery and reportedly not expected to be cleared to play until late August, you wonder if the 35-year-old has played his final snap. However, Jets general manager and ex-Ravens scout Joe Douglas “discovered” Flacco and does need a backup to Sam Darnold.

12. A personal thanks to director of player personnel Joe Hortiz for taking extensive time to conduct a virtual film session on the Ravens’ 2020 draft class and answering questions from local reporters. Such a forum offers transparency and better educates media to hopefully improve our coverage for fans.

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2020 draft reinforces Ravens’ long-term view and identity

Posted on 27 April 2020 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics)

One of the more significant moments of draft weekend had nothing to do with the Ravens, but it was a reminder of what lies ahead.

On Friday, Pro Bowl selection Laremy Tunsil and the Houston Texans agreed to a three-year, $66 million contract including $50 million guaranteed, making the 2016 first-round pick the highest-paid left tackle in NFL history by an overwhelming margin. Selected seven spots earlier in that same draft by Baltimore and also a 2019 Pro Bowl pick, Ronnie Stanley was surely paying attention as he prepares for the final season of his rookie contract and has had the better career to this point. Yes, the Ravens will need to pay their left tackle how teams used to pay franchise quarterbacks not terribly long ago in order to keep him.

Coming off a 14-2 season with the reigning NFL MVP and 11 other returning Pro Bowl selections, the Ravens are about to get incredibly expensive over the next 24 months, which will leave general manager Eric DeCosta with some very difficult decisions. Of course, that’s better than the alternative of not having a franchise quarterback and other elite talent, but understanding that reality and how it relates to the draft is how the best teams are able to remain good.

That’s how the second-round selection of Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins reinforced the long-term view and identity of the organization, even when there were very fair arguments to select Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims or Boise State offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland with the 55th overall pick. After all, either of those players would have addressed a greater immediate need for a team that already had a record-setting rushing attack with two 1,000-yard rushers and plenty of depth.

But DeCosta learned his lesson from so many drafts alongside former general manager Ozzie Newsome, his mentor and current executive vice president who drafted at least three Pro Football Hall of Famers and was the architect of two Super Bowl championships in Baltimore.

“These great players would just fall down the board, and we would take them,” said DeCosta, who expected Dobbins to be drafted as early as the late first round. “You prepare yourself for it, and when it happens, you have to be prepared to take the guy. We didn’t really expect it. I don’t think anybody really did. We didn’t anticipate it, but we just had to take him. He’s just a talented guy, and it just made too much sense for us not to take him.”

The truth is that Dobbins probably doesn’t dramatically improve the chances of the 2020 Ravens beyond the possibility of a rash of injuries, an argument that supports taking more players at any position on the field. There’s no questioning Dobbins’ talent and fit running out of the pistol formation, but 2019 Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram gained 5.0 yards per carry and top backup Gus Edwards ran for 5.3 yards per attempt as Baltimore averaged a whopping 5.53 yards per carry — the NFL’s third-highest single-season mark since 1960 — and broke the 16-game season rushing record at 3,296 yards in 2019. In other words, short of Dobbins being the next Jim Brown — the 1963 Cleveland Browns hold the single-season rushing average record (5.74) interestingly enough — there just isn’t much room for the Ravens to be markedly better running the football if we’re being realistic.

That’s especially true if the goal is to decrease carries for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is truly the special component of this ground game that makes both running backs and the offensive line that much better after setting the single-season quarterback rushing record and gaining 6.85 yards per carry last year. The retirement of eight-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda doesn’t help the equation either.

But that’s when we come back to the long-term view and identity of this football team, which is to continue to run more often and better than anyone in the league despite Jackson also leading the NFL in touchdown passes last season.

Much like when Ray Rice was selected with the same pick in the 2008 draft and played behind Pro Bowl running backs Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain as a rookie, Dobbins will definitely contribute in his first year. But his real value will come in 2021 as Ingram will be another year older and scheduled to make $5 million and Edwards will be a restricted free agent. At that point, the Ravens will have potentially already paid Stanley and will likely be navigating contract discussions with Jackson and All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, which could prompt DeCosta to be thriftier at a position like running back with a prime talent like Dobbins ready to assume the primary workload with three years remaining on his rookie contract.

Yes, the draft may allow a team to fill an immediate need or two — first- and third-round inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison both could be Week 1 starters this fall — but it’s much more about better positioning itself for the future. Right now, the Ravens are benefiting from an MVP quarterback on a rookie contract and a run-first attack that set all kinds of records a year ago and remains the cheapest offense in the NFL.

But that flexibility isn’t going to last forever, and the Ravens want to maintain both their identity and standing as contenders beyond just the next year or two. That’s why picks such as Dobbins, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, and wide receiver Devin Duvernay who may not be immediate starters are still so critical to get right for 2021 and beyond.

The Ravens were already a Super Bowl contender entering draft weekend and came out of it confident that they had improved their chances both now and down the line.

“We like the chemistry of the team. It changes every single year,” DeCosta said. “The draft is one mean that we have to improve the chemistry along with free agency and different things.

“It’s an ongoing process that never ends.”

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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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Twelve Ravens thoughts on drafting LSU linebacker Patrick Queen

Posted on 24 April 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens selecting LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen with the 28th overall pick of the 2020 draft, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A 20-year-old undersized inside linebacker from a college football powerhouse selected late in the first round sparks memories of a certain Hall of Famer. Even Lamar Jackson was calling Queen “Ray Lewis Jr.” on Instagram Live after the pick was made. No pressure.

2. Queen is “so tired of hearing” his 6-foot, 231-pound frame is undersized and believes he’s “more mobile” than Lewis was while making clear the Baltimore legend was “probably the best to play.” I like that confidence in someone who had to wait his turn behind former Tigers teammate Devin White.

3. Wink Martindale did an admirable job rotating inside linebackers last year, but having a three-down starter with a high ceiling and cover ability will make life much easier. Queen’s speed also makes him an enticing blitz option in the same way the Ravens used Patrick Onwuasor.

4. Fair concerns about Queen’s size should be eased by the additions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe up front. Lewis was at his absolute best playing behind the likes of Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa, Haloti Ngata, and Trevor Pryce, so a big defensive line should help Queen roam more freely.

5. Remarkably, it took 25 years for the Ravens to finally draft a player from LSU, an elite SEC program that’s won three national championships since 2003. In contrast, Baltimore has selected multiple players from Central Florida, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, and Weber State. Go figure.

6. Asked how Ozzie Newsome reacted to an LSU draft pick, Eric DeCosta said, “He kept saying something, but we muted him. He kept waving his hands, and the video went out. That’s the thing with technology sometimes — it can be manipulated. I think it was the Russians.” Funny stuff.

7. You wonder about a college player who only started one year, but Queen really stood out against Georgia, Oklahoma, and Clemson and was named defensive MVP of the national championship game. Excelling against top competition seems to be a good trade-off for the lack of starting experience.

8. Queen is the fifth linebacker to be drafted by the Ravens in the first round, joining Lewis, Peter Boulware, Terrell Suggs, and C.J. Mosley. The first four each made at least four Pro Bowls and combined for 28 in Baltimore. Again, no pressure.

9. Credit DeCosta’s patience as options such as edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, linebacker Kenneth Murray, and center Cesar Ruiz started coming off the board in the early 20s. Standing pat in the first round for the first time since 2017, the Ravens protected their remaining six picks in the top 150.

10. General managers always say the player they picked topped their board, but that appeared to be the truth with Queen, who fit one of Baltimore’s biggest needs. DeCosta said he received a congratulatory text from Dallas defensive coordinator and former Ravens assistant Mike Nolan for his pick.

11. DeCosta is dedicating this draft to former Ravens scout Ron Marciniak, who died at 85 last month and was the creator of the famous “red star” meeting in which each scout picks a draft prospect who stands above the rest on and off the field. It was a classy gesture.

12. Credit the NFL, ESPN, and NFL Network for pulling off a quality broadcast despite such challenging circumstances, but there was so much going on in this scene at Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel’s house that I haven’t a clue what to even say.

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