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Late For Work 6/21: Sizing Up Ravens' Upcoming Wide Receiver, Tight End Competitions

Posted Jun 21, 2017

Ray Lewis is back on TV with Fox Sports 1. Ravens have three units in top 30 special teams. John Harbaugh motivates young workers at conference.

Just because the Ravens signed Jeremy Maclin doesn’t mean the chatter about those who will be catching passes in Baltimore has ended. Subsided? Yes. Ended? No.

There are a few interesting tidbits out there from local reporters regarding the team’s wide receivers and tight ends.

Reynolds Improving, But Still Has Uphill Climb

Baltimore’s top three wideouts are clear with Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Maclin, in no particular order. Last week, Owner Steve Bisciotti said the team has a lot of confidence in Chris Moore to be the fourth wideout.

Thus, as Bisciotti said, the competition is on for the fifth and sixth wideout spots.

The possibilities are Michael Campanaro, Chris Matthews, Keenan Reynolds, Kenny Bell and undrafted rookie free agents Quincy Adeboyejo, Aaron Bailey, C.J. Board, Tim Patrick and Tim White.

“Campanaro and Matthews probably are the favorites, but their margin of error thinned with the Maclin addition,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec.

Campanaro missed all of minicamp and some of the Organized Team Activities (OTAs) with a toe injury, but Head Coach John Harbaugh said the slot wide receiver/returner is expected to be back in plenty of time for training camp.

“[He] needs to be ready to go from day one of training camp and not have any setbacks,” Zrebiec wrote.

If Campanaro does have a setback, it opens the door more for Reynolds. As of now, Zrebiec says Reynolds “will have to have a great training camp to make the team, but it was obvious last week that he’s improved.”

Reynolds fielded punts well and made impressive catches in back-to-back practices. On Wednesday, he reached behind his body to pluck a low pass as he fell to the turf. On Thursday, he made a nice one-handed grab.

“He looked far more natural as both a receiver and a returner,” Zrebiec wrote.

Another name Zrebiec brought up is Bell, who worked on the practice squad last season. Bell was a fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015 after setting the career receptions and receiving yards records at Nebraska.

“After spending last season on the practice squad, Bell worked with the second teamers and made quite a few catches,” Zrebiec wrote.

Boyle a Possible Starter; Waller Is Still Intriguing

One of the Ravens’ position groups with a lot of question marks (not as many as the offensive line, says ESPN’s Jamison Hensley) is tight end.

Benjamin Watson (Achilles) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) should both be on the field at the start of training camp, but are dealing with injuries. Maxx Williams (knee) is still recovering from last year’s surgery, and it’s up in the air whether he’ll be ready for the start of camp.

That leaves Nick Boyle, Darren Waller and Vince Mayle as the only tight ends at 100 percent at this point, and Waller missed much of the offseason work due to his own rehab.

So who does the media think will emerge?

ESPN compiled a list of under-the-radar players from all 32 NFL teams during OTAs and minicamp, and Boyle is Hensley’s selection for Baltimore.

“Boyle, a 2015 fifth-round selection, could be the surprise starter on this year's team,” Hensley wrote. “He's making the most of his opportunities, coming up big in red zone drills this offseason.”

Hensley said Boyle will have to hold off Watson and Gillmore for the starting job when they each return for training camp. Press Box’s Bo Smolka put together his early projection of Ravens starters and backups, and listed Boyle as the No. 1 tight end with Waller at No. 2.

Zrebiec, on the other hand, has his eyes on Waller. Zrebiec wrote that Waller is the “most talented and gifted” tight end on the Ravens roster, and nothing including his missed time this summer has changed that belief. However, Waller has had his ups and downs.

In one minicamp practice, Waller made a big play across the middle as safety Tony Jefferson chased in pursuit. A few plays later, a pass bounced off the converted wide receiver’s hands and was intercepted.

“You can see why Waller can frustrate the coaching staff,” Zrebiec wrote. “The Ravens need to get faster and more athletic offensively, and Waller provides those dimensions. They’re probably just going to have to live with the occasional drop, poor route or missed assignment, given Waller’s upside.”

Ray Lewis Is Back on TV With Fox Sports 1

Ray Lewis didn’t stay unemployed long. After being released by ESPN in May after three years with the network, Lewis was hired by Fox Sports 1 to be an NFL analyst on Tuesday.

Lewis appeared on FS1’s “Undisputed” with former Ravens teammate Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless on Tuesday to discuss whether defensive players should be ranked ahead of quarterbacks.

Expect Lewis to take on much juicier subjects in the months to come. He could appear on a handful of Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 NFL shows.

“Ray is passionate, incisive and has the ability to ignite thought-provoking discussions,” said Whit Albohm, vice president of daily studio production and executive producer of FS1, in a news release.

“My relationship with football and love for the game continues to grow,” Lewis said in the release. “This opportunity, to bring my passion for the game of football into homes of NFL fans across the country through FOX Sports is a gift. I am excited to join this team and can’t wait for the NFL season to start!”

Ravens Have Three Units on Top 30

Yesterday, we wrote about how the Ravens dominated the top 30 defenses of the past 30 years list, posting six units to the statistically-measured list.

Well, as much as Baltimore is known for defense (the Ravens didn’t have any units on the offensive list), it’s also built a reputation for strong special teams – especially under Head Coach John Harbaugh, who was a former special teams coordinator.

The Ravens have three units on ESPN Football Outsiders’ list of the top 30 of the past 30 years. That’s tied for second only behind the Chicago Bears.

Here are Baltimore’s three top groups, with two coming under Harbaugh and Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg:

No. 30. 2015 Baltimore Ravens (plus-7.3 percent)

Aaron Schatz: “Last year, kicker Justin Tucker had the most valuable year of field goals by any kicker in our 30-year database, but Baltimore's special teams as a whole were better in both 2014 and 2015. The Ravens were worth at least 4.5 points over average in all five areas of special teams that we measure.”

No. 21. 2014 Baltimore Ravens (plus-7.9 percent)

“This was another strong year for kicker Justin Tucker and an even better year for kick returner Jacoby Jones, who led the NFL with 30.6 yards per return, and punter Sam Koch, who led the NFL with 47.4 gross yards per punt.”

No. 17. 2000 Baltimore Ravens (plus-8.4 percent)

“You know about the defense, but special teams certainly helped the Ravens win a championship despite a subpar offense. Jermaine Lewis averaged a league-leading 16.1 yards per punt return with two touchdowns, then scored a third in the Super Bowl. Kicker Matt Stover hit 90 percent of his field goals, including 12-of-15 from 40 or more yards, and was voted a first-team All-Pro.”

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