The Ravens' rookie class reports for training camp today and there is work to be done.
The class made a strong impression during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp, and the intensity will increase in training camp.
Here are five things this rookie class needs to prove:
1) Offensive players show they're not afraid of contact
It's easier for wide receivers such as first rounder Breshad Perriman or sixth rounder Darren Waller to look good when there's no threat of getting whacked by a defender. Same goes for rookie running back Javorius "Buck" Allen when he's trying to break through the defensive line and tight ends Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle when they're trying to work the middle of the field. With the pads coming on during training camp, the offensive rookies will have to prove that they're capable of taking some hits while still making the play.
2) They can handle the mental and physical toll
Minicamps and OTAs are no walk in the park. But there were only 10 days of OTAs and three days of minicamps. That's nothing compared to the 35 days of work the rookies will put in by the time the regular season starts. As Head Coach John Harbaugh says, the rookies must "stack days" and work through the physical and mental grind.
3) Perriman and Williams ready to start if needed
The two rookies with the best chance at earning starting jobs are the first two picks, Perriman and Williams. Perriman showcased his playmaking ability earlier this summer, and didn't have many troubles with his hands, which was the biggest criticism of him in the draft. Perriman has to continue to show he can be relied upon if he's going to replace Torrey Smith. Williams didn't flash a whole lot during OTAs and minicamp. He doesn't have Perriman's speed, so Williams has to refine the finer points of his game to create separation.
4) Walker can grow his game quickly
One of the Ravens' most raw, yet talented, rookies is cornerback Tray Walker. The fourth-round prospect out of Texas Southern wasn't running with the first-team defense earlier this summer, but as last year showed, he could be called on at any time due to injuries. The Ravens were starting former practice squad pick-up Rashaan Melvin at year's end. Walker needs to continue his growth and do it quickly to make sure he's ready by the season opener.
5) Smith can be a stand-up pass rusher
Fourth-round outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith made one of the most impressive plays of OTAs when he read a screen pass and made a leaping interception on a throw by backup quarterback Matt Schaub. Smith, who was a defensive end during his college days, now needs to show that he can be a rotational pass rusher that can step into Pernell McPhee's vacant role. With offensive tackles now able to fully engage him during practice, Smith will need to prove his physicality.