We're in the thick of Ravens training camp with Baltimore's first preseason game a week away.
Here are my thoughts, all in 50 words or less:
The Ravens have a powder keg of potential breakout stars for the 2023 season, particularly on defense. Not all of them are going to boom, but even if some do and the rest provide quality starter-level play, Baltimore will win a lot of games. Let's go down the list.
Justin Madubuike's sack production has at least doubled each of his first three seasons. If the defensive tackle doubled again, it would be 11 sacks. That's lofty, but Madubuike has the tools and I like his mentality. He said he keeps scratching out his 2023 goals and making them higher.
Patrick Queen is in a similar situation. Also entering a contract year, Queen is looking to earn a hefty payday, and we've seen him make the kind of plays that get paid. Queen wants to put the league on notice, and a full year next to Roquan Smith will help.
Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo are freakish athletes who are getting the tools from new coach Chuck Smith to take their game to the next level. I talked with both this week and they are extremely hungry. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Oweh is having a "stellar" camp so far.
Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton could both make the Pro Bowl this year. Williams is playing with a ton of swagger and Hamilton has looked like a natural in his altered role. Big plays have been few and far between for the first-team offense in camp because of these two.
The defense's potential Achilles heel is at cornerback, where the Ravens are trying to determine their starter opposite Marlon Humphrey (Rock Ya-Sin or Jalyn Armour-Davis) and who will play the slot. Maybe there's enough promising options that one or two pan out. A weak spot would get picked on.
Todd Monken doesn't mince words. So when he said this week that the offense is "not really good right now," I took it as a wake-up-call. He's not going to sugarcoat anything for his players. The expectations are high for Monken and this offense, and he'll be demanding.
The Ravens are going to throw to their running backs much more this season. That's good news for J.K. Dobbins, but he needs to practice to take advantage. Dobbins is a capable pass catcher out of the backfield. Still, he'd help himself by getting in a groove with Lamar Jackson.
This upcoming week will be a big one to see the progress of a few critical pieces: Dobbins, Rashod Bateman (foot), fullback Patrick Ricard, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser. The Ravens are in way better shape health-wise than a year ago, but they need these players back soonish.
It's early, but the Ravens' 2023 draft class looks like a smashing hit. Zay Flowers is a dynamo. Trenton Simpson was all over the field before a soft-tissue issue popped up. Tavius Robinson is drawing praise with his physicality and hustle. Sala Aumavae-Laulu could be a Week 1 starter.