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Mailbag: What Defensive Personnel Adjustments Are Coming?

S Ar'Darius Washington (left) & CB Nate Wiggins (right)
S Ar'Darius Washington (left) & CB Nate Wiggins (right)

Mink: The Ravens had a lot of versatility last year in their secondary, and I think they have even more this season. Yes, Geno Stone is now in Cincinnati. I expect that Ar'Darius Washington, who looks to be the leading candidate for the No. 3 safety job, will step take some of those snaps. In games where Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams both started, Stone played 68% of the defensive snaps. Barring injury, I don't think Washington will see that much action, but it could still be significant.

While the Ravens had an influx of safety talent last year, they're more loaded at cornerback this season after the addition of first-round pick Nate Wiggins. Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Stephens are the projected starters, but the Ravens will find ways to get their ultra-talented rookie on the field.

That could mean moving Humphrey into the slot more often this season. He hasn't done much of that in recent years, but the Ravens pivoted that way last year during their big Week 16 game in San Francisco, presumably because of matchups. Humphrey had played three snaps in the slot to that point, then was inside for 23 snaps versus the 49ers. That shows Baltimore is still confident he can do that job if needed.

The Ravens are still going to use Hamilton as a chess piece, lining him up all over the defense, including in the slot. Baltimore also really likes re-signed veteran Arthur Maulet in the slot and third-year cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis has gotten off to a strong start this summer. There are a lot of candidates in the secondary that can play multiple positions, and my guess is that Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr will reach deep into his cornerback depth.

One other position/player I would watch is Travis Jones. I think Baltimore is going to look for ways to get the third-year defensive tackle on the field more, which could mean a slight shift in personnel packages.

Brown: I'll say Ben Cleveland is the favorite to emerge as the starting right guard, but I believe the competition is still open.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has indicated that no decision has been made on a starting left guard, right guard, or right tackle. Last week Harbaugh said, "So far, every single guy looks like he could be the starter. Now, we get into pads. We get into preseason games, let the guys compete against one another and see who wins the jobs. But all of them are still in contention at this point, which is very good."

This is an important year for Cleveland, a third-round pick in 2021. He has made seven career starts, but this is his best opportunity to become a full-time starter. He has more experience than Sala Aumavae-Laulu and has been with the Ravens longer than Josh Jones, who has not played right guard since 2021. I think the Ravens would prefer not to start Patrick Mekari, because they value him as a versatile backup who can play all five positions.

Cleveland's fate is up to him. If he performs well the first two or three weeks of training camp, that would likely be enough to win the job. However, if he doesn't play well early in camp, Baltimore could decide to acquire a veteran or turn to someone else on the roster.

Harbaugh said Tuesday that he'd like to have the starting offensive line settled before the preseason games begin.

Mink: Ronnie Stanley is off to a good start this summer primarily because he's on the field a lot. He hasn't missed an OTA or minicamp practice yet, which is a very positive development for a player that has dealt with injuries and rehab the past several seasons. Even for a player as talented as Stanley, stacking consistent practices matters.

Stanley's biggest problem last year was that he had trouble anchoring, in large part because he didn't have as much power in his lower half. The toll of two knee injuries last season hobbled him. The good news is Stanley said Tuesday that he feels as good as he’s felt since the start of the 2020 season – before his major ankle injury.

Stanley was quite honest in his self-reflection and is motivated to return to the player he once was. That would be a boom for Baltimore's offense.

Brown: It's a little early to make concrete judgements on how David Ojabo looks. He's been doing individual work at OTAs which is progress, and Harbaugh said last week that he expected Ojabo to join practice reps sometime during training camp.

Coming off his season-ending 2023 knee injury, Ojabo needs to stay healthy once camp begins if he wants to play regularly as part of the outside linebacker rotation. His injury last season, coupled with the knee injury suffered at his pro day in 2022, limited Ojabo to just five games in his first two years. We know he has talent, but he hasn't been able to display it consistently.

The hope is that Ojabo looks good in training camp, followed by some strong preseason games to work off the rust and build confidence prior to Week 1. Tavius Robinson, rookie Adisa Isaac, and Malik Hamm are also competing for more snaps at outside linebacker behind Odafe Oweh and Kyle Van Noy. However, if Ojabo has a strong and healthy August, I think he has a good chance to earn regular snaps in the outside linebacker rotation, particularly as a situational pass rusher.

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