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Mailbag: Early Breakout Candidates on Offense and Defense

WR Rashod Bateman (left) & ILB Trenton Simpson (right)
WR Rashod Bateman (left) & ILB Trenton Simpson (right)

Mink: Now that we've at least seen a few OTA practices, I can give a decent answer to this question. It's always difficult to pin down what qualifies as a "breakout." Justin Madubuike had a breakout season last year, but he was already firmly on Ravens fans' radars. So I'll give you the guy-who-was-already-a-starter breakout and then the under-the-radar breakout.

On offense, I'll go with Rashod Bateman as my known commodity. With a healthy finish to last season and offseason, and now with Odell Beckham Jr. not handcuffing his opportunities, Bateman is in position to flourish. He's in the right physical and mental headspace, and the Ravens offense is going to lean on him opposite Zay Flowers. It all lines up. Bateman's career highs of 46 catches and 515 yards came during his rookie year. He'll easily hurdle those numbers this season.

My deep-cut offensive breakout player is guard Ben Cleveland. The current favorite to land the starting right guard spot, Cleveland dealt with nagging injuries early in his career but was a consistent practice player last year and thus developed. I could see a Ben Powers-like breakout fourth year for Cleveland.

On defense, my Madubuike-like pick would be Odafe Oweh. Oweh tied his rookie sack production (5.0) last year, but his film and pressure rate tell the story of a player who made big strides. He has the ability to more than double that sack output this season. Oweh was dominant in Tuesday's OTA practice. Yes, we've seen this before from Oweh, and getting the job done in full pads and games is a different story, but this is the kind of practice dominance we saw from Madubuike last summer, and he carried it into the year.

The under-the-radar pick would be inside linebacker Trenton Simpson, who also stood out in Tuesday's practice. A very conscientious player, Simpson looked a little hesitant as a rookie. Now he's flying around the field and trusting his instincts and assignments. He's also seemingly undergone a physical transformation this offseason, adding more bulk but still keeping his trademark speed. I don't think it will take long for people to say he has adequately filled the shoes of Patrick Queen.

Brown: I think there's a solid chance the Ravens will add safety depth.

They view the No. 3 safety position as a key piece to their defensive puzzle. They love to take advantage of Kyle Hamilton's versatility by lining him up in different positions. There is competition for reps behind Hamilton and Marcus Williams after the departure of Geno Stone. Meanwhile, Williams has missed at least six games the past two seasons, so insurance against injury has to be considered.

Head Coach John Harbaugh confirmed that three-time Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams visited Baltimore last week. Harbaugh and Adams bonded at the Pro Bowl years ago, and he's a player the head coach respects. If Baltimore were to sign Adams at some point, it wouldn't be shocking.

However, the Ravens have several in-house candidates who with the potential to lock down the No. 3 safety spot. Ar'Darius Washington and seventh-round pick Sanoussi Kane have an opportunity to win the battle, and two undrafted free agents could make a case – Beau Brade of Maryland and Jordan Toles of Morgan State. It's a position group to watch at training camp, especially if the Ravens have not signed Adams by then.

Brown: Barring an injury to one of their top targets in training camp, I don't think the Ravens will add a veteran wide receiver. There's no urgency to sign any of the veteran free agent wideouts who remain available, a list that includes Hunter Renfrow, Michael Thomas, Mecole Hardman and Randall Cobb.

The Ravens have high hopes that Bateman will have his healthiest and most productive season, and he’s optimistic as well. Flowers looks ready to lead the wide receiver group again coming off his excellent rookie year, and Nelson Agholor provides a steady veteran presence. Meanwhile, rookie Devontez Walker and Tylan Wallace are among many others competing for a role in the wide receiver rotation. That doesn't leave a huge need for a veteran if everyone stays healthy.

Among the undrafted wide receivers, Dayton Wade of Mississippi has probably made the strongest early impression. He was a playmaker in practice last week and ran routes with confidence, but it's going to be a difficult roster for any undrafted receiver to crack.

Mink: Outside of the four cornerbacks you mentioned, I'd expect to see the most action from Jalyn Armour-Davis. Heading into his third year, Armour-Davis is in great shape and is playing well at OTAs. The fourth-round Alabama product has always had the tools. He has the size, speed, demeanor, etc.

In college and so far in the pros, it's been about his health. He suited up for four games as a rookie and had hip surgery. Then he went on injured reserve after eight games last year with a concussion. Armour-Davis looks healthy now, and if he can stay on the field, he could be a valuable rotational outside cornerback, especially if anybody were to go down with an injury, which is unfortunately inevitable at the position.

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