Eisenberg: 50 Words or Less

LB Pernell McPhee

Various thoughts on various things, all in 50 words or less:

While the Ravens hope their younger outside linebackers, Odafe Oweh and Jaylon Ferguson, can assume significant roles in 2021, my hunch is veteran Pernell McPhee will start opposite Tyus Bowser, at least initially. Although he is 32, McPhee was playing inspired football when last seen, in the 2020 playoffs.

Don't expect the defense to look a whole lot different. The Ravens have quietly brought back 14 of their top 15 defensive players from a year ago in terms of snap-count percentage – the guys who played the most, in other words. The only one who got away is Matthew Judon.

Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are entrenched as the starters at safety and seldom left the field in 2020, but the Ravens would love a third player with a range of skills at the position and they're looking hard at rookie Brandon Stephens, who seemingly performed well in spring practices.

Younger players on the Ravens would do well to take note of running back Justice Hill's career path. Although he has struggled to earn playing time after entering the NFL with high hopes, he has carved out a valuable role on special teams while continuing to wait/hope for an opportunity.

A lesson about persistence: An undrafted rookie free agent didn't make the Ravens' roster out of training camp in 2020, ending a 16-year run, but a bunch of UDFAs from that class have a real shot now, starting with long snapper Nick Moore, cornerback Khalil Dorsey and quarterback Tyler Huntley.

Josh Oliver seemingly is the leading contender for the No. 3 tight end job. But the situation could change when players don pads and start hitting each other in training camp. Spring practices in shorts were not the ideal place for hard-hitters Ben Mason and Eric Tomlinson to shine.

The Ravens are right in the thick of it, but the AFC is a tougher place in 2021. The Chiefs are still clear favorites, but the Bills are still strong, the Browns and Patriots are improved, the Titans added Julio Jones, the Dolphins are developing and the Colts look dangerous.

It was wonderful to see that strong wave of support for Carl Nassib this week after the veteran defensive end for the Raiders became the first active NFL player to announce he is gay. Here's hoping that wave doesn't let up. The world can be a rough place.

The league still hasn't announced its rules for practice squads in 2021, but according to media reports, it's likely to keep the expanded 16-man limit and also continue making it easier to bring players back from injured reserve. Those are almost a must now that the season lasts 17 games.

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