Roster Projection Highlights Key Position Battles
As the offseason begins to take shape, so does roster construction.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal looked at the projected starters for teams in the AFC North and revealed some interesting position battles that could arise throughout camp in Baltimore.
"With solid attendance expected again Wednesday, the Ravens can get a head start on their 2021 planning," The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Some of it could be revealing. Some of it probably won't be."
Whatwill happen at backup quarterback?
"With Robert Griffin III no longer on the roster, the Ravens are going to roll with Trace McSorley or Tyler Huntley as their backup quarterback," Rosenthal wrote. "General manager Eric DeCosta is excellent at self-scouting, but my professional analysis of the situation is hoo boy."
Will J.K. Dobbins be theprimary starter at running back?
"Dobbins is ready for a starting role," Rosenthal wrote. "No running back with 100 carries last year had a higher percentage of his yardage coming from big plays (15-plus yards), per Pro Football Focus, but Dobbins also showed plenty of wiggle to evade defenders in tight spaces. Gus Edwards is a terrific backup."
Willthere be a receiver rotation?
"A rotation is likely among Baltimore's outside receivers, but I wouldn't assume that rookie first-rounder Rashod Bateman is going to beat out Sammy Watkins," Rosenthal wrote. "A rotation makes sense. Devin Duvernay is the expected starter in the slot and has the skill set to make a big jump this season. He plays where Lamar Jackson throws the ball best."
Newstarters at linebacker and edge rusher?
"They are pushing the limits of this approach more than ever in 2021, with their best individual edge rusher probably ... Tyus Bowser?" Rosenthal wrote. "It's not like the pass rush performed great even before Matt Judon left in free agency. The Ravens finished 14th in sacks and 25th in PFF's pass-rush grades a year ago. They could desperately use first-round pick Odafe Oweh to make an early impact, but it usually takes Baltimore edge players a minute to get up to speed in this system.
"... Malik Harrison could battle L.J. Fort for the linebacker spot next to Patrick Queen. The bigger story at the position is whether Queen's significant struggles in coverage last year were just part of the usual rookie learning curve."
Super Bowl Odds Would Soar With a Possible Julio Jones Addition
There's been plenty of debate about if the Ravens should be among the teams to pursue a trade for Julio Jones. It may be too expensive and not make much sense given Baltimore's other wide receiver additions, but there's no doubt that it would be an immediate boost.
According to CBS Sports research analyst Stephen Oh, the Ravens' Super Bowl odds would jump from 9.5 percent to 12 percent if they acquired Jones, the most of any team. Their odds of winning the AFC North would also rise from 4.4 percent to 5.3.
The buzz of Jones' potential departure grew bigger this week. Even Ravens like Marlon Humphrey and Lamar Jackson made their recruiting pitch.
The Athletic went as far as to evaluate subscriber-proposed trades for Jones. Among them was a trade that would send Tyus Bowser, Devin Duvernay, a second-round pick, and a fifth-round pick to the Falcons for Jones.
"The Ravens always have been a contender in a potential Jones trade, but even with this proposal as an example, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec has written a few times that Baltimore may not be able to make a competitive offer for Jones, especially if it involves this much draft capital," The Athletic's Tori McElhaney wrote. "The Ravens reached out to Falcons GM Terry Fontenot about Jones before the NFL Draft, but nothing ever came of it. Zrebiec reports a deal isn't off the table but it is much more complicated than it was in April."
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora was among the latest pundits to suggest Jones as a fit for Baltimore, but is skeptical the Ravens will make a move.
"They drafted two receivers within the first four rounds of the draft for the second time in three years and just paid Sammy Watkins $6M to come on board," La Canfora wrote . "Jones won't help on special teams and while they say the offense is expanding, there is less volume in this passing game than any in the NFL. Oh, and they have no proven pass-rusher and Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews are among those in line for massive extensions. Even if Blank ate $5M I'm not sure this is where Jones lands.
NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha did not list the Ravens among the five teams that need to go all in on Jones.
Rookie Stat Projections for Odafe Oweh and Rashod Bateman
With the 17-game season debuting this year, ESPN’s Mike Clay looked at the top five projected leaders among rookies in each of the major statistical categories. Two Ravens rookies made the lists at their respective positions.
Clay projects Bateman to finish fifth among all rookies in receiving yards with 657, behind Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Kyle Pitts.
"This paints a very positive picture for Chase, Smith and Waddle in 2021," Clay wrote. "Assuming they stay healthy, all three are positioned to play significant offensive roles out of the gate.
"Pitts' projection would place him fifth all-time for a rookie tight end and give him the most receiving yards by a first-year player at the position since Evan Engram's 722 yards in 2017. And while Bateman's upside is limited by Baltimore's run-heavy scheme, he has a path to an every-down role opposite Brown."
Marquise Brown, Marlon Brown, and Torrey Smith each had seven touchdowns as rookies. Smith led the group with 841 receiving yards.
Oweh also made the list as Clay projects him to finish with 4.5 sacks as a rookie. That's third-best behind Jaelan Phillips and Kwity Paye, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Oweh emerge from the group.
"In 2019, rookies combined for 126.5 sacks, and first-round rookies combined for 60," Clay wrote. "Both totals were the most since 2011. But in 2020, those numbers dropped to 71.5 and 18, respectively – both of which registered easily as the fewest in over a decade. Chase Young's 7.5 sacks paced all rookies last season, though he was the only first-year player with more than four. Four others had more than 2.5 sacks.
"Phillips and Paye have paths to big 2021 roles with underwhelming competition for reps with their new teams, and it may not take Oweh long to overtake Bowser and/or McPhee in Baltimore. Turner and Tryon have a tougher task in finding opportunities with Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport on the Saints' depth chart and Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul back in Tampa Bay."
Ravens Among Teams Approved for Full Capacity Stadiums
While the year 2020 was nothing short of forgetful, a sense of normalcy is starting to creep back in.
The Ravens are among the 30 teams that NFL executive vice president of club business and league events Peter O'Reilly said are approved to open their stadiums at full capacity for the 2021 season.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert also reported that teams will be permitted to host fans at training camp, subject to state and local guidelines.
"The looming return of a relatively normal year made for a rousing business presentation to club presidents during the first of a two-day virtual spring league meeting," Seifert wrote. "The NFL-wide season-ticket renewal rate has been about 90%, according to Reilly, fueled by a surge in the 10 days since the league announced its 2021 schedule. Over that period, ticket sales have run at an 83% higher rate than they did in the same timeframe after the 2019 schedule release."
In a letter to PSL owners earlier this month, Ravens President Dick Cass said the organization expects M&T Bank Stadium to be at full capacity this season.
"With the NFL Draft now behind us, the excitement of adding new impact players to our roster provides even greater enthusiasm for the upcoming season," Cass said. "We are all looking forward to the chance to see live Ravens football at an M&T Bank Stadium filled with fans."
- Former Ravens defensive tackle Willie Henry has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.