Early Look At Wide Receiver Depth Chart
After an influx of talent from the draft and rookie free agency, the Ravens roster has ballooned with 12 wide receivers on the squad. The team will have to say goodbye to up to half of those players by the time the season starts in September.
That's a looooong way off and plenty of time to compete, but CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown is already taking an early look at the wide receiver depth chart and predicting who will make the final 53-man roster.
Here's how it could shake out:
Current WR roster: Kamar Aiken, Daniel Brown, Marlon Brown, Jeremy Butler, Michael Campanaro, Kaelin Clay, Chris Matthews, Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, Keenan Reynolds, Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace
- Everything starts with Steve Smith's recovery
The 16-year veteran is working back from Achilles surgery, and will be a major boon to the offense if he can return to the form he showed last year before the injury. That said, Brown doesn't believe this year's unit will be as dependent on Smith.
"[T]he Ravens have built a receiving corps that looks more talented, more diverse, and less reliant on Smith than last season," he wrote.
- Biggest difference from last year: speed
It often seemed like there was a traffic jam in the middle of the field last year without a deep threat to keep opposing defenses honest. That should change with the return of first-round pick Breshad Perriman and the additions of veteran Mike Wallace and fourth-round pick Chris Moore. They all "have the speed to dramatically improve the deep passing game," wrote Brown.
- Kamar Aiken deserves starting role until someone wrestles it away
Aiken was never viewed by outsiders as a starting receiver in the league, but as injuries piled up last year, he took on the role and notched 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns. As exciting as Perriman, Wallace and Moore look, Brown says that Aiken should be viewed as the starter again until "someone proves he shouldn't."
With Aiken and Smith as the presumptive starters, Brown sees Wallace and Perriman getting plenty of snaps behind them. If Perriman stays healthy, his role could increase weekly.
- Who makes the cut? Who doesn't?
Brown sees the Ravens keeping seven receivers: Smith, Aiken, Perriman, Wallace, Moore, Reynolds and Campanaro.
That leaves five on the outside looking in, with a couple perhaps making the practice squad: Daniel Brown, Marlon Brown, Butler, Clay and Matthews.
"Reynolds is a feel-good story to make the roster, but if he's not one of the top six or seven receivers, will the Ravens keep him simply for his ability to return punts?" he asked. "Can Campanaro stay healthy? Can Perriman finally stay on the field and contribute? Will vets looking to hang on like Butler and Marlon Brown do enough on special teams and in the preseason to secure a roster spot? Plenty of questions to answer, and watching it unfold will be fascinating."
Kamalei Correa Decision Will Be Monitored Closely
Early reviews of second-round pick Kamalei Correa were positive after a brief look at him in Saturday's rookie minicamp session open to the media.
The pressure to continue to stand out will be on Correa's shoulders, not only because he is a second-round pick, but also because the Ravens traded back twice and passed up other well-known talent to draft him.
"If [Correa] is feeling the pressure of being the Ravens' second-round pick, he is not showing it," Brown wrote. "The Ravens are expecting Correa to be a cog in their defense as a rookie, particularly as a pass rusher … Yet, drafting Correa was a Ravens' decision that will be monitored closely over the next few years."
Some popular names that were linked to the Ravens at No. 36 before they ultimately traded back to No. 42 were UCLA inside linebacker Myles Jack (No. 36), Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard (No. 38) and Eastern Kentucky outside linebacker Noah Spence (No. 39).
"The Ravens felt Correa was the better choice for them over Jack, over Spence, and over Howard," wrote Brown.
"To make good on the Ravens' confidence in him, Correa needs to be a player Ravens fans see consistently on Sundays in the opponent's backfield - harassing quarterbacks, disrupting plays, making things happen in a way the Ravens' defense couldn't last season, especially after outside linebacker Terrell Suggs went down Week 1 with his Achilles injury."
Biggest Remaining Hole On Ravens Roster
Teams can't fill all their needs via the draft and early free-agency signings, which is why ESPN pointed out the biggest remaining holes on all 32 team rosters.
For the Ravens, the largest remaining question mark is at linebacker, says Scott Kacsmar. I would say it's specifically at inside linebacker after losing Daryl Smith in free agency and without adding any new blood, but Kacsmar includes outside linebacker too.
"Baltimore should survive this season with its current linebacker depth chart, but it is undeniable that Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are in their twilight years," he wrote. "Suggs, who turns 34 in October, is returning from a torn Achilles and Dumervil had his lowest sack total (6.0) since 2008. Matthew Judon (Grand Valley State) was an interesting fifth-round pick because he dominated Division II with 20 sacks last season, but the step up in competition will be huge when he eventually sees the field. The Ravens also lost veteran Daryl Smith, so C.J. Mosley could use some help inside."
In addition to Judon, the Ravens also drafted Correa to help bolster the position.
Impressions From Rookie Minicamp
If you want a summary of how the rookies performed over the weekend, my colleague Ryan Mink gave the best recap out on the web. You won't want to miss it.
Two rookies didn't participate in Saturday's session open to the media. Third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi tweaked his back in Friday's practice and fourth-round running back Kenneth Dixon was still recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained during his Pro Day.
Here are some other impressions from reporters:
"Ravens first-round pick Ronnie Stanley (No. 79) showed very quick feet in offensive line drills at rookie minicamp." – ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"One tryout player at Ravens rookie minicamp who really stood out: North Alabama RB Lamonte Thompson. Has 4.4 speed." – The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec
"Impressed with 2nd pick Kamalei Correa. Quick feet. Fast. Plays with suddenness. He'll be fun to watch develop." – WBAL's Gerry Sandusky