Pundits Expect Chris Wormley, Willie Henry to be Key Contributors
Lost among the free agency departures and the pursuit of Gerald McCoy has been the development of young players on the Ravens' defensive line.
Headlined by run stuffers in Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, another dynamic duo could be forming. Pundits expect Chris Wormley and Willie Henry to serve as significant contributors on the defensive line this season.
Wormley was a key rotational player in 2018, totaling 16 tackles and one sack, but his performance throughout the early portions of the offseason has him slated to compete for the starting three-technique job.
"Their pursuit of McCoy made it clear the Ravens aren't perfectly content with their interior pass rush, but Chris Wormley has been active with batted passes and pressures this spring," WNST's Luke Jones wrote. "He will be competing with Zach Sieler to step into the old Brent Urban role."
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler named Wormley as one of the players the Ravens are still waiting on for production. That's mainly in part to the luxury of depth the Ravens have had on the defensive line, but the upcoming season could provide an opportunity for a breakout campaign.
"Quietly, [Wormley has] put himself in a position to have a strong training camp and preseason," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens obviously valued getting another comp pick, but there was another reason they didn't make a more aggressive attempt to re-sign Urban, a 16-game starting defensive end whom they could have had back on a modest deal. They really like how Wormley is developing. He is showing more explosiveness and athleticism."
PennLive's Aaron Kasinitz believes Henry is positioned to be one of the Ravens' "most important figures." this season.
Henry will look to bounce back from a lost season due to injuries and has the talent to do so. He's only two years removed from recording 32 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2017.
"For a team that lost a hefty dose of pass-rush production from last season's top-ranked defense, Henry represents a glimmer of hope," Kasinitz wrote. "He carries the potential to provide a crucial dynamic to the unit by lining up with his hand in dirt and bothering quarterbacks game in and game out."
Head Coach John Harbaugh spoke highly of Henry's return this offseason.
"He's in great shape," Harbaugh said. "He's stronger than he's ever been. His weight and everything is right where we need it to be. He's looked very explosive, very quick, very fast, and he's done well. I would expect him to play well."
Wormley and Henry's athleticism could play a crucial factor. Both have shown the ability to disrupt passes at the line of scrimmage.
How Joe Douglas' Hiring Could Affect Ravens
The front office tree under Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta continues to expand.
On Friday, the Jets agreed to terms with Joe Douglas to become their next general manager. The former Ravens scout spent the last three seasons as vice president of player personnel with the Eagles and now gets his first crack at leading an NFL front office.
Douglas will put together his staff with the Jets, and pundits such as Zrebiec believe Douglas' hiring could have an impact on the Ravens' front office.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer added two former Ravens into the mix who could follow Douglas to New York from Philadelphia.
"Connected in the scouting community like Chris Ballard was going to Indianapolis two years ago, Douglas should be able to build a robust department," Breer wrote. "The first two names I'd keep an eye on are the two rising stars he poached from Baltimore upon getting to Philly: director of player personnel Andy Weidl and director of college scouting Ian Cunningham.
Along with Alexander, Douglas could continue to dip into his Baltimore roots. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that Phil Savage is among the names that could join Douglas in New York. Savage previously worked as the director of college scouting and director of player personnel in Baltimore.
The Ravens could block Douglas and the Jets from interviewing some of their front office personnel, but Zrebiec doesn't see that happening because of the relationship between Douglas and Eric DeCosta.
Players With Most to Prove in Mandatory Minicamp
With OTAs in the books, the Ravens continue their offseason program with the start of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
Competition and position battles are beginning to heat up, and Baltimore Beatdown's Frank Platko listed six players with the most to prove heading into minicamp this week.
Three second-year players – Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, and Hayden Hurst – made Platko's list.
Lasley and Scott face a crowded depth chart battle after the Ravens added a wealth of talent to the receiving corps. Scott got off to a strong start in OTAs, hauling in a pair of touchdowns during practice, but as Platko noted, neither Lasley nor Scott recorded a snap in the regular season as rookies.
"[B]oth Lasley and Scott are competing against several other young receivers and a couple veterans to earn the final WR spots on the depth chart," Platko wrote. "They've earned high praise from the coaching staff and Lamar Jackson in OTA's, but the competition will only intensify going forward."
After undergoing surgery to repair a fractured foot, Hurst will look to play an integral role in Greg Roman's new-look offense.
"Upon returning [from injury], Hurst never truly found his footing and asserted himself as a consistent receiving threat," Platko wrote. "Playing with a screw in his foot almost certainly limited his effectiveness, but Hurst needs a strong bounce-back season to validate his status as the Ravens first-round pick in 2018. He claims to have put on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason and appears to be in great physical shape."
Lamar Jackson will be the one throwing to Hurst this season and ESPN listed Jackson's continued development as one of the top stories to watch.
"There has been up-and-down play for Jackson in the two offseason practices open to the media," ESPN wrote. "He can hit tight end Hayden Hurst perfectly in stride on one pass and overthrow a wide-open receiver on the next one. Consistency is a big key for Jackson at mandatory minicamp, which will give him a confidence boost going into training camp."
You can check out Platko's full list here.
- Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle and Mike Renner named Orlando Brown Jr. among the second-year offensive tackles poised for a breakout season.
- NFL Network's Maurice Jones-Drew says Mark Ingram II and Lamar Jackson are the league's best running duo.