Why Rookies Might Not Start This Year
When the Ravens drafted wide receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round, it was almost as if fans and media immediately slid him into Torrey Smith's starting spot on the depth chart.
When Baltimore drafted tight end Maxx Williams in the second round, he too was instantly looked at as the starter in a previously bare tight end corps that's hoping for Dennis Pitta's return.
Well, not so fast.
After Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp, it's clear that the Ravens' top draft picks will have a lot of competition when it comes to starting. And that's even after the rookies played well.
"Both have even earned a little praise as possible Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates," wrote BaltimoreBeatdown's Matthew Stevens. "Yet, neither might start. Before you get all in an uproar, that isn't a bad thing."
As Stevens points out, rookies, especially those taken in early rounds, "need to be labeled as a starter and make an immediate impact or be labeled a bust." Part of that comes from being a Ravens rookie, and the next crop in a sterling draft history. The bar is high. But it's also a bit of a fallacy.
Plenty of rookies don't start immediately and turn out to be excellent pros. For example, just look at cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, and linebacker Paul Kruger.
Here's why each of the Ravens' top three picks may not start right away, per Stevens:
WR Breshad Perriman
"Perriman could be moved around the field as he seems open to playing from any spot on the offense. His willingness to be a hybrid wide receiver will benefit him in the long run as it will open up the possibility of mismatches, but during his rookie season, it could see him used sparingly and only in certain offensive packages."
TE Maxx Williams
"Much like Perriman, Williams has the right attitude for this team and is willing to do anything needed to see the field. Most fans have kind of forgotten about Crockett Gillmore, which is understandable, but the Ravens sure haven't. Gillmore saw a lot of action during practices and looked the part of a starting tight end. I could see that quarterback Joe Flacco was beginning to grow confidence in Gillmore and create a chemistry that might be difficult for a rookie to unseat.
"It will just be an uphill battle for Williams to get the starter label assigned to him if Gillmore continues to look like he has so far, and Williams could end up being a short yardage or red zone player in his first year."
DT Carl Davis
"So many fans are excited about Davis and it is easy to see why. Big and strong are the two things that are immediately apparent when looking at Davis' tape in college, but he is still very raw.
"Davis probably has one of the better chances to be in a rotation as the Ravens like to keep defensive linemen fresh all season long by limiting their snaps and substituting guys in packages depending on the situation. However, the Ravens do already have a pretty set defensive line with Brandon Williams, Chris Canty/Brent Urban, and Timmy Jernigan."
If Stevens' take is a bit upsetting, here's something to balance it out. Last week, ESPN's Jamison Hensley gave his reasons why Perriman and Williams could start this year.
Hensley says it would be "extremely surprising" if Perriman doesn't find a spot in the starting lineup at some point this season.
"The biggest reason Perriman will be given a chance to start immediately is he's the only Baltimore wide receiver outside of Steve Smith Sr. who can score a touchdown any time he touches the ball," Hensley wrote.
"There's a possibility the Ravens will begin the season by starting Kamar Aiken or Marlon Brown. But this would happen only if the Ravens don't want to put too much pressure on Perriman, or if the first-round pick doesn't progress as expected this summer."
As for Williams, his role in the Ravens' offense "should come with an asterisk."
"It all depends on the health of tight end Dennis Pitta. If Pitta can't play this season or is limited because of issues with his hip, Williams becomes a bigger factor in Baltimore's passing attack," Hensley wrote.
5 Bubble Players Who Helped Themselves
Minicamp and OTAs are times for the starters to get in sync, but they're also critical days when jobs are won and lost.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec put together a list of five bubble players who improved their roster status so far this offseason:
WR Jeremy Butler
"Joe Flacco might have been exaggerating when he said Butler had nearly 1,500 yards receiving during the three-day minicamp, but the second-year player was certainly the week's standout and I didn't see him drop a single pass. Butler has opened up some separation on other on-the-bubble receivers like Darren Waller, DeAndre Carter and maybe even injured Michael Campanaro."
RB Terrence Magee
"The undrafted rookie free agent out of LSU still faces an uphill battle to make the team. However, he showed good hands and a nice burst, and he's the type of hard-working, high-character guy who the Ravens love. He's a practice squad candidate at worst."
CB Quinton Pointer
"The 27-year-old spent part of last season on the Ravens' practice squad before signing a reserve-futures deal. He made several plays on the ball and was in good position more often than not."
LB Zach Orr
"An undrafted free agent who surprisingly made the team last year on the strength of his special teams play, Orr lined up at times with the first-team defense in place of injured C.J. Mosley, and was very active and involved."
OT Jah Reid
"Ravens fans, who long ago chalked up Reid as a draft bust and were miffed when he was re-signed, surely don't want to hear it. But Reid, subbing for Rick Wagner as the starting right tackle, didn't look out of place and seems to have improved his conditioning and movement."
Ravens Play Big Role At Rookie Symposium
Yesterday, we shared running back Justin Forsett's message at this year's NFL Rookie Symposium.
Well, there was even more Ravens influence on this year's rookie crop, which is currently in Aurora, Ohio for the four-day seminar focused on getting the rookie ready for the NFL and beyond.
As The Baltimore Sun wrote, it's a "crash course filled with seminars, testimonials and advice on how to navigate the pitfalls of fame and fortune."
Forsett shared his story of endurance in this league. Former Ravens wide receiver Donte Stallworth spoke to the group about the consequences of his DUI manslaughter conviction from 2009.
The Sun also says former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic abuse was a "major reason why the league is trying to be more proactive in supporting its players with programs meant to help them and policies that will week out the biggest troublemakers."
The Ravens rookies have been getting training from Director of Player Engagement Harry Swayne in all of these facets since they arrived in Baltimore shortly after the draft. The symposium is hammering home the message.
"I tried to take away from all of it, from the financial stuff, knowing how to set yourself up for the future and learning from veterans on how I should prepare my body," Williams said. "I've heard it from my dad, but it's always better to hear it from someone in the league, a teammate. It reinforces everything he always said to me."
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