Biggest Position Battles to Watch in Training Camp
The competition for starting jobs will continue as soon as the Ravens get back on the practice field, and USA Today's Chuck Mills outlined Baltimore's biggest position battles in this year's training camp.
1. Outside linebacker
Terrell Suggs is set at one of the starting spots. But the other job is up for grabs after the Ravens released veteran Elvis Dumervil.
"This is an opportunity to infuse the defense with some youth, as Matt Judon, Za'Darius Smith, Tim Williams, and Tyus Bowser will all be given the opportunity to win the starting job," Mills wrote. "Judon seems to be the starter at outside linebacker right now, but that could change this summer. Smith has been on the team the longest and could put his stamp on the job simply by experience alone. But Bowser is the young talent that could surprise everyone if he can be a force as a pass rusher."
The starting center job opened when the Ravens traded veteran Jeremy Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers. There has been plenty of speculation about the Ravens adding a veteran to the mix, but Baltimore first got a good look at in-house options John Urschel, Ryan Jensen and Matt Skura during the offseason program.
"They look to be neck-and-neck so far, so it will be interesting to see who is named the starter when the Ravens release their first depth chart at the start of training camp," Mills wrote.
3. Defensive end
Last year's starter, Lawrence Guy, departed for New England in free agency, and the Ravens have Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley vying for his old job. Urban took most of the first-team reps during the offseason, but Mills wrote that "nothing is certain" until the players start hitting in training camp.
4. Right tackle
This spot opened when the Detroit Lions gave Rick Wagner a $47.5 million contract in free agency. Like center, the Ravens are open to adding a veteran at tackle, but James Hurst took all the first-team reps during the offseason.
"He's been getting rave reviews for his performance [during offseason practices]," Mills wrote. "Now he has to keep it up in training camp if he wants to keep the job."
5. Slot cornerback
Tavon Young's torn ACL during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) was a tough blow to the defense, and the Ravens need someone to step into that role. Maurice Canady was perhaps the most impressive cornerback during the offseason program, and Mills notes that the "Ravens signed Brandon Boykin and Al-Hajj Shabazz to compete with Canady for the job."
Veteran Lardarius Webb is also in the mix for that spot.
6. Tight end
The Ravens no longer have Dennis Pitta after his hip injury, and that leaves Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, Darren Waller and Benjamin Watson looking to replace him.
"Boyle is in the lead now, but that's because he was the only healthy tight end during OTAs," Mills wrote. "Watson might be the actual favorite simply because he's the only regularly productive tight end on the roster, even in spite of his injury last season."
Will Hill Makes Impressive CFL Debut
Former Ravens safety Will Hill has found a new home in the Canadian Football League. After sitting out last season following a failed drug test, Hill has moved on to the CFL.
And he had quite the debut for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Sunday. Hill, who is playing linebacker in the CFL, had eight tackles and a pair of blocked field goals in a 32-15 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. The Argonauts are actually coached by former Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman.
Ravens defensive end Brent Urban, a Toronto native, watched his former teammate in action.
Hill started 22 games for the Ravens between 2014-15. He had his best moments as a Raven on Monday Night Football, as he had a critical pick-six against the New Orleans Saints in 2014 and returned a blocked field goal (by Urban) for a game-winning touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in 2015.
A Trick Play That Wouldn't Have Counted
Stumbled upon this while surfing the Web for football news (yeah, it's dry out there right now).
SB Nation's' Mark Saltveit, who covers the San Francisco 49ers, wrote a story about new 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan's "awesome trick play" that he used in 2014 against the Ravens.
Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns at the time. He rolled quarterback Johnny Manziel into the game for one play (a handoff for a 1-yard loss), then seemingly subbed him out.
The substitution was a decoy, as Manziel stood near the sideline and pretended to have a conversation with Shanahan. Manziel wasn't off the field, however, and ran out to make an uncontested 39-yard catch and run after the snap.
What Salveit correctly remembered was that the play was flagged and brought back because running back Terrance West (then with the Browns) was called for an illegal shift.
What Salveit did not correctly point out is that the play was also illegal, and should have been a 15-yard penalty at the time, because players were not allowed to hide out within five yards of the sideline between the 32-yard lines (they were at the 38). This rule has since been expanded to not allow players to hide near the sideline no matter where the ball is spotted.
So, while Shanahan certainly deserves credit for being a smart and innovative offensive play-caller (hey, he was twice in serious consideration to be the Ravens' offensive coordinator), you don't prepare for illegal plays.
Kaufusi Hits the Campaign Trail
In addition to preparing for the position battle at defense end, Kaufusi is getting a lesson in local politics this summer. He's back in his hometown of Provo, Utah, and he's helping his mom, Michelle, campaign to become the city's mayor.
The Kaufusis are a well-known family in the Provo area, as Bronson is one of five siblings, and his father, Steve, is an assistant coach for BYU's football team. If Michelle win's the race this fall, she will become the first female mayor of Provo.