Smolka's Five Ravens Veterans Fighting for Roster Spots in Training Camp
Training camp is already underway with a massive group of Ravens rookies (and injured players), reporting to the Under Armour Performance Center Wednesday.
Baltimore boasts a robust 31-player rookie class, including 12 draft selections, giving coaches plenty of opportunity to discover untapped potential. The possibilities are exciting, but it also puts pressure on veterans to perform.
Nobody's spot is safe, and Press Box's Bo Smolka identified five veterans "who could find their bubble burst" when the team cuts the roster down from 90 to 53 in September. Smolka provided reasons why each veteran could both stay and go.
1. LB Kamalei Correa (third season)
Why he could stay: Young age (24), moving back to natural position at outside linebacker; versatility to play both inside and outside, special teams ability; could still unlock potential as 2016 second-round pick
Why he could be cut: Beaten out last season by Patrick Onwuasor for the starting weak-side linebacker job; has rarely seen defensive snaps; deep group at outside linebacker (Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Za'Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams)
2. DE Bronson Kaufusi (third season)
Why he could stay: Frequent injuries (Brent Urban, Carl Davis) at the position could require more depth; Ravens only added one defensive lineman in the draft (Zach Sieler, seventh round)
Why he could be cut: Depth along defensive line with Urban, Davis and Chris Wormley; missed rookie season (broken ankle) and only played three games last year
3. LB Albert McClellan (eighth season)
Why he could stay: Experience from playing in 90 games since going undrafted in 2010; ability to play all linebacker spots; respected by teammates and coaches as a leader and mentor; lack of depth at inside linebacker; special teams ace
Why he could be cut: Coming off ACL tear at 32 years old
4. WR Breshad Perriman (fourth season)
Why he could stay: Could finally tap into his potential as first-round pick; offense wants to reignite downfield passing game (Perriman's strength); Ravens only have one other main speedy threat in John "Smokey" Brown, who struggled with injuries last year
Why he could be cut: Has struggled with injuries, inconsistency and drops; no special teams contributions; reportedly due a $650,000 roster bonus on third day of training camp; Ravens started over at the position with five new signings and may want to complete the makeover by moving on
5. TE Maxx Williams (fourth season)
Why he could stay: Can be used in H-back role with no true fullback on roster; offensive scheme heavily relies on tight ends, four tight ends made opening-day roster last year; young age (24); former second-round pick
Why he could be cut: Only caught 15 passes for 86 yards last year; missed 17 games the last two years due to injury; Ravens used two high draft picks on tight ends (Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews)
Michael Pierce's BEASTLY Workout
Ravens third-year defensive lineman Michael Pierce is a freak of nature, and I mean that as the best compliment possible.
It's not normal for a 6-foot-0, 340-pounder to jump around the way Pierce does in this workout. Then he showed off his signature strength by throwing around massive weights and doing pushups with chains around his neck.
Perhaps only The Hulk knows what it's like to be this beastly.
Who Is on the Hottest Seat in the Division?
ESPN's AFC North writers continued their series of division questions and predictions, this time discussing who is on the hottest seat.
The four writers came up with two obvious AFC North candidates: quarterback Joe Flacco and Cleveland Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson. Jackson has led his team to just one victory in his first two seasons, and Flacco's eventual replacement was selected in the first round of April's draft.
Flacco is expected keep his starting role this year, but according to ESPN Stats and Information, every one of the 27 quarterbacks selected in the first round over the last 10 years has started in either his first or second year. Lamar Jackson will do his best to keep that streak alive.
"Five seasons removed from sitting atop the football world, Flacco is a popular name on any 'hot seat' list," wrote Jamison Hensley. "That's what happens when the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player fails to live up to a big-money contract and the team then drafts a quarterback in the first round.
"... How fast is that clock ticking for Flacco? It depends on his play this season and Jackson's development. Flacco could be the next Alex Smith or remain Baltimore's starter for the next couple of seasons."
Ravens Are the First Team to Report to Training Camp; Must Balance Opportunity With Health
Summer vacation came to an early end for Ravens rookies, as they were the first in the league to report to training camp Wednesday. Ravens veterans are due next Wednesday.
Baltimore even beat their Hall of Fame game opponent, the Chicago Bears, to the practice field. The Bears rookies don't report until Monday. Many other teams won't begin their summer work for another two weeks.
On the one hand, this is exciting news because we are one step closer to actual football games. On the other hand, the Ravens need to be careful about balancing the extra development time with putting players at greater risk for injury, says WNST's Luke Jones.
"Extra practice time is predictably met with lukewarm enthusiasm from most players — particularly veterans reporting to Owings Mills next Wednesday — but an extra week of workouts and the shortening of that summer dead period when players are on their own is any coach's dream," Jones wrote.
"… That all comes with a risk. Players aren't immune to injuries when even working out on their own, of course, but Harbaugh will be tasked with striking the right balance between maximizing the extra opportunities and keeping his team healthy before kicking off the 2018 season against Buffalo on Sept. 9. It's no secret that injuries have been crippling at times with Baltimore ranking sixth or higher in adjusted games lost in two of the last three seasons, an undeniable factor in not making the playoffs since 2014."