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Late for Work 7/12: The Most 'Up for Grabs' Position on Ravens Roster

Left: OLB Odafe Oewh; Right: OLB Jaylon Ferguson
Left: OLB Odafe Oewh; Right: OLB Jaylon Ferguson

Outside Linebacker the Most "Up for Grabs" Position on Ravens' Roster

This offseason, the Ravens saw multiple pass rushers depart in free agency. Though the Ravens did find talent to bring back from the previous season, and new talent through the draft, Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton views edge rusher as the biggest up-for-grabs spot for the Ravens.

"The Baltimore Ravens lost two veteran edge-rushers via free agency in Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, so their young talent at the position must contribute to the rotation," Moton wrote. "Tyus Bowser, a 2017 second-rounder, will likely line up as the strong-side linebacker. In March, the Ravens signed him to a four-year extension worth $22 million with $12 million guaranteed."

The Ravens love Bowser's ability in coverage; he produced the lowest passer rating against in 2020 while also taking the most coverage snaps among all outside linebackers.

Moton mentions veteran linebacker Pernell McPhee second.

"Pernell McPhee could hold off a trio of developing players on the opposite side after starting in 13 contests last year," Moton wrote. "With that said, McPhee hasn't played more than 43 percent of his team's defensive snaps since the 2015 term. He could move into a reserve role if someone else flashes at training camp."

McPhee has proven he can be a starter, but the Ravens also boast rookie linebacker Odafe Oweh and third-year linebacker Jaylon Ferguson.

"The Ravens selected Odafe Oweh in the first round of this year's draft," Moton wrote. "The rookie may take on a big role, though he could back up Bowser while developing his pass-rushing skills.

"Jaylon Ferguson, who's the all-time NCAA sack leader, hasn't translated his pass-rushing potential into significant production yet. He's recorded just 4.5 sacks in two seasons, but the Louisiana Tech product will have a prime opportunity to break out with a pathway to more snaps on the edge."

While Moton believes Oweh could become a starter and take on a significant role in his rookie season, Sport’s Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich believes he'll likely need more introduction into the league in his first season.

"Oweh, the 31st overall pick in the draft, is an explosive player that can fly to the ball," Karpovich wrote. "He made seven starts. However, Oweh did not manage a sack last season for the Nittany Lions and will need to get more seasoning at the NFL level."

Both Moton and Karpovich expect rookie defensive end Daelin Hayes will need time learning behind the others.

"As a rookie fifth-rounder, Daelin Hayes has an outside shot to emerge," Moton wrote. "But he turned some heads during the spring with simulated sacks at practice."

"The Ravens also selected Hayes with the 171st overall selection from Notre Dame," Karpovich wrote. "In his five seasons with the Fighting Irish, Hayes recorded 97 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, one interception, four passes defended, and four forced fumbles. He will also need more time to develop."

It's fair to assume a fifth-round selection won't be an immediate impact; however, there are players drafted late who come onto the scene and make a name for themselves every year. For reference, the last edge rusher drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round was none other than Judon, who produced four sacks, 10 QB hits and four tackles for loss in his rookie campaign.

Overall, the outside linebackers are the group perhaps under the biggest microscope entering the season.

"A pass rush-by-committee may actually be the best plan in today's NFL," Baltimore Beatdown’s Vasilis Lericos wrote. "In conjunction with the other components of the team, a committee approach can certainly be part of a championship formula. But make no mistake, the 2021 roster construction signals a clear departure from the Ravens edge rusher tradition of the last 24 seasons.

"DeCosta appears poised to attempt an experiment that could propel the Ravens to glory, or be their Achilles' heal, in a fiercely competitive AFC."

All Eyes on Wide Receiver Unit as Training Camp Approaches

As noted in LFW last week, the Ravens wide receiver group has become something fans are excited for. There's new veteran addition, Sammy Watkins, paired with rookie wideouts Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace.

The three will compete against and beside known commodities in wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II and others.

While there are currently 11 wide receivers on the roster. Likely, we'll see the position cut down to six or seven. This left RavensWire's Kevin Oestreicher to speculate who the final wide receiver roster spot will come down to.

"Barring a significant change, the five of Watkins, Bateman and Wallace along with Marquise Brown and Devin Duvernay will make the Ravens' final roster," Oestreicher wrote. "Assuming Baltimore actually does keep six receivers, that leaves one spot for either Miles Boykin or James Proche.

"Both players have plenty of potential but offer different skill sets. Boykin is a 6-foot-4 outside receiver that has a unique blend of size and speed, has been somewhat disappointing from a production perspective, only catching 32 passes for 464 yards and seven touchdowns throughout his first two seasons in the NFL.

"For Proche, the second-year wideout has more of a slot receiver skill set, but that in no way diminishes how talented he is. The former SMU product had an incredibly low drop rate in college and also caught 111 passes during his final collegiate season. However, he didn't get much opportunity during his rookie year with the Ravens."

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