Tyre Phillips Is a Sleeper to Start at Right Guard
As training camp approaches, one of the most important position battles for the Ravens is at right guard.
Ben Powers and D.J. Fluker have been mentioned by pundits as the early favorites to replace Marshal Yanda, but CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso believes rookie third-round pick Tyre Phillips is a sleeper.
"At 6-5 with over 35-inch arms, Phillips can reach you from a different county, and once he locks on, it's over, particularly in the run game," Trapasso wrote. "He's not overly aggressive to get his hands on you and knows that any bull rush won't affect him, so he can stay patient. Yes, lightning-quick speed rushers or inside counters are his enemies, and given his size, he's probably best at guard.
"The Ravens just had a potential future Hall of Fame right guard retire, didn't they? Sure, there are others ahead of Phillips on Baltimore's depth chart right now. But I can see the ground-game obsessed Greg Roman falling in love with the idea of the massive Phillips next to the even bigger Orlando Brown at right tackle (as a big tight end), and Phillips has the game to win a starting job inside."
How realistic is the possibility of Phillips becoming the Week 1 starter?
"Though Yanda is gone, I don't expect this young rookie to join the starting unit quite yet," Baltimore Beatdown's Kyle Barber wrote. "The overwhelming competition will be exciting to watch unfold but it's hard to believe the rookie will overtake the likes of Bradley Bozeman, Powers, Fluker and Patrick Mekari. However, if he's capable, I'll happily root for the big man as he was grinning ear-to-ear when I asked how excited he was to be picked by a team that loves running the football."
General Manager Eric DeCosta said following the draft that the Ravens believe Phillips is an "underrated athlete" who can kick inside to guard. Oddly enough, one of his comps coming into the league was Fluker, who he'll be competing against.
"I was the starting left tackle at Mississippi State, so I have the tackle footwork and I have a guard body," Phillips said. "So, I'm going to bring in a big ol' athletic guy into this organization that is smart, can learn the playbook and learn schemes."
The biggest disadvantage working against Phillips is a lack of time. The COVID-19 pandemic has shortened the offseason significantly, and there reportedly won't be any preseason games this year.
But the Ravens also aren't afraid to give rookie lineman opportunities. Mekari stepped into the starting center role as an undrafted rookie last season taking over for an injured Matt Skura. Bozeman and Brown also started at least one game as rookies in 2018.
Mark Ingram Outperformed Rushing Expectations
It didn't take long to notice Mark Ingram II's impact last season, but the advanced metrics show just how productive he was.
NFL.com's Nick Shook ranked the top 10 running backs last season based on expected yards per carry, a stat that isolates the individual performance of an offensive player from what's happening around him.
"Taking into account defensive alignment, the number of defenders in the box versus number of blockers and other key factors, we now have a metric that will help provide quantitative proof of an offensive line's effectiveness separate from rushing-yardage totals," Shook wrote.
Ingram ranked No. 7 with a 4.6 xYPC (expected yards per carry), the highest of any running back on Shook's list.
"With a number like that, it's really difficult to land near the top of RYOE per attempt, because the floor is already higher than everyone else's," Shook wrote. "For some perspective, only two backs matched Ingram's YPC of 5.1: Derrick Henry and the Bills' Devin Singletary. And though Buffalo won't land atop the offensive-line rankings (we'll get to that later), Singletary had an even higher xYPC and only 151 carries, a formula for an effective campaign but also one that falls short of this list. Anyway, Ingram is excellent, which we all knew as soon as we saw the Ravens run into a brick wall in the playoffs, when Ingram wasn't running at 100 percent."
As Shook noted, Ingram's effectiveness is even more impressive when you consider he wasn't even the leading rusher on his team. Paired with Lamar Jackson's rushing threat and Roman's scheme, it was a perfect fit.
"While Ingram outperformed expectations based on this metric, the data also shows how he benefited from the Ravens' run blockers and offensive scheme, which made use of Jackson's wide array of talents," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz added.
Could Justin Tucker Get MVP Consideration?
The NFL MVP has historically been a quarterback's award, but the Ravens have a kicker whose leg is the most valuable in the league.
ESPN's Bill Barnwell identified 260 players who could win the award this season, separating them into various positional categories.
Tucker, the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, is Barnwell's favorite among kickers.
"The brilliant Ravens kicker wasn't as important last season, given how effective Jackson was in leading the Baltimore offense to touchdowns, but Tucker is the perennial favorite to lead the league in field goal percentage," Barnwell wrote. "Nobody is rooting for Jackson to get hurt or decline, but if the Ravens were great in a short season and Tucker won them five games with late kicks, he would get meaningful MVP consideration."
It seems far-fetched for a kicker to win MVP, but it's not impossible. Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley won it during the nine-game regular season in 1982.
The conversation becomes more interesting given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and how the regular season will pan out.
"A shortened season plays to kickers, who can post more impressive numbers and win a higher percentage of games with critical kicks in a small sample," Barnwell added. "Since 2001, no kicker has hit more than four game-winning kicks in the final minute of regulation. Do that in 16 games, and it's impressive, but it gets lost in the shuffle."
Calais Campbell Expected an Extension From Jags, Not a Trade
The Ravens trade for Calais Campbell in March came as a surprise to many, even Campbell himself.
The veteran defensive end joined the "Pat McAfee Show" last week and talked about the shock of getting the news for the first time in his career.
"I didn't know it was coming," Campbell said. "Obviously, I guess it's always a possibility, and being an older person in this league, I've seen it all so you're never surprised. I was expecting to be in Jacksonville throughout the remainder of my contract and maybe even longer. I thought maybe an extension would come before a trade would come. So I was kind of caught off guard but it happened to be to one of the best teams in football, so it was kind of a win-win situation."
Campbell spent three seasons in Jacksonville and was coming off a season in which he totaled 6.5 sacks and 56 tackles. He was Pro Football Focus' Run Defender of the Year, making the cost of a fifth-round pick look even better for the Ravens.
While he didn't have a choice where he was traded, Campbell reiterated that he took less money to sign a one-year extension through 2021 in Baltimore.
Now 33 years old, Campbell's sights are set on a Super Bowl title.
"I've got to be able to run those sprints with my mind thinking that it's going to be worth something," Campbell said. "I'm going to be able to get that jewelry at the end of the year."
The Ringer's Danny Heifetz named Campbell as one of the most important players on their new team.
"The Ravens have the NFL's deepest secondary, and they made what might be the move of the offseason by stealing Campbell from the Jaguars to bolster their pass rush," Heifetz wrote. "Campbell, who is tied for the third-most quarterback hits in the past three seasons (77), pairs with Baltimore pass rusher Matt Judon to give the Ravens defense a serious chance at repeating its success from last year"