Miles Boykin's Emergence Could Affect a Dez Bryant Signing
Reports of Dez Bryant flying to Baltimore and working out with the Ravens this week has created buzz around the start of training camp, but could the emergence of a big-bodied receiver already on the roster affect a potential signing?
"They do like their young guys, and Miles Boykin has been tearing it up in training camp so far from what I gather," NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said. "He's a big-bodied guy and perhaps they look at it and say, 'You know what? This is our guy right now. We feel comfortable with him.' [Boykin] only had 13 catches last year but maybe he's about to pop.
"But if not, we've got an option out there in Bryant. That's a long way of me saying I don't know if this is going to end in a signing for Bryant with the Ravens. Maybe he's just put on the short list, and they're going through the process here in trying to decide is it worth it to bring this guy in?"
Boykin's development coming off his rookie season was one of the offseason storylines to watch, and pundits identified the second-year receiver as a standout during Tuesday's padded practice.
Confidence in Boykin is warranted, and he has the advantage of potential on his side. He's only 23-years-old, compared to a 31-year-old Bryant.
The Ravens invested significant draft capital (third-round, and two sixth-round picks) to trade up for Boykin during the third round of the 2019 draft, and they believe his best football is ahead of him.
"We expect him to improve quite a bit with an offseason," General Manager Eric DeCosta. "He's a big and strong and fast, physical guy. Great attitude. The second year for most receivers is critical. We think he'll make a big jump."
While the Ravens have had success signing veteran receivers in the past, it's fair to question if Bryant's addition would take away opportunities from Boykin and the younger receivers.
Still, it seems like Bryant has maintained the stance of joining a team like the Ravens in a mentor role, and NFL Network’s Nate Burleson said he'd be the 'perfect complement.'
"They've got [Marquise] 'Hollywood' Brown," Burleson said. "They need a guy that can come in, be a possession guy, that loves to block. And on top of that, he also matches that 'too close, but didn't get there' vibe that the Ravens are living in right now.
"They're living in space. We're a really good team with a great quarterback, who is an MVP, but we don't have a ring. And Bryant has a career of that. … I do feel like this would be a good fit if Bryant is going to make it work with Baltimore."
Three AFC North Teams Could Make the Playoffs
The AFC North is expected to be one of the most competitive divisions, and pundits believe that three teams could make the playoffs.
"The Steelers somehow managed to get to 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger because of their elite defense led by T.J. Watt and the No. 1 pass rush," Iyer wrote. "… [T]hey should feel confident they can be at least two games better with Big Ben to make the playoffs another time with Mike Tomlin.
"Watch for the Browns becoming a third playoff representative from this division, even with a .500 record. Kevin Stefanski's offensive scheming and influence will be huge on Baker Mayfield, and so will having a more diverse, balanced and explosive attack. Defensively, with Myles Garrett up front and an improved secondary, Cleveland can find enough complementary success."
With the introduction of another wild-card spot in each conference, three teams in the same division making the playoffs is even more of a possibility. There's some unpredictability, but the expectation is that the AFC North will be improved from last season.
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora ranked the AFC North as the third-best behind the NFC West and NFC South.
"Flip a coin between [Baltimore] and KC for the conference title," La Canfora wrote. "Pittsburgh nearly made the playoffs last year without a QB and gets back a Hall of Famer. That defense can win anywhere and the Steelers have a distinct chip on their shoulder that I believe will carry them well.
"I'm buying the Browns, again. Not to be a juggernaut, but to be in the thick of the Wild Card race until the end and maybe even reach the postseason."
Both Monson and Iyer still have the Ravens as the favorites to repeat for a third straight division title. Monson even picked Baltimore to win the Super Bowl.
Jaleel Scott Impresses on Special Teams
The Ravens value special teams play as much as any team, and it may be Jaleel Scott's best path to the 53-man roster.
As Chris Moore was absent from practice for the second straight day dealing with a broken finger, Scott turned some heads as a gunner on kick coverage.
"Scott worked as a gunner during special teams drills and got props from his coaches and teammates after fighting through a double team on a punt coverage drill," The Baltimore Sun’s Daniel Oyefusi wrote. "Scott impressed as a speedy deep threat in the preseason last year and made the 53-man roster but was active for just three games and had only two special teams snaps. Scott will have to prove he's not only improved as a receiver but is worth keeping for special teams purposes."
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker projected Moore to edge out Scott to make the roster as the sixth receiver, but Moore's injury affects the competition. Scott has just one career reception, but his 6-foot-5 frame makes him an intriguing option, especially on special teams.
The Ravens already added competition at returner with Kenjon Barner and they may not be done. They reportedly hosted receiver/returner Dwayne Harris on Tuesday.
"Harris might intrigue the Ravens because of his record of success as a special teams player," Kasinitz wrote. "He's scored five touchdowns on returns over his nine-year career (four on punt returns and one on a kickoff), but an ankle injury limited him to three games with the Raiders last season.
"Harris has even more extensive experience returning punts and kicks in the NFL than Barner. He's primarily served as a special teams contributor in recent years and hasn't played more than 60 offensive snaps in a season since 2015."
Proposed Trade Would Provide Interior Offensive Line Help
While we're on the topic of potential acquisitions, Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski proposed one trade each team should make this offseason. For the Ravens, it was trading a fourth-round pick for Minnesota Vikings guard Pat Elflein.
"The Ravens are loaded with talent, yet the offensive interior remains a significant question mark after Marshal Yanda's retirement and some uncertainty at center," Sobleski wrote. "In Baltimore's run-first offense, a collapsing interior will negate the unit's overall effectiveness if it can't sell inside zones, zone reads, etc. Thus, it should look for opportunities to add more to its front five."
Elflein, a former third-round pick, has played at center and left guard but is making the move to right guard this offseason.
"Elflein appears to be entrenched as a starting guard yet again, although he has moved from the left side over to the right guard spot occupied by Josh Kline in 2019," Sports Illustrated’s Will Ragatz wrote. "... Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has been complimentary of Elflein, but I still think this position switch means this year is his final chance to prove himself worthy of a place in the Vikings' plans going forward. This is a contract year for Elflein, after all. "
This is clearly hypothetical, but it highlights just how important filling the right guard spot is for the Ravens less than one month before the start of the season.
There's already a loaded competition in camp, so it's hard to see the front office adding even more talent barring any injuries.
- ESPN’s Jamison Hensley detailed how Brown bulked up 23 pounds this offseason.
- "Through two days, I'm still not sure I've seen a Ravens defensive back or linebacker stay with tight end Mark Andrews," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young have drawn the matchup often, but it hasn't really mattered. Jackson could throw to Andrews on almost every play if he wanted."
- Former Ravens receiver Marc Lester is working to groom the top high school talent in Baltimore.