Roster Tiers: Patrick Queen, Justin Madubuike Among Starters With Something to Prove
Now that the Ravens have gotten down to 53 players, The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker sorted the roster into eight tiers, from superstars (Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, Justin Tucker and Marlon Humphrey) to players on the fringe (center Trystan Colon, tight end Josh Oliver, inside linebacker Kristian Welch and others).
Here's a look at three of Walker's other tiers and his analysis:
Starters with something to prove: DT Justin Madubuike, NT Michael Pierce, G Ben Powers, ILB Patrick Queen.
"We know these guys will play, but we don't know what the Ravens will get from them for a variety of reasons. Madubuike has flashed as an interior playmaker but has yet to take the leap many predicted before last season. Pierce is a proven man-eater in the middle, with upside as a pass rusher, but he has to show he can stay on the field after he played just eight games over two seasons in Minnesota.
"Queen played better after the Ravens reduced his responsibilities a few games into last season, but he has not evolved into the all-around middle linebacker envisioned when they used a 2020 first-round pick on him. This is a pivotal year for Queen; if he does not raise his level, it's possible the Ravens won't use their fifth-year option to lock in his future with the team. Powers always puts himself in the mix to start but never has an iron grip on his job."
Rookies who will make a Week 1 impact: S Kyle Hamilton, TE Isaiah Likely, C Tyler Linderbaum, P Jordan Stout.
"Linderbaum gave the Ravens a scare when he hurt his foot in training camp but seems on track to start the opener. He looked none the worse for wear in his brief dose of preseason action, and his mobility could open new possibilities for the running game. Likely was the breakout star of training camp and the preseason, so good that the Ravens did not want to risk an injury by dressing him for the preseason finale. He was fifth of the team's six fourth-round picks; four months later, he's projected to be one of Jackson's top targets.
"The Ravens took a risk by drafting Stout and pushing their longest tenured player, Sam Koch, onto the coaching staff. Stout has erased any doubts about that decision with his thunderous punts in training camp and the preseason. Hamilton has probably inspired more debate than any rookie on the team because of a few obvious mistakes in tackling and coverage, but he has also demonstrated the range and versatility that made him a first-round pick."
Keep an eye on the future: CB Jalyn Armour-Davis, G Ben Cleveland, OT Daniel Faalele, DT Travis Jones, TE Charlie Kolar, OLB David Ojabo, ILB Josh Ross, CB Damarion "Pepe" Williams.
"These young players aren't under pressure to produce right away and they're not in immediate danger of losing their spots. Some have star upside but won't be able to show it at the start of the season.
"The imposing Jones would have contributed right away if he had not injured his knee in the second preseason game. Ojabo could give an immediate boost to the pass rush if he makes it back from a torn Achilles in the second half of the season. Armour-Davis needs to prove he can stay on the field. Ross and Williams made positive impressions in training camp, but it's not clear where their snaps might come from outside of special teams. Cleveland was supposed to be the starting left guard by now. Instead, he spent training camp digging himself out of a hole after he failed the team's conditioning test multiple times. Faalele made progress over the summer, but he's the definition of a developmental prospect."
After Roster Cuts, Ravens 'Desperately Need Outside Linebackers'
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Ravens' roster cutdown is how thin they currently are at outside linebacker.
"The Ravens' cuts underscored how much they desperately need outside linebackers," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. "Baltimore released journeyman Steven Means, who could get re-signed, and waived injured Daelin Hayes, a disappointing fifth-round pick from a year ago. This means the Ravens are carrying as many centers (two) as healthy outside linebackers: pass-rushers Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston."
Starting outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (Achilles) is on the reserved/PUP list, which means he will miss at least the first four games. Second-round rookie David Ojabo (Achilles) was on the 53-man roster but will likely be moved to injured reserve.
Obviously, the Ravens will be making some moves to address the lack of depth at the position.
"Even if they re-sign the veteran Means, the Ravens might have to add another outside linebacker ahead of their Sept. 11 opener — or they can simply load up their practice squad with outside linebackers and use standard elevations for the first couple of weeks until Tyus Bowser is ready to return from the PUP list," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
Zrebiec added: "Expect the Ravens to add two or three edge guys to their practice squad. They also can put a waiver claim on an edge rusher Wednesday. Either way, their game roster on Sept. 11 will obviously include more than two outside linebackers."
Lamar Jackson, Loaded Secondary Among Reasons to Be Optimistic About 2022 Ravens
With the start of the regular season just over a week away, Press Box’s Glenn Clark offered reasons for optimism and pessimism regarding the 2022 Ravens.
Here are some excerpts:
Reason for optimism: Have you heard of Lamar Jackson?
"Perhaps his ongoing contract situation will inspire the former MVP to put together a ridiculous 'prove it' type of season. Or perhaps he's just Lamar Jackson, one of the most talented humans on the face of the planet, and no matter what his contract situation looked like he'd be inspired to put together a spectacular campaign. He has to get better in Cover Zero situations. He needs more help from his run game. But this team revolves around the play of this man. And given what we know about him, that means the Ravens have a chance to win a Super Bowl."
Reason for optimism: The secondary should be much better.
"A depleted secondary combined with that lack of pass rush to produce the worst pass defense in the NFL last season. But we're just two years removed from the Ravens having the sixth-best pass defense in the league. Marlon Humphrey needs a bounce-back season for sure, but with improved health and the arrivals of Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton and Kyle Fuller (Mount Saint Joseph), there's reason to expect this unit to again be a strength for this team."
Reason for pessimism: The best teams in a loaded AFC just might be better.
"Presuming they stay even somewhat healthy this season, the Ravens will again face the burden of Super Bowl expectations. But the Bengals established themselves as the team to beat in the AFC North last year and will remain difficult to overcome as long as Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase stay healthy. The Bills and Chiefs will remain right in the mix as well. The Ravens will get the benefit of not having to face Deshaun Watson in their first matchup with the Browns, whose roster isn't quite as good on the whole (in this columnist's humble opinion) as many would lead you to believe. Cleveland struggling to stay afloat for the first 11 games would obviously stand to benefit Baltimore. But even for the good teams it won't be easy to break through in a loaded conference."