Non-Rookies Who Need to Have a Good Training Camp
In a regular offseason we'd be starting preseason games this week. But the coronavirus pandemic has made the NFL schedule anything but normal.
The Ravens officially began training camp this week and will start the process of deciding their 53-man roster.
While a lot of those spots can be penciled in, the next few weeks will be extremely important for those players vying for backup roster spots. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec identified 13 non-rookies who he believes fit that bill.
CB Anthony Averett and Iman Marshall: Both Averett and Marshall have seen limited playing time early in their careers. It doesn't help that cornerback is arguably the Ravens' deepest position group on paper.
Barring injuries, it's unlikely either will see significantplaying time at cornerback this season. Special teams could be their best route to the 53-man roster.
"The Ravens didn't draft a cornerback or sign anyone at the position, helping Marshall [and Averett's] cause," Zrebiec wrote. "Still, he's probably considered the sixth corner and it isn't a sure thing the Ravens keep that many. Like most of the 'bubble' guys, Marshall will have to stand out on special teams."
ILB Otaro Alaka and Chris Board: It's one of the most interesting position battles heading into training camp because there aren't any definite starters yet. That would typically bode well for Alaka and Board, but the additions of rookies Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison make the road to the roster tougher.
Much like the cornerbacks, the determining factor for bubble players at inside linebacker could be special teams play. If that's the case, Board has the leg up.
"Board's route to the roster remains on special teams and he's considered one of the core guys there," Zrebiec wrote. "Only Anthony Levine Sr. played more special teams snaps for the Ravens last year than Board did. The Ravens reserve some of the back-end roster spots for special teams and Board is the favorite for one of them."
WR Chris Moore and Jaleel Scott: Whether the Ravens' rushing production matches last year's total or not, we're not sure how many wide receivers they'll take on the 53-man roster.
Baltimore kept six last season. Assuming Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead IV, Devin Duvernay, and James Proche make the roster, that could leave just one spot.
"With the Ravens drafting two wide receivers in April, Scott's task to make the roster got even more daunting," Zrebiec wrote. "A fourth-round pick in 2018, Scott has never established himself on special teams and that's pretty close to a must for a fifth or sixth wide receiver."
The Ravens re-signed Moore to a one-year deal this offseason but he's never topped over 300 receiving yards in a season during his career. He has, however, become one of the league's top special teams players.
It could come down to a decision between the potential of a young receiver against the special teams talent of a veteran.
QB Trace McSorley: The Ravens have kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster the last two seasons, but McSorley's roster spot isn't guaranteed.
The Ravens added undrafted rookie quarterback Tyler Huntley, who was one of Pro Football Focus' top-rated college quarterbacks last season.
Zrebiec sees the three-quarterback trend continuing, but believes there's legitimate competition for the third spot. McSorley appeared in one game as a rookie, and didn't carve out a special teams role as some expected in part because he took so many training camp and preseason reps at quarterback.
McSorley does have the advantage of playing in Greg Roman's offense, which could bode well during a shortened offseason.
Other players on Zrebiec's list include DeShon Elliott, Justin Ellis, D.J. Fluker, Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers, and Jordan Richards.
More Discussion About a Potential Antonio Brown Signing
Talk about a potential Antonio Brown signing has lingered this offseason.
It became a hot topic of conversation after Brown worked out with Lamar Jackson and his cousin, Hollywood. Then Brown tweeted a picture of himself in a Ravens uniform and Jackson said he hopes the team signs the former All-Pro receiver.
But ESPN's Jeff Darlington told Glenn Clark Radio that it's difficult to see a situation where Brown's addition ends in a "net positive."
"That's the ultimate decision," Darlington said. "… If you feel like your locker room can support him, then that's a positive. But, I don't think that can be the only thing. You have to be so confident as an organization. And if you're not, why do it?"
"... It's kind of like that house that sits on the market. You can kind of want to pull the trigger, but you know it needs some work. And there's another guy that's got his eyes on it too."
Darlington reported earlier in the week that the Ravens and Seahawks are the top options for Brown.
Bet Online currently gives Baltimore the fourth-highest odds (4/1) to sign Brown behind the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"There's little doubt that Brown's name and situation have at least come up during conversations amongst the team's top decision-makers," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens are a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations and a proven No. 1 receiver is something they lack. Maybe, Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown becomes that guy, but he's entering just his second season and he's not there yet. The presence of Jackson and Marquise Brown could hypothetically provide a comfort level for Antonio, as could the promise of terrorizing the Steelers for two games a year. The Ravens also have never shied away from adding outspoken and high-maintenance players and one of Harbaugh's best qualities as a coach is how he keeps the locker room together."
Brown is suspended for the first eight games of the season for multiple violations of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy.
Darlington said his understanding is that the NFL isn't planning on handing down any further punishment. However, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that the league is still investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape.
"According to the source, no conclusions have been reached in that investigation," Florio wrote. "If a further violation is found, Brown would be subject to further discipline."
As Darlington and Zrebiec noted, Brown's off-the-field concerns are legitimate, something that management must weigh when deciding whether or not to sign him.
Jackson is Converting Opposing Fans Into Ravens Supporters
Jackson continues to convert critics into believers and opposing fans into Ravens supporters. He's been a transcendent player on the field coming off an MVP season, but his personality off it has made him even more likeable.
Harbaugh told NBC Sports' Peter King that fans growing up in areas of division rivals can't get enough of Jackson.
"I've got a good friend of mine who's a high school coach at Wapakoneta High School in Ohio," Harbaugh said. "... He wants to bring his boys and their friends. So I get to meet these kids after the game. Listen, they're Ohio farm kids. They're as blonde hair and blue-eyed as you could ever see, and I said, 'Who's your favorite team?' I know they're [Cleveland] Browns fans. And they go, 'Ravens.' I'm like, 'Ravens, really? Why?' All four of them said at the same time, 'Lamar.'"
"It's made us into a more national team because he's that kind of guy. The same reason that Baltimore loves him too. He's honest, he's genuine, and he's real. He's just a good guy."
Too often it seems like the attention is always focused on Jackson's critics, not his supporters.
Just ask ESPN's Mike Greenberg, who went on a passionate rant defending Jackson.
"What I think is going on here is a case of a lot of people not believing what their eyes are seeing, mostly because he's making them look bad," Greenberg said. "The whole league passed on this guy. Respected evaluators told him to play another position. ... There's nothing so terrible about having been wrong about Jackson. Most people were. The real mistake is failing to admit it now."
- Colin Cowherd says he could see a Ravens and Buccaneers Super Bowl.