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Mailbag: Could Ravens Add a Cornerback (Instead of Wide Receiver)?

Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (20) lines up in the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Minneapolis.
Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (20) lines up in the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Minneapolis.

Mink: I couldn't handle another "Are we going to sign a veteran wide receiver?" question after answering it each of the past two weeks, so I'm pivoting. We had a little debate in the Lounge yesterday. What's the bigger need between wide receiver and cornerback? It's really tough, but I'm going with corner.

Outside of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, the Ravens are looking at Brandon Stephens and a pair of fourth-round rookies in Jalyn Armour-Davis and Pepe Williams for their No. 3 cornerback. Considering how much a third cornerback is used, that's basically a starting position.

The Ravens can alter their offense to make up for not having as much star power at wide receiver. They can run the ball more. They can deploy their tight ends. Baltimore has had the highest-scoring offense in the league in 2019 without a wide receiver reaching 600 yards.

If Baltimore were to have another major injury at cornerback – with two starters already coming back from season-ending ailments – there's not as much that can be done to cover up their loss. Cornerbacks have to do a lot of one-on-one coverage. Get shorthanded and you get exposed, as we saw last season.

Downing: This is a great point. Somehow it seems like too many people have forgotten that the strength of this team is the rushing attack. For the Ravens to be at their best, they need the ground game performing at a high level, and that will create opportunities down the field for the passing game. When the Ravens had their historic season in 2019, they relied on a dominant rushing attack with Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram and of course Lamar Jackson, and that is the model going into the 2022 season.

Now the big question on that front is the health status of Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. The Ravens have said they expect both players back on the field this year, but they haven't provided a specific timeline for their returns. The front office also knows that injury timelines can change, which happened last year with left tackle Ronnie Stanley and tight end Nick Boyle. That's part of the reason the Ravens have given themselves insurance at the position by signing veteran Mike Davis and drafting Tyler Badie in the sixth round. The success of the running game hinges in large part on the healthy recovery of Dobbins and Edwards, and the Ravens aren't going to rush them back. They want those two fully recovered from last year's knee injuries, and the Ravens won't have a real answer on that front until later this year as they gradually work their way back to the field.

Mink: I don't think the Ravens have enough salary-cap space to acquire another top-end pass rusher and the free-agent market is thin. To me, the best solution is bringing back Justin Houston on a cap-friendly deal for another season. Houston played well last year even though his sack numbers didn't necessarily reflect it. He's a great mentor and would further help the development of Odafe Oweh and second-round pick David Ojabo. Plus, Ojabo could help take some pass-rush snaps off Houston's plate later in the year once the rookie returns from his Achilles injury. The vet could hold down the fort early in the year before turning over some of the work to the young buck.

Downing: The Ravens offense certainly introduced some revolutionary schemes and tactics over the last few years, but continued evolution is critical in today's NFL. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman always spends time looking to add creative options to his bag of tricks, and he has some versatile players to work into the mix this year.

Devin Duvernay is a unique player who could take on an even bigger role in the Ravens offense. The Ravens used him sparingly in running back formations last season, but they could mix that in even more similar to what the San Francisco 49ers have done with Deebo Samuel. The Ravens also have a chance to expand their running game to include more zone blocking with mobile rookie center Tyler Linderbaum. This doesn't exactly fall into the "tricks" category, but adding this to the offensive repertoire is significant because it expands the complexity of the ground game."

Another new option this year is using rookie offensive lineman Daniel Faalele as a fullback in goal-line packages, which is something he did in college at Minnesota. Just think about an offensive package that includes Faalele and fullback Patrick Ricard both in the backfield. That's 700 pounds coming at you – good luck stopping that!

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