Mink: As Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said last week, Alejandro Villanueva is still in the adjustment phase going from left tackle to right. It didn't start off great, but he's gotten consistently better as camp has gone on. Rookie first-round pick Odafe Oweh has put Villanueva to the test with his speed and strength on the edge.
We all downplayed the difficulty of that switch, but it's probably harder than you would think. Villanueva was a left tackle, defensive linemen and wide receiver in college at Army. He got his first NFL tryout as a tight end. Right tackle is not among the many positions he's played. Thus, it's going to take some time and that's what training camp practices are for. Villanueva has been grinding.
His size is definitely a departure from Orlando Brown Jr., who tips the scales at 345 pounds. Villanueva is a different type of player, but one that I think can still certainly fit into the Ravens' scheme. Don't forget that he'll be doing combo blocks with burly new right guard Kevin Zeitler.
One factor that's important to consider about Villanueva is that he's going from the team that threw the ball the most in the NFL to the team that threw the ball the least (and ran it the most). Plus, he's going from protecting a quarterback with very limited mobility to the one with the best mobility. Point is, playing offensive tackle is much friendlier in Baltimore than Pittsburgh and will help smooth Villanueva's transition.
Downing: The third tight end spot has been one of the more interesting battles to watch in training camp. Josh Oliver has drawn plenty of interest from fans, and at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he's the most physically gifted of the players in that mix. Though Oliver has probably made the most standout plays of any tight end outside of Mark Andrews, Oliver has to prove has can do it in games. He has only played in four career games because of injuries, so the preseason will be critical for him to show what he can do in that environment.
Oliver may have the edge right now, but I don't think tight end competition is over by any means. Tony Poljan is a big-bodied player (6-7, 250) who has flashed at times, Eli Wolf brings talented pass-catching ability and Eric Tomlinson is a rugged blocker who gained valuable experience late last season. Rookie Ben Mason's role is still very much up in the air. He was a fullback in college but the Ravens want to see if he can play a hybrid role similar to what Patrick Ricard has done. Mason has been quiet in training camp, but he's another player who will likely see a heavy workload throughout the preseason to determine his status. The other significant piece of the equation at tight end is the status of Nick Boyle, and we have more on that below in the final question.
Mink: Tylan Wallace has one of the strongest sets of hands among the wide receivers. I haven't seen him drop a ball yet. He also has a lot of suddenness in his routes, which allows him to uncover well underneath. Even though he played exclusively outside in college, I think Wallace's sweet spot in the NFL could be in the slot.
With all that said, I think the strong start to camp that James Proche II has enjoyed could limit Wallace's offensive opportunities. Proche was good in training camp last year and got three targets during the regular season. It's not uncommon for rookies to have to wait their turn, especially this year with so many other weapons in the fold.
Downing: The veteran tight end has yet to take the field this summer and is currently on the physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from last year's major knee injury. He had a clean-up procedure this summer, which delayed his return to action. Boyle was non-committal about a specific timetable when he joined The Lounge podcast just before training camp. "When I'm ready, I'm going to be back out there," Boyle said. "If it's not right away or if it is right away, just know that I'm still putting in my effort every single day to get back out there as fast as I can."
The regular-season opener is still over a month away, so there is still plenty of time for the Ravens to activate Boyle and have him ready for Week 1. The likelihood of Boyle seeing any preseason action is waning, but the main objective for the veteran is getting ready to play in regular-season games. Boyle's status will certainly impact the tight end competition. If he's full-strength for the season opener, maybe the Ravens only keep two true tight ends with Ricard in a hybrid role. But if Boyle is sidelined, that will open the door the players competing for that final tight end spot.