Mailbag: Is Josh Oliver Standing Out as Third Tight End?

062321-Mailbag
TE Josh Oliver

Mink: The competition for the third tight end spot isn't usually all that interesting on most teams, but most teams don't love tight ends as much as the Ravens. Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle will be the top two. Right now, there are five players competing for one, or maybe two, spots: Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Eli Wolf, Ben Mason and Tony Poljan.

Since you bring up Oliver, he is certainly an interesting player who has looked good catching the ball. He's 6-foot-5 and showed his athleticism, consistent hands, and a knack for uncovering underneath. One play where he bent low to pluck a pass off his shoelaces particularly impressed me for a guy that size. The Ravens were intrigued enough to trade a reported conditional seventh-round pick for Oliver, but he's going to have to show what he can do as a blocker once the pads come on. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec and The Sun's Jonas Shaffer have pointed to him as impressing the most of the group so far, but I'm not jumping on that bandwagon yet. I think this race is still neck-and-neck.

I thought Wolf looked really good for most of the practices. He seems leaner and faster. While he's not as much of a receiver, Tomlinson has the edge in experience and blocking, which counts for a lot. Poljan, an undrafted rookie, made some plays and at 6-foot-7, 251 pounds, he's a mountain of a man. Mason is my wild-card. He's a different type of player from the others, more in the Patrick Ricard fullback mold. I'm excited to see him with the pads on.

For the record, I asked Head Coach John Harbaugh about the tight end group last week and he said Oliver and Wolf are both flashing and "look really athletic." He said all of them have done "exceptionally well" and he's not worried about that competition.

Downing: We haven't seen Ronnie Stanley on the field yet since last year's season-ending ankle injury that required two surgeries. However, Stanley has been in the team facility rehabbing from the injury and Harbaugh said during minicamp that he is still "on schedule" to be ready for the season opener. The Ravens will be cautious with the franchise left tackle, and Harbaugh indicated that Stanley may not be ready for the start of training camp next month. "I doubt if we'll start him off the very first practice in training camp," Harbaugh said. "I probably won't do that, even if he's ready. But he'll be out there I would anticipate in training camp, as long as there are no setbacks, and should be ready to open the season for sure."

If Stanley isn't ready to go for some reason, then the Ravens do have options to fill in for him. Alejandro Villanueva could certainly slide back to his spot on the left side, and then Tyre Phillips could step in at right tackle. Phillips could also play left tackle. Patrick Mekari has left tackle experience from college and the Ravens could try him at that spot. It's hard to say exactly what the Ravens would do if Stanley isn't ready to open the season, but they have flexibility. And they also hope it's an irrelevant question because Stanley will be good to go.

Mink: The Ravens' 16-year streak of keeping at least one undrafted rookie on the initial 53-man roster actually ended last year, but if handicapping who will kick off a new streak, I'd have to point to safety Ar'Darius Washington as being the most likely candidate.

The safety from TCU is a smaller guy at 5-foot-8, 176 pounds, but he was around the ball a fair amount in practice and I have a feeling onlookers will be surprised by his physicality once hitting is allowed. The Ravens aren't typically big spenders on undrafted rookie free agents, but they reportedly went hard after Washington. Baltimore is a little thinner at safety than some other spots, though third-round pick Brandon Stephens could change that if coaches like him there. 

Baltimore has a smaller-than-usual undrafted rookie class this year because there aren't many open spots on the roster. It wouldn't surprise in the end if we have back-to-back years without an undrafted player making it.

Downing: There are lots of good options this year. NFL schedule makers clearly agree because they gave the Ravens five primetime games, which is the maximum amount allowed. I'll go with a somewhat obvious choice here – Week 2 vs Kansas City on Sunday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium. This game has it all. It's a matchup between two of the best teams in the league. It's on primetime. And it's the home opener. After a season with basically no fans, the Ravens will welcome back a capacity crowd for what will be an electric atmosphere. Baltimore will be buzzing on Sept. 19, and I can't wait for that night.

Mink: I know this question was submitted before Tuesday's announcement, but I'm going to use it as an opportunity to promote it again! Yes, the Ravens will have 12 open/free training camp practices at the Under Armour Performance Center, as well as one open/free practice at M&T Bank Stadium on July 31. Here's all the info on how you can attend.

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