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Mailbag: Ravens' Strongest and Weakest Position Groups

Left: Marlon Humphrey; Right: Marcus Peters
Left: Marlon Humphrey; Right: Marcus Peters

Mink: It's hard to not say quarterback because you have the reigning MVP there, right? Plus, the Ravens have one of the league's best backups in Robert Griffin III, who fits into the system perfectly. But at the end of the day, I think I still have to say Baltimore's greatest strength is at cornerback. When Jimmy Smith, who has been a lockdown corner whenever he's been healthy, is your No. 4 guy, you're loaded. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters were both Pro Bowlers last year. Tavon Young's return to the nickel role is a big deal because he's one of the league's best when healthy and he allows everybody else to play to their strengths.

I don't think the Ravens have an obvious weak spot. Inside linebacker was the thinnest, but they just used a first-round pick on Patrick Queen and third rounder on Malik Harrison. The rookies haven't proven it yet on the field, but I think they'll make that area a strength sooner than later. At outside linebacker, the Ravens bring back a franchise-tagged player in Matthew Judon. There's not a lot of depth, but Jaylon Ferguson should have a Year 2 jump and Tyus Bowser showed flashes of a breakout. At wide receiver, it will hinge on who steps up opposite Hollywood Brown. If Miles Boykin makes the leap coaches are expecting, and if Devin Duvernay and/or James Proche are legit contributors as rookies, this unit could take Ravens opponents by surprise. For now, it's unproven outside of Brown and Willie Snead IV.

Downing: I've said many times that I expect Brown to have a breakout second season. He's finally healthy after spending his rookie campaign dealing with the effects of a Lisfranc injury and a high ankle sprain. He still showed plenty of flashes his rookie season, but everyone knew he wasn't fully healthy. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman even said this week that the coaches would talk last year about how they couldn't wait to see what Brown could do after getting a real offseason under his belt. Now he's had that offseason and it wouldn't surprise me to see him take a major jump in production. Topping 1,000 receiving yards is not an unrealistic expectation.

With all of that said, I don't think Brown is likely to have a role in the return game. He's the team's top receiver, and No. 1 wideouts aren't typically used as returners unless they're dynamic in that area. The Ravens gave Brown a look at returner last preseason, but he struggled in that role. They then selected Proche and Duvernay in this year's draft, who both have return experience from college. Proche and Duvernay are more likely to take on the returning duties, while Brown's focus will be taking the top off defenses.

Downing: As far as Antonio Brown, the speculation has increased this week after NFL Network's Mike Silver said the Ravens and Seattle Seahawks have had internal discussions about signing the veteran receiver. Connecting Brown to the Ravens is natural because he's cousins with Hollywood Brown, plus he's spent time this offseason working out with Jackson. At this point, however, it would surprise me to see the Ravens sign Brown. In addition to Hollywood, the Ravens are excited about Boykin.

Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta have both said multiple times this offseason that they have high hopes for Boykin. The Ravens also added Duvernay and Proche to the mix through the draft. If the Ravens signed Brown, it would mean a significant reduction in snaps for Boykin. It would also limit the opportunities for Duvernay and Proche. The Ravens want to see what these young receivers can do, and it would surprise me if they signed Brown before even getting a chance to see the newcomers on the field.

In terms of how they spend that final roster spot, it could go a variety of directions. And just because that spot has been open for a while doesn't mean it's going to be used on a marquee player. The Ravens could end up signing an undrafted rookie at virtually any position with that spot. They could also wait until players return in training camp and see if they are thin at any position because of unexpected injuries. I know there has been speculation about how the Ravens use that roster spot, but I wouldn't make too much of it.

Mink: I haven't played since my college days when (and this will show my age) Ray Lewis was on the cover. I had an unstoppable Kyle Boller to Todd Heap 10-yard out back then. I don't think Garrett is a gamer, but he doesn't have kids, so he could theoretically become one and practice hard enough to overcome his overall inadequacies when compared to me. So I'll be modest here and give Garrett the edge.

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