Mailbag: What Role Could James Proche Have on Offense?

WR James Proche II

Mink: The Ravens' wide receivers have performed well in camp thus far across the board, but if you're giving an award for the standout of the group so far, it would have to go to James Proche II. He's made catches all over the field – deep, over the middle, one-handed, etc.

The Ravens love the way Proche works. As a rookie last year, he was always the first guy on the field to warm up and take extra passes off the machine, and that's still the case today. Now it's showing up in practice more after a year spent mostly on special teams. Proche has gone from a guy who reporters were talking about being on the bubble to now us debating how big a role he can have on offense. That's notable.

With all that said, we still have a long way to go in camp and Proche needs to stack practices in pads, then transfer that to the preseason. He had one catch for 14 yards last year, so he certainly needs to prove that he can produce in a game setting.

Proche still doesn't have much of a path to a substantial offensive role given the improvements the Ravens have made at wide receiver around him. The Ravens have their top three in Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman. Perhaps Proche's strong camp, if it continues, could lead to he and Devin Duvernay having a more equal split of the No. 4 receiving reps. If there were an injury to any of the top three, it would likely be Proche or Duvernay who would get the call to handle the slot duties, and that would come with a fair number of snaps.

Downing: The top two picks have certainly lived up to their first-round billing in the early part of training camp, and there are also encouraging signs form the other members of the class. Third-round pick Ben Cleveland became and instant fan favorite after the draft with his squirrel stories and entertaining press conferences, and he's also showing he can play. Cleveland is competing for the starting left guard spot, and he probably had his best practice of camp Tuesday on the first day of full pads. He put an outside linebacker on his back on the first play of 11-on-11 drills, and he showed his power throughout practice. Cleveland is a powerful blocker and he'll earn his way into the starting lineup if he has more practices like Tuesday.

As far as the other rookies, outside linebacker Daelin Hayes has stood out as a late-round pick. He plays hard and is often in the backfield, and he's looking like someone who will contribute as a rookie.

Mink: There's no conspiracy going on here. Everybody that is standing out, we're telling you about. But let me dig deep into the notes for a name here …

I'll point to cornerback Tavon Young. His return has flown under the radar a little bit and it really shouldn't. Coming off a third season-ending injury, Young had a steep hill to climb to return to his previous form, but it looks like he's done just that. Young competed in 11-on-11 drills, including in pads, on Tuesday and shows no ill effects from his latest knee injury.

That's a big deal because Young A) is an excellent slot cornerback when healthy and B) allows the rest of the Ravens' cornerbacks to play in their ideal roles. Marlon Humphrey can go back outside and Jimmy Smith can be that super-sub who can body up bigger wide receivers and tight ends.

Downing: This is one of those tough roster debates every season, and my expectation is for the Ravens to go with two quarterbacks on the 53-man squad. This is a competition that will likely go down to the wire, as Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley have both been impressive in Lamar Jackson's absence. They have shown good accuracy and touch on the deep ball, and the passing game has been further along than many people expected after Jackson went on the COVID list.

The Ravens have several positions where they could want to keep an extra player – cornerback, wide receiver, tight end, outside linebacker – so it would be tough to use one of those coveted spots on a third quarterback who is unlikely to see the field. McSorley or Huntley may draw interest from other teams if they don't make Baltimore's 53-man roster, but they are better fits for this offense compared to many of the other offenses around the league. That could allow them to slip through waivers and land on the practice squad, where they can remain with the Ravens as a protected practice squad player throughout the year.

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