Mink: I'm very interested to see how the Ravens end up using Patrick Ricard, but his return doesn't change the offense. He's been the best fullback in the league and been recognized as such with four straight trips to the Pro Bowl. He had a very large role last year, playing a career-high 64% of the offensive snaps. I expect that number will drop this season with Todd Monken using lighter packages featuring more receivers.
With that said, I do still think Ricard can play a key role. As Tight Ends Coach George Godsey said, every offense needs physicality and that's what Ricard brings. He'll still do some of the same stuff he did last year as a versatile blocker at the point of attack, coming out of the backfield like a traditional "fullback". Where the Ravens could use him most, however, may be as a sixth offensive lineman. Josh Oliver held that job last year and Nick Boyle the years prior, but both are gone. Charlie Kolar is auditioning for that in-line blocking job, but he's not as good a blocker as Ricard is right now at least. Ricard has already done a fair amount of that the past couple years too, so it's nothing new.
"Project Pat" is also trying to increase his value to the team by getting reps as an offensive lineman. If he can prove effective enough to be a backup guard, for example, that gives him more ways to get on the field and the Ravens some roster flexibility.
Downing: The Ravens don't have too many starting jobs up for grabs, but they do have some young players competing for big roles. It's realistic that rookie Sala Aumavae-Laulu could end up as the starter at left guard, and it would be quite the ascent for the sixth-round pick from Oregon. The Ravens like his size and potential, and they gave him the first-team reps for the firs 10 practices of training camp. John Simpson is getting the first-team reps this week and is still very much competing for the spot, but Aumavae-Laulu could surprise people and earn the starting job to open the season.
Another young player to watch is second-year cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis. He hardly played as a rookie because of injuries, but he's competing for the starting cornerback spot opposite Marlon Humphrey. Rock Ya-Sin is currently dealing with a reported knee injury, and while Head Coach John Harbaugh said he "should be back soon," he didn't share an exact timetable. If Ya-Sin is fully healthy, he's the favorite to win the starting No. 2 cornerback spot. But if his injury lingers, Armour-Davis could win that job with a strong showing in camp over the next few weeks.
Mink: I'll have my eyes primarily on cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis, Brandon Stephens, Pepe Williams and more. The No. 2 and slot cornerback jobs are still open competitions and obviously critical pieces in the defense. The Ravens need multiple players to step up, especially with Rock Ya-Sin dealing with a reported knee injury. Considering Armour-Davis hasn't seen many game reps (just 50 defensive snaps as a rookie), the preseason will be critical for him.
I'm also interested to watch undrafted running back Keaton Mitchell, rookie guard Sala Aumavae-Laulu, and rookie first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers, if he plays.
Downing: Time will tell if Bateman is ready when the season begins, but it's certainly a good sign to have him back on the field at this point. Bateman was activated from the PUP list Wednesday morning and practiced for the first time of training camp. This activation came a couple days after he was running on a side field with the training staff during practice.
Bateman's return to practice will certainly include a ramp-up period. He went through individual drills during OTAs, but he's yet to go through a full-speed practice since having foot surgery in November to repair a Lisfranc injury. That is a difficult injury to bounce back from, especially for a skill position like receiver, but the Ravens have remained optimistic throughout his rehab process. Bateman will have to quickly get up to speed in training camp if he's going to make it on the field for the season opener on Sept. 10, but he has a month to make that happen and I could see him getting that done.