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Late for Work 6/12: Pundits Identify Position Battles Prior to Minicamp

T Daniel Faalele
T Daniel Faalele

Biggest Position Battles Entering Minicamp

The Ravens' mandatory minicamp kicks off on Tuesday. Ahead of their first practice, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec identified six position battles for the Ravens, and shared "how it may play out" for all six.

Backup quarterback

"If [Josh] Johnson outplays [Tyler] Huntley by a wide margin in training camp and the preseason, or if new offensive coordinator Todd Monken is just more comfortable going with the veteran, that could allow the Ravens to let go of Huntley late in the summer and create $2.6 million of cap space," Zrebiec wrote. "But if the competition is even close, Baltimore figures to go with the younger quarterback with more upside. The NFL's new rule allowing teams to designate a third quarterback for game days in case of emergency bodes well for Johnson potentially sticking. However, that would require the Ravens to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster, and they haven't always been willing to do that."

Starting left guard

"(Head Coach John) Harbaugh maintains that (Daniel) Faalele is a legitimate starting candidate, but the 2022 fourth-round selection is a natural tackle and it seems unlikely Baltimore would mess with his development by asking him to move inside," Zrebiec wrote. "Then there's (Patrick) Mekari, who is extremely valuable in the sixth offensive lineman role with the ability to enter the game and perform solidly at every spot. That pretty much leaves (Ben) Cleveland and (John) Simpson."

Nos. 3/4 cornerbacks

"Free-agent acquisition Rock Ya-Sin is expected to start on the outside. But the Ravens need to settle on a third corner who could play either outside or in the slot depending on where (Marlon) Humphrey lines up. SafetiesKyle Hamilton and Brandon Stephens could be used in the nickel role at times, but there is a need for others to get in the mix," Zrebiec wrote. "This is a big summer for (Jalyn) Armour-Davis, a fourth-round pick last year who struggled as a rookie and was shut down with a hip injury. The Ravens would love for Armour-Davis to emerge as a capable starter and seize a starting role this year, but he needs to remain healthy and practice more consistently. (Pepe) Williams got some playing time in the slot last year and is probably the best-suited among the candidates to play inside. The well-traveled (Daryl) Worley played well in limited action last season. (Trayvon) Mullen is the wild card of the group with 31 career starts and the pedigree of a 2019 second-round pick."

Zrebiec listed sixth wide receiver, sixth defensive lineman and No. 3 safety as the remaining position battles for the Ravens.

Three Players Whose Stock Is Rising Entering Minicamp

After a few weeks of voluntary practices, Press Box’s Bo Smolka named three players entering minicamp with a full head of steam.

Nelson Agholor

"Agholor was a more under-the-radar addition, but he was one of the standouts at the OTA workouts open to the media," Smolka wrote. "Agholor, signed to a one-year, $3.25 million deal, was the offensive star of the final open OTA practice, making several big catches. He made a fully extended catch across the middle and caught two back-shoulder throws from Jackson over rookie cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly. Jackson will need to build rapport and trust with his rebuilt corps of receivers, and he appeared to do that with Agholor more than anyone else this spring."

Daniel Faalele

"The Ravens have an open left guard spot after losing Ben Powers to free agency, and head coach John Harbaugh mentioned earlier this year that Faalele, the second-year tackle, would be in the mix for the job," Smolka wrote. "That was notable, given that Faalele was exclusively a right tackle at Minnesota and filled in at left tackle at times for the Ravens but never played guard. Ben Cleveland and John Simpson are considered the front-runners, but Faalele got plenty of run at left guard in the final OTA session open to the media and Harbaugh said he was pleased with what he saw."

David Ojabo

"Ojabo said this spring that he feels '110 percent' healthy, and he looked every bit of that in full-team drills. Matched up against Patrick Mekari or other left tackles in place of Ronnie Stanley, who did not take part in OTAs, Ojabo showed explosiveness off the edge or stunting inside," Smolka wrote. "More than once, he and high school teammate Odafe Oweh met in the offensive backfield and would have blown up the play or dropped the quarterback had contact been allowed. Ojabo said he has added 10 pounds of muscle, and if the Ravens were looking for some gauge of Ojabo's physical state, they have to be pleased with that they saw. He is hungry and looks ready to play a game tomorrow."

PFF Ranks Marlon Humphrey as No. 8 Cornerback by Passer Rating

At the end of May, PFF ranked Humphrey the No. 20 cornerback in the NFL. Now, after delving into the numbers, PFF’s Braxton Howard finds Humphrey as the No. 8 cornerback by passer rating allowed.

"Humphrey is one of the five qualified cornerbacks who did not allow a single touchdown in coverage last season. He had been playing from the slot at times, but last season he saw 823 snaps out wide," Howard wrote. "He earned the lowest coverage grade of his career in 2021 (65.0) but responded accordingly last season with a 75.6 mark."

Howard also shared how dominant Humphrey has been when the job description is to go toe-to-toe with the receiver in front of him.

"Humphrey excels in man coverage, as his 90.2 coverage grade in man led the league among all qualified cornerbacks, Howard wrote. "He also let up only 10 catches on 19 targets from man. His ability to jam receivers in a press look is second to none."

Trenton Simpson 'Could Earn Key Role' in Year 1

Joining a roster of incumbents and high-caliber talent, the Ravens' rookies will need to earn their playing time. However,  CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso sees Trenton Simpson as a candidate to earn a key role for the Ravens in Year 1.

"Simpson is an in-space defensive weapon out of Clemson. He's not ready to handle old-school linebacker duties from the jump in the pros, but with Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith, the Ravens don't need Simpson to play a traditional role," Trapasso wrote. "Simpson and his elite speed are fully accentuated when he's a movable blitzer and attacker of outside runs. The coverage could take time to round into acceptable form. Simpson will be useful before that occurs because of his explosiveness."

Trapasso isn't overstating the athleticism of Simpson, as the rookie enters the NFL as the No. 3-ranked linebacker of his draft class in both production and athleticism scores by NFL's Next Gen Stats. He was given high praise by’s Lance Zierlein, who described Simpson as a "chiseled weakside linebacker with rare speed for the position to run down action in all directions."

Quick Hits

  • According to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, former Ravens running back Mark Ingram is expected to replace Reggie Bush as a FOX broadcaster.
  • Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer ranked the best players by jersey number, and seven Ravens made the 0-99 list.
  • Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton ranked the top eight pass rushing duos of 2023; the Ravens will face six of them during the regular season.

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