Ranking the Ravens' Position Groups
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer ranked the Ravens' 10 position groups (special teams was excluded), and his choices for the strongest and weakest were no surprise.
Safety, which has talented starters and depth, was ranked No. 1, while the young and unproven wide receiving corps came in at No. 10.
Here's a look at where some of the other position groups were ranked, along with Shaffer's analysis:
"As long as [Lamar] Jackson's under contract and healthy, the Ravens will feel good about their starting quarterback. He impressed at mandatory minicamp and pledged to get together with his receivers during the team's offseason hiatus. That's all you can ask for from a potential NFL Most Valuable Player in July — well, maybe some progress in contract negotiations, too. Tyler Huntley didn't need long to prove his ability as a backup last year. He might not be good enough to lead the Ravens to victory, but he can be trusted not to throw a game away."
3. Tight end/fullback
"The Ravens have a Pro Bowl fullback in Patrick Ricard, and it's fair to wonder just where they'll need him this season. Such is the Ravens' depth at tight end. Mark Andrews broke the Ravens' single-season receiving record last season (107 catches for 1,361 yards) and emerged as one of the NFL's top playmakers. Nick Boyle, when healthy, gives the offense a versatile blocker who can present as a big target over the middle. Ricard's game has become more well-rounded every season in Baltimore. They'll all have young talents pushing them. Rookies Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar both flashed in offseason workouts, and Josh Oliver is a solid reserve. Andrews is irreplaceable, but the Ravens have a well-stocked group behind him."
8. Inside linebacker
"Josh Bynes and Patrick Queen were solid run defenders in their first year together, but neither saw regular action on obvious passing downs. They were also nonfactors in the Ravens' pass rush, finishing with a combined four sacks and nine pressures. Can first-year inside linebackers coach Zachary Orr help take their partnership to another level? With the Detroit Lions signing Chris Board this offseason, the Ravens' depth at the position is somewhat tenuous. Malik Harrison entered offseason workouts as a candidate to cross-train at outside linebacker, though he lined up primarily inside. Kristian Welch has played sparingly on defense over his first two years in Baltimore. Behind them are a handful of undrafted free agents, including Navy's Diego Fagot."
9. Outside linebacker
"On paper, this is the Ravens' most talented collection of edge rushers in years. In practice, the position's depth is paper-thin. Tyus Bowser, who led the team with seven sacks last season, is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and might not be ready by Week 1. Second-round pick David Ojabo tore his Achilles in March and might not play at all this season. Odafe Oweh, who underwent shoulder surgery after an impressive rookie year, was limited in offseason workouts but should be full-go in training camp. Same goes for Daelin Hayes, who barely played last season after a strong offseason. But with the sudden death of Jaylon Ferguson, and with the Ravens yet to add a big-name free agent, Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald will have to hope for quick recoveries and a healthy preseason. Even with a promising core, the group's margin for error is slim."
Is James Proche Poised for a Breakout Season?
Aside from Rashod Bateman, who is expected to be the team's No. 1 wide receiver, which of the other receivers is most likely to break out?
The question was posed to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, and his answer was James Proche II. Zrebiec said Proche "continually stood out" in minicamps this offseason.
"We've seen that before from him the previous two years and it hasn't translated to game days, partly because the Ravens haven't given him much of an opportunity," Zrebiec wrote. "I think he'll get a bigger opportunity this year and it wouldn't surprise me if he emerges as a reliable target, particularly on third downs, for Jackson. Proche has really good hands and there's a toughness and confidence about him that suggests he's ready to become a bigger contributor."
To Zrebiec's point, despite being a preseason standout, Proche has been targeted just 23 times in the regular season in his two-year career. After just one reception as a rookie, Proche had 16 catches for 202 yards and no touchdowns last season.
However, he showed what he's capable of in his final game last season, a Week 15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He hauled in seven of eight targets for 76 yards in that game.
Proche is determined to carry over that production into this season.
"I always had Year 3 planned on to be my year," Proche said on “The Lounge” podcast last month. "Year 3, that's when they say, 'Are you going to be in the league for a long time or not?' Right now, I'm just trying to prove myself that I belong here for the long run. It's the year."
Proche is well aware of the talk about the Ravens needing to add a veteran wide receiver, but he said that only fuels him and the other wideouts.
"As a competitor, it does put a chip on your shoulder because you want to prove those doubters wrong," Proche said.
Will Justin Tucker Finally Make NFL Top 100 Players List?
Justin Tucker is arguably the greatest kicker of all time and, as noted in Monday’s Late for Work, a "near lock for the Hall of Fame."
Yet somehow Tucker, a five-time All-Pro and two-time Ravens MVP, has never made the annual NFL Top 100 Players list, which is determined by votes from players. Since the inception of the NFL Top 100 Players in 2011, Adam Vinatieri (No. 98 in 2015) is the only kicker to make the list.
Is this year Tucker finally takes his rightful place among the top 100 players in the league? Judging by a video from NFL Films that was posted on Twitter yesterday, it just might be.
In the video, several players were asked if a kicker should ever be on the list, and if so, is Tucker the guy. The consensus was yes and yes.
After Tucker was snubbed from the 2020 list, NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman made the case for Tucker's inclusion.
"Who does Justin Tucker have to kick to get a vote around here?" Bergman wrote. "The greatest kicker of his generation gets no respect from his peers, year in and year out, in this exercise."
The countdown of the 2022 NFL Top 100 Players begins Aug. 14 on NFL Network.
Ravens Select Davante Adams in Mock Draft of Active NFL Players
Speaking of Tucker, could you imagine him wearing a Cleveland Browns uniform?
In NFL.com’s Chad Reuter’s seven-round mock draft of active NFL players, the Browns nabbed Tucker in the seventh round with the 205th-overall pick.
The premise of the draft was for each team to build the foundation of a roster designed to win now.
In addition to Tucker, four other Ravens were drafted: Jackson (Atlanta Falcons, Round 1, No. 8 overall), Andrews (Minnesota Vikings, Round 2, No. 53), Marcus Williams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Round 4, No. 102) and Marlon Humphrey (Vikings, Round 5, No. 140).
The Ravens' top two picks were wide receiver Davante Adams (No. 14) and quarterback Jalen Hurts (No. 51).