With Initial 53-Man Roster Set, Questions Remain at Cornerback and Edge Rusher
With the Ravens' initial 53-man roster set, The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer and Kris Rhim offered their takeaways.
Question marks at cornerback and edge rusher were a talking point all offseason, and Shaffer and Rhim said concern remains at the positions.
The Ravens have eight cornerbacks on the roster, but three-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey is recovering from foot surgery and could miss multiple games, and 2022 fourth-rounder Pepe Williams is expected to be placed on injured reserve, which would sideline him for at least four games.
Baltimore released veteran cornerback Kevon Seymour, who started five games last season, but he could be re-signed to the 53-man roster or join the practice squad and be called up.
"Humphrey's early-season availability is one of the Ravens' biggest question marks, especially with a Week 2 road game against the Cincinnati Bengals looming," Shaffer and Rhim wrote. "The Ravens will need Rock Ya-Sin and probably Brandon Stephens to step up at outside cornerback in his absence. Ar'Darius Washington locked down a roster spot in camp and now could start in the slot."
At outside linebacker, Tyus Bowser will miss at least the first four games as he remains on the non-football injury list with a knee injury. That opened up a spot for undrafted free agent outside linebacker Malik Hamm.
"The rest of the group has a strong pedigree: Odafe Oweh and Jadeveon Clowney are former first-round picks, and David Ojabo is a second-rounder. Whether that will translate into high-level production is unclear," Shaffer and Rhim wrote. "Oweh had a strong camp, but he struggled to carry over his summertime success last year. Ojabo had a discouraging preseason. Clowney's coming off a largely unproductive season. And Tavius Robinson's a fourth-round pick."
Ravens Won't Face Colts All-Pro RB Jonathan Taylor in Week 3
Yesterday's news that Indianapolis Colts All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list and miss the first four games of the season was of interest to the Ravens.
Baltimore hosts the Colts in Week 3. Indianapolis has named first-round quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4-overall pick, its starter.
The Ravens also will be facing a rookie quarterback in their season opener, as the visiting Houston Texans will start C.J. Stroud, the No. 2-overall pick. It was reported yesterday that the Texans could be without three starting offensive linemen in the game.
Ravens Are No. 8 in Pro Football Focus' Roster Rankings
Pro Football Focus provided an updated look at where all 32 rosters rank on paper heading into the regular season. The Ravens landed at No. 8.
While the Ravens' revamped receiving corps has made headlines, PFF's Dalton Wasserman and Jim Wyman said the running game remains the team's biggest strength.
"Retaining Lamar Jackson was huge for this Ravens offense as they continue to boast one of the game's top rushing attacks," Wasserman and Wyman wrote. "Not only is Jackson among the best running quarterbacks in football, but the team is also deep at the running back position with J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill set to return in 2023."
Undrafted free agent running back Keaton Mitchell, who showed his speed in training camp and preseason games, also made the team.
Veteran wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was named the Ravens' X-factor.
"Having had a full season to recover from a torn ACL suffered in Super Bowl LVI, Beckham looks to become the first true No. 1 receiving threat for Lamar Jackson in the NFL," Wasserman and Wyman wrote. "That being said, the 30-year-old Beckham hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game since Week 6 of 2019, so it's fair to wonder if his best years are behind him."
If his performances at training camp are any indication, Beckham could be in store for a big bounce-back season.
Ravens Defense Makes Top 10 in The Ringer's Rankings
As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, the Ravens were No. 12 in The Ringer's Sheil Kapadia's rankings of every NFL offense. Kapadia subsequently released his rankings of every NFL defense, and the Ravens came in at No. 9.
"I had the Ravens in my top five until cornerback Marlon Humphrey went down with a foot injury that will require surgery," Kapadia wrote. "If Humphrey returns early in the season and looks like himself, I really like this defense. If he doesn't, I have concerns."
As you probably guessed, Kapadia's concerns are cornerback depth and unproven pass rushers.
Kapadia noted that inside linebacker Roquan Smith is a difference-maker and said versatile safety Kyle Hamilton could be a breakout star this season.
"I trust the infrastructure here with Head Coach John Harbaugh, and I liked what I saw from Defensive Coordinator Mike MacDonald last season," Kapadia wrote. "I'm bullish on the young Ravens players' up-front development and the quality of this defense, but given the questions at premium positions, I can't put them any higher."
● Smith was No. 3 in The Associated Press’ off-ball linebacker rankings.