Don't Expect the Ravens to Keep Their Safeties on the Sideline
Following the first media attended OTAs, multiple reports expressed praise of rookie safety Kyle Hamilton.
The addition of Hamilton, the Ravens' No. 14-overall pick, has sparked questions of his role with the Ravens in 2022, with two veterans, Marcus Williams and Chuck Clark, also on the depth chart.
But The Athletic's Ted Nguyen doesn't expect to see Hamilton, or the veteran safeties, sidelined. In fact, Nguyen sees the Ravens leading the charge in implementing three-safety looks in the NFL.
"Though using three safeties isn't anything new in college and NFL teams have dabbled with it, I think this year we'll see teams actually make it a bigger part of their defenses based on how some teams drafted and coach's comments made afterward," Nguyen wrote. "The Ravens drafted Kyle Hamilton with their first pick even though they already had two very good safeties in Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams, who they signed in free agency."
Part of Nguyen's reasoning for utilizing more three-safety looks has to do with the Ravens' new defensive play-caller.
"Though some of that was value-based, their new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald used three safety packages with the University of Michigan and I can't imagine they are just going to have quality players sit on the bench."
The Ravens have talked about the necessity of their defensive backs being versatile and not just playing their standard roles. Ravens Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz called Hamilton a "chess piece," but he's not the only one with versatility in the safety room.
In 2021, Clark lined up across the field, taking 302 snaps in the box, 449 snaps at free safety and 125 snaps in the slot. With Clark and Hamilton both boasting said versatility, the players are there for Macdonald to use as he pleases.
Ravens' Secondary the Centerpiece for Defense's Improvement
After a year of struggling to keep their secondary together due to health, the Ravens retooled their defensive back group, and the media has taken notice. NFL.com's Coral Smith now sees a surplus of talent on the back end for Baltimore.
"With this combination of new signings and players returning from injury, there is suddenly an overflow of players to fight for the limited spots on the field," Smith wrote. "But [Head Coach John] Harbaugh said that's just how he wants it, as he knows only too well how quickly injuries can deplete even the deepest of defenses."
The purpose for an effort to make such drastic changes was in large part due to giving up a franchise-worst in passing yards (4,742).
"It's no wonder that as the offseason played out, improving the secondary clearly emerged as DeCosta's priority and there was an effort made to get younger and healthier," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Williams, the Ravens' top free-agent signing, is just 25 years old and represents the rare instance of Baltimore targeting one of the top free agents at his respective position."
In bringing in new players, Zrebiec sees the moves not just to improve the talent on the field, but also sees the Ravens bringing in younger talent, something that may deter the same injury-stricken scenario suffered last season.
"Injuries are unpredictable, but the Ravens are obviously more confident about staying healthier by trending younger," Zrebiec wrote. "That doesn't necessarily mean the Ravens will be better, yet on paper, it appears they clearly are."
Zrebiec also noted that the Ravens' latest free-agent signing, cornerback Kyle Fuller, has been a durable player throughout his NFL career. He missed the entire 2016 season, but played in 16 games the other seven years.
Julio Jones Still Considered an Option for Ravens
The Ravens are still being linked to wide receivers as they haven't added another (outside of undrafted rookies) since trading Marquise Brown. The usual suspect, Julio Jones, is still being considered a worthy option, with the latest coming from Ravenswire’s Kevin Oestreicher.
"Jones was once regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the game, but a lengthy injury history and declining play has currently left him without a team for the 2022 season," Oestreicher wrote. "In his 11-year playing career Jones has caught 879 passes for 13,330 yards and 61 touchdowns, making spectacular catches and showing up in multiple big moments."
Oestreicher also sees a benefit in bringing in Jones due to his experience.
"Signing a veteran wide receiver would be beneficial in multiple aspects for Baltimore," Oestreicher wrote. "Jones would fill a role and likely wouldn't cost a lot to bring in, so it would be worthwhile to at least look into adding former University of Alabama star."
PFF Lists Top 3 Ravens Entering 2022
Entering the 2022 season, the Ravens exhibit a roster chock-full of talent. Numerous players on both ends of the roster have earned individual accolades, but PFF's Ben Linsey's named his top three Ravens.
Lamar Jackson: "Injuries decimated Baltimore's roster in 2021, and they limited Jackson at quarterback for the first time in his career. Jackson's 70.2 PFF grade last season was his lowest since his rookie season in 2018, but he remains one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league and should bounce back in 2022."
Marlon Humphrey: "Humphrey also had a down season last year, most notably allowing 227 passing yards into his coverage in a Week 5 matchup against Ja'Marr Chase and the Cincinnati Bengals. However, he still profiles as one of the top cornerbacks in the league who is capable of delivering above-average play in the slot or outside."
Mark Andrews: "Andrews had no such down year, as he dropped just three of 149 targets and was PFF's highest-graded tight end in 2021."
Just missing the cut was Marcus Williams, who has earned top marks from PFF over his five-year NFL career.
- Jackson made NFL.com's "All-Paid Team of Tomorrow"