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Late for Work: Where Did the Ravens Get Better, Worse, or Stay the Same This Offseason?

CB Nate Wiggins
CB Nate Wiggins

Where Did the Ravens Get Better, Worse, or Stay the Same This Offseason?

With rookies reporting to training camp on Friday and veterans joining them the following week, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec identified where the Ravens have gotten better, worse, or stayed the same to this point in the offseason.

Here's a look at one position group from each category:

Better: Cornerback

"At least on paper, this is probably the most improved position group on the team. The Ravens will miss Ronald Darby, but they needed to add high-end talent to their cornerback room — [first-round pick] Nate Wiggins should do that. They will need their young corners to grow up fast and Marlon Humphrey to regain his Pro Bowl form. The pieces, though, are in place."

Worse: Outside linebacker

"It's a production business and the Ravens don't have a double-digit-sack outside linebacker on the roster. For Jadeveon Clowney's departure not to loom large, Odafe Oweh needs to graduate into an eight-to-10-sack guy and one of the young outside linebackers has to become a weekly threat. If it appears neither of those things will happen, General Manager Eric DeCosta will be looking at the available edge rushers before the trade deadline."

Same: Wide receiver

"There's been plenty of talk about the Ravens not making a major investment at wide receiver, but Odell Beckham Jr. and Devin Duvernay combined for 39 catches last season. The Ravens will miss Beckham's presence more than his production. If Beckham's departure leads to more opportunities for Rashod Bateman, and he cashes in on those, the Ravens could be better at receiver, especially if [fourth-round pick] Devontez Walker is an immediate contributor."

Justin Madubuike Cracks Top Five in ESPN's Defensive Tackle Rankings

This time last year, pundits were predicting a breakout season for Justin Madubuike. Now he is regarded as one of the elite players at his position.

Madubuike landed at No. 5 in ESPN's top 10 defensive tackle rankings, which were determined by a survey of league executives, coaches, and scouts.

"After three years as a complementary player, Madubuike took his star turn in 2023," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote. "[Madubuike] had more pass-rush opportunities with Calais Campbell gone and Tyus Bowser hurt, and he delivered with 13 sacks, leading all players on this list. Madubuike also ranked second among defensive tackles in quarterback pressures with 33."

The 26-year-old Madubuike, who signed a four-year, $98 million contract extension this offseason, was ranked as high as No. 2 on the survey and no lower than No. 7. He didn't receive a single vote in last year's survey.

"Mindset and opportunity — the kid put in the work with his body and overall football information," an AFC coordinator said. "Was locked in all year."

Roquan Smith Ranked As NFL's Second-Best Inside Linebacker

Speaking of player rankings, Roquan Smith was No. 2 in CBS Sports’ inside linebacker rankings.

"Smith was a very good linebacker with the Bears, but man, he's evolved into a different animal with the Ravens," Jordan Dajani wrote. "His 158 combined tackles last year were the most by a Raven since Ray Lewis in 2003, even though it was Smith's lowest tackle total since 2020!

"In Week 10 against the Browns, Smith recorded a whopping 21 combined tackles, which set a career high. Then, in the AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs, Smith led his team in tackles with 16. He earned his fourth-straight All-Pro selection, and second-straight Pro Bowl bid after helping the Ravens defense become the first unit all-time to lead or co-lead the NFL in scoring defense, sacks and takeaways."

The San Francisco 49ers' Fred Warner was No. 1. Former Raven and current Pittsburgh Steeler Patrick Queen came in at No. 8.

Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr Says Three AFC North Teams Have Realistic Shot to Win Super Bowl

Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr believes there are 12 teams who have a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl this season. Unsurprisingly, the Ravens were among them.

"The Ravens played for par this offseason," Orr wrote. "Baltimore drafts and develops well, so, like any top program, it's going to get raided from time to time. That's especially true when John Harbaugh's brother gets back into the NFL and steals John's entire offensive backfield.

"Still, the progress the Ravens made in setting Lamar Jackson up as a dominant, on-schedule passer was undeniable and, to me, unlocks a kind of new, heightened potential for Jackson at the NFL level. OC Todd Monken is going to have his challenges this year breaking in a new-ish offensive line and Harbaugh will need a steady hand guiding new Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr (no relation). All that said, Baltimore remains a daunting, physical opponent with a secondary better equipped to handle the modern NFL than almost any other."

Two other AFC North teams — the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns — made Orr's list.

"Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase still have one of the best on-field relationships in the NFL, and Burrow's continued digestion and mastery of his own offense will keep defenses on their heels. I'm higher than most on the Bengals in 2024," Orr wrote.

Regarding the Browns, Orr wrote: "If Deshaun Watson is finally able to recapture his old form, Cleveland will add that to a team with a dominant front seven, a very good (if aging) offensive line and a formidable set of weathered skill-position players who can handle big moments."

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