The Ravens have become a younger and faster team this offseason, but the work to get better continues. Their three-day mandatory minicamp begins Tuesday, and familiar veterans who have been away like Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, and defensive tackle Michael Pierce are expected to join the many new faces on the roster.
Here are some important questions as mandatory minicamp begins.
How will Judon embrace his new role as the leader of the pass rush?
The departure of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith leaves Judon as the team’s top returning sack artist. This is a huge upcoming season for Judon, entering the final year of his contract and he’s still just 26 years old. He has produced 15 sacks over the past two seasons, but opponents may game plan for Judon like they never have before. Meanwhile, the departure of Suggs may also require Judon to become more of a mentor for young pass rushers like Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, and third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson. The Ravens can’t expect Judon to carry the pass rush alone. But his presence as a proven NFL pass rusher will be crucial.
Which wide receivers will continue to impress?
Veteran Willie Snead IV has looked good at OTA’s, but his role as a starting wide receiver was already locked down. The bigger question is whether the Ravens can find other consistent playmakers at the position. First-round pick Marquise Brown is still recovering from foot surgery and isn’t expected to be 100 percent until training camp. That means they’ll be plenty of reps for other receivers like third-round pick Miles Boykin, free agents Michael Floyd and Seth Roberts, and returning players Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, and Jaleel Scott. If you’re a wide receiver looking for a roster spot or more playing time, mandatory minicamp is a good time to shine.
How is the competition at left guard shaping up?
Four players started at left guard last season, meaning the starting position is truly up for grabs. James Hurst ended the 2018 season as the starter, but the Ravens drafted Ben Powers in the fourth round to challenge for the job, and Alex Lewis would love to reclaim his starting role following offseason shoulder surgery. Head Coach John Harbaugh has talked about rebuilding the offense “from the ground up,’’ but running the ball effectively will remain one of the Ravens’ main objectives. They will need solid play from their offensive line to maximize the run schemes of Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. The position battle at left guard should be one of this summer’s most intense.
Can the Ravens’ defense play faster and produce more takeaways?
Adding veteran safety Earl Thomas to an already talented secondary could make the Ravens’ pass defense more aggressive. They have four proven corners in Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and Tavon Young and two experienced safeties in Thomas and Tony Jefferson. Despite having the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense last season, forcing turnovers was not the Ravens’ main forte. Mandatory minicamp will be an opportunity for the defense to build chemistry, as they strive to become a team that will produce more takeaways.
Can Lamar Jackson continue to make strides running a new offense?
It’s not just Jackson’s throwing that’s important. He’s being asked to run a new offense. He must read defenses correctly and quickly. His ball-handling and decision-making running the option is vitally important.
This is Jackson’s first full offseason as the starting quarterback, and he’s a gifted player who’s still only 22 years old. Mandatory minicamp is another opportunity for Jackson to fast track his learning curve, and to build confidence in an offense where he is clearly the centerpiece.