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Updates from Week 4
Lamar Jackson didn’t play in the preseason finale, leaving him with no preseason action this year. The team obviously feels comfortable with that after John Harbaugh announced Thursday that Jackson would sit out again. Reports throughout the preseason have said that Jackson is having the best camp of his young career. His added muscle hasn’t reduced his speed and quickness. He’s maturing to the point that he’s feeling comfortable having input on play calling, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman is accepting his input, and they’ve had success in camp. Tyler Huntley offers Baltimore one of the best backup quarterback situations in the NFL. Ideally, Jackson is healthy, but if he missed time, Huntley could preserve the production from the offensive weapons. Baltimore showed how valuable Huntley is by removing him after just four pass attempts in Saturday’s game.
J.K. Dobbins continues to improve. He should be ready for Week 1, but it’s unclear as to when he’ll be ready for double-digit touches in a game. Baltimore made official what many thought would happen, placing Gus Edwards on the PUP list to start the season. That means that Edwards will miss at least four games. Mike Davis is the favorite to lead the team in running back touches for the first month of the season, with Dobbins being brought up to speed rather than thrust back into a workhorse role. Baltimore has some difficult roster decisions to make at running back, and Jeff Zriebec of The Athletic suggests that Justice Hill could be cut. Despite a depth full of familiar names, injuries leave Baltimore not as deep as they’d like. There is speculation that Baltimore could be a logical landing spot for Kenyan Drake, who was recently released by Las Vegas.
Rashod Bateman is a shoo-in for the team’s WR1 spot. He’ll play nearly 100% of the offensive snaps. Behind him is where the situation becomes unclear. Devin Duvernay and James Proche have been relatively average in camp, with neither pulling away. Both have also missed time due to minor injuries. Isaiah Likely’s emergence has made the WR2 battle far less intriguing. Baltimore appears ready to use Likely as a slot and perimeter receiver rather than rely solely on Duvernay and Proche to fill that role. Demarcus Robinson was signed last week and given $895,000 of guaranteed money, suggesting he’s a lock to make the team. Baltimore’s young receivers have all had their ups and downs during the preseason, and none separated from the pack significantly. Robinson was arguably the MVP of Saturday’s game, showing that even a journeyman veteran can make end-of-roster defensive backs look silly. He made two double moves that led to a 67-yard touchdown and a 52-yard catch. Despite that performance, Robinson isn’t likely to crack the rotation and see significant targets in a run-centric offense with Bateman and multiple capable tight ends.
Mark Andrews is a Pro Bowl player and having a great camp, but he’s not even generating the most buzz in the tight end room. Isaiah Likely continued his monster camp this week, and it looks as though he’ll be frequently used starting in Week 1. Roman knows how to use multiple tight ends, and Likely will be moved all over the field. It’s possible that Likely and Andrews are both used off the line, and a third tight end (Nick Boyle) is playing in the same personnel group. Harbaugh said this about Andrews and Likely, "I don't think it's any kind of a stretch to say that they'll line up outside. I think they'll be out there running slants, and fades, and even deeper routes. I'm excited.”
Baltimore has a safety battle on its hands. Kyle Hamilton is improving each day in camp, despite leaving early Thursday. Harbaugh said it was “nothing serious,” and it appears to be workload management. Chuck Clark won’t give up his spot easily. Despite originally asking for a trade after Baltimore selected Hamilton in Round 1, Clark appears content staying and says he won’t give up his starting spot easily. At cornerback, Marcus Peters has been increasing his practice activity and hopes to be ready for Week 1. He leads the NFL in interceptions since 2015 with 21. And playing across from lockdown corner Marlon Humphrey will lead to plenty of passes heading to Peters’ side. Baltimore doesn’t have many weaknesses on defense. But one potential issue is Tyus Bowser being placed on the PUP list, meaning he will miss at least four games. Bowser is an excellent pass rusher. However, Baltimore still has two capable edge rushers in Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston.
Devin Duvernay is the safe bet to field returns for the Ravens this year since he’s a virtual lock to make the final 53-man roster. James Proche could also field some attempts, as could DeMarcus Robinson (if he can make the team).
Updates from Week 3
Ryan Mink of baltimoreravens.com said that Lamar Jackson “had the best camp of his career.” Mink cited refined mechanics and more muscle as primary reasons why. Offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley should return healthy this year, which will help Jackson and the entire offense. It was announced early in the week that Jackson wouldn’t play in Sunday’s preseason game. It’s a similar cadence to last season, where Jackson only played one preseason series. Baltimore’s backup situation is arguably the best in the NFL. Tyler Huntley is 29-for-32 for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns this preseason. Huntley also showed last year that he can perform well in the regular season.
J.K Dobbins returned to practice on August 8 and has done individual and team drills since. He hasn’t participated in 11-on-11 drills yet. John Harbaugh said on Monday, August 15, that Dobbins “continues to improve,” but Harbaugh isn’t saying Dobbins is a lock for Week 1. Harbaugh acknowledges Dobbins's progress but says, “we’ll see” regarding Week 1. Baltimore’s personnel decisions signal they believe Dobbins will be ready. Corey Clement was released, a sign that the team feels Dobbins and Mike Davis will be ready for Week 1. To no one’s surprise, Dobbins did not play on Sunday. Davis played and started, looking somewhat pedestrian averaging three yards per carry. He’ll still be part of the Week 1 game plan and should be more efficient behind a fully healthy offensive line and with Lamar Jackson garnering defensive attention. Gus Edwards is behind Dobbins in rehab and won’t be ready for Week 1, making Davis an important part of the team’s plans regardless of Dobbins’ status.
Rashod Bateman is the clear WR1. And he’s probably the only wide receiver who sees the field on 90% or more snaps. Devin Duvernay and James Proche are competing for the second spot, but the team would be best served using both. Proche is the more precise route-runner, and Duvernay is trying to fill the void left by Marquise Brown with his deep speed. The overall group is considered weak, ranked 32nd overall by Mike Clay. And while some young players have looked like surprise bets to make the team, they’re far from seeing the field on offense. To help bolster the group, Baltimore signed Demarcus Robinson this week. Robinson is behind as a new signee, but it’s possible he could pass Duvernay and/or Proche. Bateman was held out of the game for rest/injury avoidance. Duvernay and Proche sat due to existing injuries, leaving room for a blossoming star to find himself on the field more at their expense (more on that in the tight ends section below).
Mike Clay ranks Baltimore as the worst wide receiver unit in the NFL, but that’s counteracted by Clay ranking their tight ends unit first overall. Mark Andrews is the main reason why, but it’s rookie Isaiah Likely who is helping to push Baltimore above Kansas City. Likely continues to make his presence felt in camp. And after thoroughly dominating Sunday’s game to the tune of 8 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown, Likely is going to be Baltimore’s de facto WR2. The same article that said Jackson was having the best camp of his career said that Likely could finish top three in Ravens targets,” and that was written before his incredible in-game performance. What’s notable about Likely’s performance is that he didn’t rely on traditional tight end production. Had that been the case, naysayers could point to Mark Andrews’ absence as a reason for Likely’s spike. But Likely was playing wide receiver. He was wide and in the slot. Nick Boyle played as the team’s tight end on 11 of Likely’s 15 snaps. Likely probably won’t be lining up in-line much this year. And unlike most teams who might telegraph plays based on the usage of a “move” tight end, Likely could be on the field with Andrews and Boyle together and only one wide receiver, making him the WR2 in such formations. He’s going to be a big part of the passing game immediately in Week 1. Teams lacking pass-catching depth don’t keep this kind of production off the field.
Cornerback Marcus Peters returned from the PUP list on Monday, August 15, and participated in individual drills to ramp up his activity. He’s a key part of the defense opposite Marlon Humphrey, who is widely considered a top-10 cover corner in the league. Baltimore also has dynamic safeties to help the corners in the back line. Veteran Marcus Williams had a practice with two interceptions this week. Williams is a veteran who has provided a “center fielder” type of skill set throughout his career. Rookie Kyle Hamilton provides versatility. As Hamilton continues to grow, the defense can be more dynamic as the season progresses. Linebacker Patrick Queen is being more of a vocal leader this year and is also increasing his playmaking presence. He has covered Andrews in camp on multiple occasions and held his own against of the NFL’s best receiving tight ends. Baltimore entered camp low on pass rushing depth. But veteran Justin Houston coming back, Odafe Oweh developing, and Tyus Bowser potentially returning from injury for Week 1 means that Baltimore will have a stronger pass rush than they thought a month ago.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been rehabbing his ankle, and the big question is, when will he come off the PUP? If he can't go, journeyman Ja'Wuan James is the swing option. Rookie center Tyler Linderbaum has been struggling through a minor foot injury. The real battle is at left guard: Tyre Phillips started preseason games, but Ben Powers has the edge in consistency. Both players are decent options, as is massive second-year player Ben Cleveland.
Updates from Week 2
Lamar Jackson added 12-to-15 pounds of muscle this offseason to combat injury issues but says he feels as nimble as ever. "I just wanted to look the part. Look a little sturdy back there, look a little big,” said Jackson on his added weight. Jackson might not play in the preseason, and if he does, it will likely be sparingly. He played one preseason series last year but has never entered the regular season without at least a bit of preseason game action. Head coach John Harbaugh said, “He's always been a leader. He's had a great camp. He's throwing the ball great. I'm just very, very happy with him. He's one of my favorite people in the whole world. He's a joy to coach every day.” Backup Tyler Huntley added, "He's throwing the hell out of the ball.” That’s encouraging news, especially from a player who played an excellent game Thursday night. Huntley was 16-of-18 for 109 yards and a touchdown, adding 17 yards on the ground. He’s one of the NFL’s better backups.
J.K. Dobbins returned to individual drills in the middle of the week and is slated to practice again Monday after sitting out Saturday and Sunday’s sessions. Getting Dobbins back would be significant for Baltimore, who plans to be run-heavy again this season. The team is taking it slow with him in the process but appears to be ready to start ramping up his practice participation with a plan to have him ready for Week 1. Fellow running back Gus Edwards is also returning from an ACL tear, but he’s a bit further behind Dobbins. Harbaugh said the following about Edwards, “Gus, we'll see. Gus is really doing well. He's kind of a patient rehab guy. I don't know that it'll be the first week. But I think before the season's over, he's going to be rolling and ready to go." Behind the top duo, Mike Davis is showing that he can be serviceable. He scored the team’s first touchdown in the game this week and should comfortably make the roster, especially with Edwards’ status. Justice Hill is returning from an Achilles injury and is performing well. He’s mostly a special teams player, though, due to his skill set as a running back being more in the passing game and in space. Baltimore throws to its backs as little as any team in the NFL.
Rashod Bateman is the only player whose spot is secure and at the top of the pecking order among wideouts. Bateman missed some time last week but returned to practice and continues to show excellent rapport with Jackson. Bateman sat out this week’s game by design. He practiced before and after it, highlighted by his domination of Saturday’s practice. Behind Bateman, Devin Duvernay and James Proche are competing for the WR2 role. Duvernay had missed time last week along with Bateman, which allowed Proche to shine and possibly pull ahead. But then Proche was hurt last week, and Harbaugh said he’ll miss a couple of weeks. Proche and Duvernay are likely to be used opposite Bateman in two-receiver sets, and both will be on the field when the team plays three receivers. Duvernay profiles as the better downfield weapon, with Proche being more of a technician who can work the intermediate area. With Bateman, Duvernay, Proche, and fourth receiver Tylan Wallace all having minor injuries over the past couple of weeks, some writers are saying that Baltimore needs to add a veteran receiver. Will Fuller V, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, and T.Y. Hilton have all been mentioned. But none have been added yet. With Baltimore’s run-heavy scheme and a tight end likely to lead the team in targets, anyone behind Duvernay and Proche is an improbable bet to make an offensive impact in the regular season.
Mark Andrews continues to have a great camp. “It's been a huge camp for the All-Pro tight end,” wrote Ryan Mink of baltimoreravens.com. Behind Andrews, Isaiah Likely continues to shine as a pass-catcher, but he has work to do as a blocker. In this week's game, he was called for two holding penalties that nullified big runs. He also caught four passes for 44 yards in the game, showing that his camp playmaking can translate to the field.
The Ravens signed Justin Tucker to a four-year, $24 million extension to make him the highest-paid kicker in the league. The deal includes $17.5 million guaranteed and comes on the heels of the Steelers signing Chris Boswell to a contract that pulled him even with Tucker in per year earnings.
Baltimore’s defensive unit is strong at all levels, but one thing it lacks is linebacker depth. That would be helped if the team could acquire a talented edge rusher, which makes it easy to connect the dots to Baltimore being the top potential landing spot for Chicago linebacker Roquan Smith, who requested a trade this week. If Smith were paired with Patrick Queen, Baltimore’s inside linebacker group would be among the league’s best. Baltimore added depth to the outside linebackers group, signing Trent Harris. He won’t be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year, but Harris adds veteran stability to a thin group behind Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh. Jackson and the offense received rave reports later in the week, but the defense had its way at times. On the back end, Marlon Humphrey returned to practice this week after a minor injury, which is a welcome sign for Baltimore. Humphrey is among the game’s best cornerbacks. Rookie Kyle Hamilton made his first interception in an early-week practice. If Hamilton plays to his first-round pedigree, he’ll add another dynamic playmaker to a defense with plenty of those already.
Devin Duvernay earned the role as a full-time return specialist for the Ravens midway through 2020 and did nothing to relinquish it in 2021 as he was named first-team All-Pro returner by the Associated Press. His role is safe heading into this season.
Updates from Week 1
Lamar Jackson is hoping for a more productive preseason than last year when he missed the beginning of camp with COVID. He’s already looking sharp, reportedly improving his outside-the-numbers and deep passing. Ryan Mink of baltimoreravens.com says that Jackson is handling his business. He’s also connecting with prospective number-one wide receiver Rashod Bateman. John Harbaugh already declared that Jackson will not play in Week 1 preseason game, but that’s standard for Baltimore. Jackson played only one series last preseason, and it came in the third preseason game. Tyler Huntley offers a solid backup to Jackson with valuable experience gained in the regular season last year when Jackson was hurt. Huntley went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers in a shootout last year, proving that Baltimore's offense won’t be completely hampered if Jackson misses time.
J.K. Dobbins is working hard to return to practice and even went after Ian Rapoport on Twitter when the NFL.com reporter said Dobbins was “no sure thing” for Week 1. He seems to be ahead of schedule, though. Harbaugh said he’d be re-evaluated on Monday for a potential return to practice. Gus Edwards is also rehabilitating a torn ACL suffered last preseason. He appears to be behind Dobbins after Harbaugh called him questionable for Week 1. Because those two aren’t practicing, Mike Davis was listed as the RB1 on the depth chart. That’s a fluid situation and can change when one or both injured backs return. Baltimore hopes all three will be healthy and successful this season in what will likely be another run-heavy attack. Justice Hill offers the team a speedy option who can excel in the passing game, but Baltimore throws to its backs as little as any team in the league, making Hill a depth and special teams player.
In the wake of the team trading away Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman is the only unquestioned starter and is showing chemistry with Jackson. Ryan Mink from baltimoreravens.com predicts that Baltimore will run more this season, capping Bateman’s ceiling. But he did project 85 catches, 1,100 yards, and 8 touchdowns for Bateman. There is a battle for the team’s WR2 spot. Devin Duvernay is listed as the starter on the team’s initial depth chart, but it will likely be a rotation. Bateman and Duvernay both missed Friday’s practice (with Duvernay missing multiple practices last week), but Harbaugh said both could have practiced Friday. The team’s battle among its young receivers likely helped with the decision to give its top receivers another day of rest. James Proche is the most likely player to push or overtake Duvernay. Proche benefited from Bateman and Duvernay missing practice, catching balls at all levels of the field and showing chemistry with Jackson. Proche is a strong-handed player who gets open well. His collegiate production shows a strong pedigree. He led the nation with 111 receptions in his final season at SMU and was fourth with 15 touchdowns. Tylan Wallace is the other player in the conversation, though he’s likely behind Duvernay and Proche. The rest of the group is showing promise in camp but aren’t likely to contribute significant statistics on a run-heavy offense with a tight end who is the favorite to lead the team in targets.
Mark Andrews will remain Jackson’s favorite weapon this season. Andrews made good on the contract extension he signed last September by delivering a career year, even without Jackson for a few games. Andrews had an injury scare in Saturday’s practice when he awkwardly slid and unearthed a large piece of the practice field grass. He should be fine. Harbaugh said after practice that he pulled Andrews out of precaution because it was the end of practice and Andrews had seen enough reps already. Behind Andrews, Baltimore invested a fourth-round pick in Isaiah Likely, who dominated red zone drills in Thursday’s practice and caught back-to-back red zone touchdowns in Friday’s padded practice. He played with Jackson and the first team in multiple practices. He’ll have a role at some point this season. And if Andrews misses time, it’s Likely who will fill the pass-catching gap. Nick Boyle is a blocking specialist who is still rehabbing from a 2021 injury.
Calais Campbell is the veteran presence on a defense looking to improve its pass rush this season. A significant part of that pass rush could be second-year player Odafe Oweh. Harbaugh called him “highly freakish” after a few plays he made in Friday’s practice. If Baltimore can add a better pass rush, its best group will look even better. The secondary – particularly the cornerbacks – are the strength of the defense. Marlon Humphrey is among the best in the league, and Marcus Peters is a solid contributor. A pair of fourth-round rookies, Pepe Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis, are looking to improve the group. If Wednesday’s practice is any indication, they’re on their way to doing just that. Both safeties for Baltimore are new players. At free safety, Baltimore signed Marcus Williams in free agency. His ball skills are the calling card that made him a coveted free agent. At strong safety, Baltimore drafted Kyle Hamilton in the first round. Hamilton is still learning the details required to make him an NFL contributor, but his incredible athleticism offers him an advantage over most players doing the same.