Ravens: Pre Training Camp Q&A
BSL Ravens analysts Mike Randall and Gabe Ferguson discuss some of the topics surrounding the Ravens offseason heading into Training Camp and what to expect in the upcoming season.
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Which under the radar player do you think can make some big strides in camp and perhaps play a key role in the upcoming season?
Mike Randall: I’m going down the depth chart a little and going to say Tyus Bowser. I liked what I saw from him in college and he had explosive tendencies at the combine drills which historically translates to NFL success. Matt Judon for example was one of those guys and he is picking up sacks at a decent rate for a young player. It’s a fight for playing time for Bowser. But I think when he is on the field he can make quite the impact this season.
Gabe Ferguson: My initial thought was Willie Henry, but I think he has gotten enough attention that he is no longer really under the radar. However, it is interesting that he has seemingly leapfrogged Michael Pierce into the starting DT position. I think we can expect big things for him. So back to under the radar – I am going to the opposite end of the spectrum to say Jordan Lasley. Generally rookie WRs don’t have huge impacts especially when it looks like they could be 5th on the depth chart. That said, Lasley profiles as the playmaking WR the Ravens really need. He put up some really eye-popping numbers working with Josh Rosen at UCLA. If he is given an opportunity I think he could impress.
With training camp comes preseason games. If you were Coach Harbaugh, how much playing time are you devoting to Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson? Also how much time do you allocate to Robert Griffin III and Josh Woodrum?
Game one: Flacco one drive. Jackson through quarter three. Griffin and Woodrum split the fourth quarter.
Game two: Flacco one quarter. Jackson three quarters.
Game three: Flacco one quarter. Jackson three quarters.
Game four: RG3 three quarters. Woodrum one quarter.
Basically, It’s not Flacco’s first rodeo. He doesn’t need the majority of game three at this point. I’d want Jackson to get decent playing time against defenses whose starters may still be in games. RG3 and Woodrum are not serious contenders. Woodrum you hope clears to the practice squad. I’m not buying into this stuff about RG3 being a mentor to Jackson. Guy had one good season and didn’t know how to slide to defend himself. If you think Jackson is the future, do you want RG3 grooming him? Maybe RG3 does something special in the preseason and he can be traded to a team that loses a QB to injury and you can get a pick out of it. But if you’re mindset is that the best 53 players make the team, I’d be hard pressed to think RG3 is one of them, considering the depth at other positions.
GF: Mike already laid it out in a pretty similar way to what I would want to see. I think Flacco gets the usual veteran treatment, but maybe a little less than normal because the coaches want to see what Jackson can do in a real game against actual competition. Griffin and Woodrum should barely see the field except against 3rd stringers. I’d probably split their time in game 4.
Besides Lamar Jackson, which rookie are you most excited to keep an eye on through camp?
MR: Orlando Brown, or as I call him, Zeus Jr. If he can be a staple at right tackle it makes the offensive line so much better. Hurst is a better guard, a handful of guys will compete at center including Alex Lewis. Marshal Yanda is the best in the league at whatever position on the line he lines up at. So I’ll be looking for Brown to solidify that spot and on paper, making this a really good O-line.
GF: I already mentioned Lasley. I think he has a chance to shine. I think the other interesting position is TE with two rookies whom the Ravens are seemingly quite high on. Hayden Hurst may be in line for 80-100 targets this season, but if Mark Andrews displays the type of pass-catching prowess he showed in college, he may quickly force the Ravens to give him a significant role as well.
What are your expectations from the offense this season? Keeping in mind three new WRs, two hungry rookie TEs, Kenneth Dixon returns and Alex Collins battling him to keep his starting job. Lamar Jackson being a possible X-factor.
MR: I’m certainly expecting for once under Marty Mornhinweg’s tenure not to be the least efficient unit in the league at any point in the year. I think the drafting of Lamar Jackson could push Joe Flacco a little more and it adds an element that the Ravens can use to deceive opponents at times. I like the makeup of the O-line which is always key. Collins and Dixon could be a nice two headed backfield where Dixon is more explosive maybe in pass catching and in the open field. I’m not crazy about the WR group, but they are all proven NFL receivers and not unproven guys like Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore. The tight end group I don’t expect too much from because the learning curve is longer for guys at that position. However Hayden Hurst is already 25 years old, so maybe he’s ahead of the curve. All in all, I expect them to be a middle of the road unit in all phases. Yards, efficiency, scoring, somewhere in the 14th to 18th rank range in those three categories. Another OC calling the shots, maybe I think higher of this group. But the inefficiency under Mornhinweg has me thinking average is their ceiling.
GF: I expect to see a similar offense to what we saw in the 2nd half of the 2017 season, which actually was pretty good once Collins was established and Flacco was healthier. Greg Roman is a masterful designer of the run game and with Dixon and Collins I expect to see a very efficient ground attack. If the skill position players can stay healthy I think it can be at least a league average unit with potential to be better. The one caveat I will mention is the offensive line is still a question mark. Last season it came together quite well, but there has been a lot of personnel turnover. The return of Marshal Yanda can not be understated, but left tackle and right guard may be the only positions set in stone at this moment. It will be interesting to see how the OL shakes out throughout training camp.
How about expectations on defense? Jimmy Smith and second year star, Marlon Humphrey are the top CB duo in the league. Terrell Suggs keeps defying father time. Don Martindale replacing Dean Pees as the coordinator of the unit.
MR: My expectations are much higher for the defense. They have hit on some good draft picks in the last couple years including Marlon Humphrey. They have veteran leadership on all three levels of the defense. Brandon Williams will go back to nose tackle where he excels most. Even with Terrell Suggs aging, Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser can pick up the slack, and Matt Judon could take the next step forward and might have a really good year. Dare I say a sleeper candidate for the Pro Bowl. I think they can rank in the top-10 in yards allowed, scoring, efficiency. I’d say top-5, but the schedule is not an easy one and all the NFC south teams they face this year are capable of putting up points in bunches. The biggest knock on Dean Pees was not being able to close out games. If Martindale keeps the pedal to the metal until the final gun, this unit will help them win a lot more close games and that might be the difference in making the playoffs or yet another January on the golf course.
GF: I don’t know about Smith and Humphrey being the top CB duo in the league, but they are certainly one of the best based off how they played last year. The secondary in general is very deep and talented. I think the DL also has a chance to be quite good this year. The biggest question marks on the defense are at LB, both ILB and OLB. C.J. Mosley is pretty much a known quantity at this point. He’s a reliable player, but he has his issues in coverage and last year took a step back against the run as well. There is also the question of who will start next to him. I assume Patrick Onwuasor will get the nod, but he is not a standout performer either. It’s a position to keep an eye on. At OLB Terrell Suggs has to slow down at some point. He had a fantastic season in 2017 but can he keep it up? Judon had something of a break-out season, but he needs to be more consistent in all aspects. What will we get from Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser? Neither impressed as rookies, will one or both be given a bigger role in the defense in their second year in the NFL? However, I think the biggest question about the defense will be what kind of impact will new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale have. There is a lot of veteran talent on the defense, but how it comes together in a new scheme may be a major plot-line throughout the season.