Five questions at start of Ravens OTAs

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The Ravens began voluntary organized team practice activity on Monday, kicking off the final phase of the offseason workout program.

Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of OTAs over the next three weeks before concluding the spring with a three-day mandatory minicamp, which is scheduled to begin on June 13. Live contact is prohibited, but teams may conduct 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills in these spring practices. 

Wednesday will mark the first one open to media. 

Below are five questions to open OTAs: 

1. Who will and won’t be in attendance and taking part? 

Yes, these workouts are voluntary and far from the be-all and end-all for a season, but the real focus is on Lamar Jackson, who skipped last year’s OTAs with his long-term status still up in the air. That’s no longer the case with Jackson recently receiving a $72.5 million signing bonus and $185 million guaranteed in a five-year, $260 million contract. With a new offensive coordinator and system, new wide receivers, and all the financial security one could imagine, Jackson should be there, and arguing otherwise borders on disrespectful to the rest of the organization. You can’t say you’re all in if you’re not all in, and the attendance standard is indeed higher for quarterbacks, which is why they are paid so much more than any other position and usually participate in OTAs across the league. After not being present on Monday, Jackson has arrived in Owings Mills, per The Athletic

Jackson isn’t the only veteran of interest as you always wonder which players could be making a business decision or signaling some disenchantment about their status. For what it’s worth, inside linebacker Patrick Queen and wide receiver Rashod Bateman — two players who were topics of conversation this offseason — were among the participating veterans spotted in a video released by the team after Monday’s workout. It’s any player’s right not to take part, of course, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore a symptom to a potential concern, which is where the Ravens were with Jackson last spring. 

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2. How are players returning from injured reserve doing? 

Unlike last year, the list of returning players coming back from serious injury isn’t as extensive with Bateman already practicing being a good sign. Nose tackle Michael Pierce was already taking part in earlier phases of the offseason program while wide receiver and return specialist Devin Duvernay confirmed he’s resumed running after undergoing season-ending foot surgery. 

Some curiosity lingers regarding players another year removed from major injuries such as running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards and outside linebacker David Ojabo, but there’s no reason to think these individuals have any restrictions at this point. 

3. What does Todd Monken’s Baltimore offense look like? 

No conclusions should be drawn in May or June and reporters are prohibited from reporting tactical information from these sessions anyway, but it will be fun to see the post-Greg Roman offense take shape, especially after the Ravens added wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, and Nelson Agholor to the mix. You’d expect more passing and a greater emphasis on lighter personnel formations in the wake of pumping such resources into the wide receiver position, but that doesn’t mean the running game will be abandoned under Monken, whose University of Georgia offenses sported dynamic ground attacks and featured the tight end position, which were trademarks of Roman. 

One thing that seemed evident even during “football school” sessions earlier this month was Monken being more vocal and taking more of a hands-on approach than Roman typically would during practices. 

4. What about a revamped Baltimore secondary?

Three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters remains unsigned and strong safety Chuck Clark is a New York Jet with free-agent newcomer Rock Ya-Sin and 2022 first-round pick Kyle Hamilton expected to take their starting positions respectively. However, Hamilton was the primary nickel over the second half of last season, so the question remains who will assume that role or be the fifth defensive back if Hamilton moves to that spot in sub packages. 

Regardless of whether that nickel spot is manned by a cornerback or safety, the Ravens at least have depth questions at outside corner, especially with the news that Brandon Stephens will focus more on playing the safety position. Baltimore has plenty of young cornerbacks on the roster, but time will tell whether they become trustworthy depth or merely inventory. 

5. Who’s really in the mix for the starting left guard spot? 

Again, nothing is decided in May and June, but seeing which individuals receive the first-team reps is notable. This feels like now or never for 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland after many thought he might unseat Ben Powers as the starting left guard last year. His biggest competition currently on the roster appears to be John Simpson, a 2020 fourth-round pick out of Clemson who started all 17 games for Las Vegas two years ago. 

Head coach John Harbaugh named swing tackle Patrick Mekari and developmental tackle Daniel Faalele as potential candidates earlier this offseason, so we’ll see how serious that talk was or whether general manager Eric DeCosta still aims to add another veteran to the competition. Baltimore recently signed Owings Mills native Sam Mustipher, but he seems more likely to back up starting center Tyler Linderbaum than to be a serious contender at left guard.  

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