Search
Close this search box.

Paid Advertisement

Search
Close this search box.

Four Ravens questions at open of this week’s mandatory minicamp

Podcast Audio Vault

Last June, it was Odell Beckham Jr. making his practice debut in a Ravens uniform. 

Two years ago, Lamar Jackson was finally arriving in Owings Mills after skipping the entire voluntary spring program in the midst of long-term extension talks — or the lack thereof. 

This week’s mandatory minicamp lacks buzz with even free-agent prize Derrick Henry having already taken part in some OTAs and not being able to truly flash his game-changing ability in a non-contact setting. And while the offensive line currently dominates the list of roster questions, no one is waiting with bated breath over who’s lining up where in mid-June.  

The lack of major headlines isn’t a negative, mind you, as we’re still talking about a team with Super Bowl aspirations. If John Harbaugh’s squad accomplishes nothing other than navigating three days of injury-free team work, it will be a successful conclusion to the offseason program. 

With that in mind, below are four questions entering mandatory minicamp:

1. What does that offensive line look like? 

You can understand Baltimore wanting to get younger and more athletic after a veteran-laden offensive line labored down the stretch last year, but moving on from three starters is easier than successfully replacing them. That’s why it remains to be seen whether the decision to part with both right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Morgan Moses was a wise one. Left guard John Simpson’s performance probably didn’t warrant the two-year, $12 million deal he signed with the New York Jets, but replacing someone who started every game and played more than 99% of the total snaps also poses a challenge. 

8

This marks the third straight spring Ben Cleveland has been regarded as a favorite to start, so is the 2021 third-round pick ready to man right guard after failing to make a meaningful push for the left guard job the last two summers? If not, is 2023 sixth-round pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu ready to be a factor after not playing a single regular-season snap as a rookie? 

The Ravens bet on the potential of Andrew Vorhees by selecting him in the final round of the 2023 draft after he tore his ACL at the scouting combine, but that lost year of on-field development in practice is also a factor to consider before projecting him to start at left guard. 

Many regarded the second-round selection of Washington right tackle Roger Rosengarten as good value for general manager Eric DeCosta, but that’s not the same as the 62nd overall pick being ready to start Week 1. If Rosengarten needs more development time, is third-year offensive tackle Daniel Faalele the short-term answer after rotating with Moses down the stretch last year?

To their credit, the Ravens have developed quite a few starting-caliber offensive linemen selected at different points of the draft in recent years, but the successful mid-to-late-round picks typically needed a year or two to figure it out. That’s why we’re probably underselling the starting chances of veteran newcomer Josh Jones — who could be this year’s version of Simpson — and the ever-versatile Patrick Mekari, who’s started 36 games over five seasons. 

Minicamp won’t provide any answers, of course, but it will begin to offer clues on the offensive line pecking order and whether DeCosta will need to seek outside veteran help between now and the fall. 

2. Where are the key depth battles? 

Depth was a major strength of the 2023 Ravens, and the depth chart took some hits this offseason, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Not only did above-average starters Patrick Queen and Jadeveon Clowney find bigger paydays elsewhere, but Geno Stone, Ronald Darby, and Del’Shawn Philips were among the notable depth pieces to depart via free agency.  

8

After Stone parlayed his AFC-leading seven interceptions into a nice contract with Cincinnati, the Ravens must find a dependable No. 3 safety behind starters Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams to maximize Hamilton’s ability to move around the defense. It remains to be seen whether that individual is on the current roster with Ar’Darius Washington, 2023 practice-squad member Tre Swilling, and rookies Sanoussi Kane and Beau Brade all lacking experience. 

Baltimore was able to re-sign veteran Kyle Van Noy, but what about the very young outside linebacker rotation behind him and Odafe Oweh? How NFL-ready is rookie third-round pick Adisa Isaac? Will David Ojabo stay healthy enough to finally realize his potential? Is 2023 fourth-round pick Tavius Robinson ready for a bigger role after averaging just under 20 snaps a game as a rookie? Will a healthy Malik Hamm build on the promise he showed last summer before spending the season on injured reserve? 

Though 2023 third-round pick Trenton Simpson is the overwhelming favorite to replace Queen and start next to Roquan Smith, the No. 3 inside linebacker job always becomes more relevant when one of the projected starters is unproven. The top candidates for that primary backup job are the versatile Malik Harrison, veteran special-teams contributor Chris Board, and former undrafted rookie Josh Ross, who has just seven games of regular-season and postseason experience under his belt. 

There is no shortage of potential inventory on a 90-man roster, but finding trustworthy depth at these spots will be important. 

3. How is the defense acclimating to new coordinator Zach Orr?

Hamilton described the move from former defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to Orr as “a seamless transition” last month. 

Asked for his Orr impressions, new secondary coach Doug Mallory — who has more than 30 years of collegiate and NFL coaching experience — said he doesn’t know if he’s “ever been around a guy as young as him that is mature and has the type of knowledge that he has with the system.”

8

Starting cornerback Brandon Stephens says the former inside linebackers coach “brings that fire each and every day” and “demands a lot from us.” 

Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said the 32-year-old Orr is “like a savant.” 

Orr plans to call the defense from the sideline rather than the upstairs booth, and he’s acknowledged needing to be more subdued reacting to the on-field action with the need to be ready to call the next play. Given his rapport with Macdonald and his long history with the Ravens as a player and assistant coach, no one expects a dramatic shift in defensive philosophy. 

There’s only so much to glean from watching a new coordinator in a practice setting, of course, but plenty of work remains before the first real evaluation comes in Kansas City on Sept. 5. 

4. Who are the health concerns going into training camp? 

The Ravens appear to be dealing with only one long-term injury as second-year running back Keaton Mitchell continues to rehab a mid-December ACL tear that’s expected to keep him out well beyond the 2024 opener. In other words, whatever Mitchell might be able to offer as a change of pace to Henry later in the season would be a great bonus. 

While there’s no other known ailment beyond the foot and calf injuries that cost him all or part of 11 games last season, three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey mostly worked on a side field for the open OTAs he attended. It’s unclear whether his minicamp participation will be “full go,” according to Harbaugh. 

8

After undergoing season-ending surgery for a partially torn ACL last November, Ojabo has been limited in the spring and isn’t expected to take part in full-team drills until training camp, per Harbaugh. The 2022 second-round pick certainly needs to stack reps this summer. 

Others who were limited or sidelined with ailments during voluntary OTAs included Isaac, Brade, and seventh-round rookie center Nick Samac. Still working his way back from a broken fibula suffered last November, Samac has appeared quite limited working out on a side field during spring practices. 

There’s also the possibility of another injury or two coming to light this week with the entire roster expected to be present for minicamp. 

Share the Post:
8

Paid Advertisement

Latest News

Finding old friends and new memories at Max's Taphouse during Fleet Week

Even though it will always be "Max's On Broadway" to an old music critic, Ron Furman of the current and longtime Max's Taphouse tells Nestor about the magic of Broadway and Fell's Point during Fleet Week from Kooper's Tavern on…

Father's Day, golf and crab cakes

As our Maryland Crab Cake Tour returned to Koco's Pub and Lauraville during Pride Week, Marcella Knight joins Tom Pierce of Classic Five Golf, Ricig and Nestor to discuss Father's Day and crab cakes and golf for the family.

Getting in on the Fell's Point fun of Maryland Fleet Week and Baltimore Pride

When it's tough to park and the hotels are full and the Phillies and Orioles are sold out all weekend, life is good in the land of pleasant living. Bill Cole joins Nestor for Maryland Fleet Week and Baltimore Pride…
8
8
8

Paid Advertisement

Scroll to Top