With the Ravens counting down the final days before the start of training camp and their 28th season in Baltimore, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Rookies reported to Owings Mills on Tuesday with veterans arriving July 25, the day before the first full-squad practice of the summer. With the way the NFL dominates the sports discourse throughout the year, the transition from offseason speculation to in-season substance is welcome.
2. The absence of long-term contracts for running backs on the franchise tag couldn’t have made J.K. Dobbins feel any better, especially when he’s less established than Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs. There’s just no simple solution when the position’s prime years fall during college and the rookie contract.
3. The best bet for Dobbins — or any young running back — on the open market is to expand his pass-catching ability out of the backfield, which isn’t something he had many opportunities to do under Greg Roman. He’s made just 25 receptions in 23 career regular-season games.
4. In an alternate timeline, Monday’s franchise tag deadline could have been an extremely anxious day for both the organization and Lamar Jackson. Can you imagine having to endure another full season of long-term contract drama? That wasn’t fun for anyone involved.
5. We can finally put any lingering DeAndre Hopkins free-agent speculation to rest, but comparisons between him and Odell Beckham Jr. will be inevitable, especially considering the perception that Baltimore overpaid for the latter. Rashod Bateman finally staying healthy still feels like the more critical piece for this offense.
6. In 2021, Justin Houston signed days into camp. He came to terms on July 7 last year. The 34-year-old isn’t in any rush, but the Ravens probably prefer having him around for the bulk of summer to continue mentoring Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo. That’s assuming Houston wants to return.
7. Mike Macdonald has several options to man the nickel spot, but I have a hard time believing Eric DeCosta won’t add an experienced outside cornerback behind projected starters Marlon Humphrey and Rock Ya-Sin. In addition to Marcus Peters, ex-Ravens Anthony Averett and Kyle Fuller remain free agents.
8. At this time last year, we were still discussing several key Ravens returning from major injuries and how that could impact their 2022 production. A few players will be monitored early on, of course, but you couldn’t ask for a much better picture of health entering training camp.
9. There don’t appear to be many spots up for grabs, so I’m not sure there’s a single rookie free agent you’d consider having a particularly solid chance of cracking the 53-man roster. But given long-term depth considerations, running back Keaton Mitchell and edge rusher Malik Hamm are two worth monitoring.
10. Many have pointed to a higher ceiling for the Ravens offense under Todd Monken, but let’s also acknowledge the high floor it enjoyed under Roman because of his superb run-game schemes. My expectations remain high, but there could be greater variance at work with so many new moving parts.
11. This is the time of year for projections and bold predictions, but it all begins with Jackson staying on the field all season. The Ravens can’t expect to do anything special if their franchise quarterback is missing roughly a third of his team’s snaps again, especially in December and January.
12. Yes, the Ravens have the talent for a deep playoff run and more, but that’s been true for several years with Humphrey acknowledging last month that it’s time to prove it. As a certain legendary Baltimore quarterback used to say, “Talk is cheap. Let’s go play.” It’s about that time.