We are just a few days out from the start of the Baltimore Ravens training camp for the 2016 season, and a common theme is uncertainty.
With key players such as Steve Smith Sr., Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Breshad Perriman starting camp on the PUP, the overwhelming question is when each of these starters will return to the field.
Combine the injuries with a team fresh off a 5-11 season and the Ravens enter the 2016 training camp session with plenty to prove in order to get back in the playoff hunt. This team has the talent to make a run at the playoffs this season.
But can they stay more healthy and consistent than last year in order to achieve that goal?
Maintaining consistency means plenty of players on the roster will need to step their game up in order to push this team over the top and back into the same conversation as the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
Earlier this month, Tony Lombardi looked at who needs to step up this season. Now, we look at which Ravens enter training camp with something to prove.
The 2015 free agent signing was disappointing in his first year with the team – bad enough to warrant a release. Fortunately for Lewis, the Ravens kept him around. The saving grace for him is the unproven talent behind him at safety. Unless Terrence Brooks or Matt Elam can step up, Lewis’ roster spot is safe and he could compete with Lardarius Webb for a starting role. If that’s the eventual scenario, Lewis will need to make some major improvements.
Essentially anything Pitta can provide to the offense is a bonus. One more season-ending injury and his career is likely over, so simply staying healthy and sturdy throughout camp is the one thing Pitta needs to prove.
Without the benefit of Terrell Suggs on the opposite side in 2015, Dumervil looked like a different player. He produced just six sacks, his lowest amount since 2008. Was last season a fluke or the start of a gradual dip in play for Dumervil?
With the addition of rookie Kenneth Dixon, Taliaferro must stand out in a big way on special teams. For a player who has struggled to stay healthy, that may be his only route to stay on the team.
He was still good in 2015, but Mosley did not take nearly the type of step forward that was expected after a stellar rookie season. He’ll need to build on the 2014 success and not become content, especially now as he takes over as the leader without Daryl Smith.
With a hobbled Steve Smith Sr. leading the group of wide receivers, Wallace needs to prove he can be consistent enough to be a legitimate starter opposite #89. Joe Flacco did not have a true deep threat last year, and the hope is Wallace can step into that role on day one of camp.
Like Mosley, Jernigan played well in year two, but he simply did not make the second-year leap forward that was expected after his rookie season. With Willie Henry and Bronson Kaufusi added to the front-three rotation, Jernigan needs to step things up in order to maintain his reps.
This is likely the former second-round pick’s final audition. He’ll have one last chance (probably) to salvage any justification of the value of the pick at which he was selected in 2013. There’s an open starting spot at inside linebacker, but Brown enters camp trying to catch up to Zachary Orr, who solidified a spot in the rotation on defense last season.
This very well may be Campanaro’s last opportunity in a Ravens uniform. Right now he appears to be on the outside looking in, especially if Keenan Reynolds makes progress before the end of camp. Simply staying healthy is Campanaro’s best bet in order to make the final roster.
The only thing Perriman needs to prove is that he can suit up for a training camp practice. How achievable that goal is remains to be seen, but simply getting out on the field and getting reps in is a start.