Ravens Camp Battles to Focus Upon

Ryan Jensen
Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

The process of breaking down the prospective 53-man roster for the 2014 Baltimore Ravens has already begun.

To continue the practice, let’s take a look at some of the key positional battles as training camp approaches, and which players have the advantage in each race.

Training camp promises to provide a slew of unpredictable competitions at almost every position.

Who will come out on top?

Third Receiver (Jacoby Jones vs Marlon Brown) – An underrated battle to keep an eye on. With the addition of veteran Steve Smith, the top two on Baltimore’s wide receiver depth chart is the former Carolina Panthers, as well as fellow Smith, Torrey.

In three-receiver sets, who else touches the field? As a rookie, Marlon Brown wildly exceeded expectations, catching 49 passes for seven touchdowns and emerging as a reliable red zone threat by season’s end.

His competition, veteran Jacoby Jones, entered last season with the reputation of a special teamer with raw and inconsistent receiving skills, but he looked much more aggressive and confident in his receiving game in 2013, and his rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco was obvious.

Both had fairly even roles in Baltimore’s pass attack last year, and either wouldn’t be too bad of a third option.

Advantage: Jones (a very close edge)

Right Tackle (Ricky Wagner vs Ryan Jensen vs the field) – A few weeks ago, Jensen wasn’t even considered an option, as he was a swing guard/center for the team last season. But now, Jensen has entered the race at right tackle, battling the current favorite, Ricky Wagner.

Based on merit after playing sparingly as a rookie, Wagner has the edge over Jensen, who can’t be properly evaluated until he finally takes a preseason or regular season snap with the team, neither of which he accomplished last season.

Odds are – whether the addition is a viable starting option or just insurance – the Ravens will also add a veteran tackle before or during training camp.

Advantage: Wagner

Free Safety (Terrence Brooks vs Darian Stewart) – Normally a third round selection would face an uphill battle to win a starting job against an experienced veteran. But in this case, pure talent should prevail.

Stewart does provide value to the team as a diverse safety, but Brooks is the reliable, athletic coverage option the Ravens desperately needed after a full season of Matt Elam and James Ihedigbo on the back end.

Advantage: Brooks

Nose Tackle (Brandon Williams vs Timmy Jernigan) – Baltimore’s front seven depth is abundant and nose tackle is far from an exception. After using a third round pick on small school defender Williams in 2013, the Ravens went back to the middle of the trenches to snag Jernigan in the second round this year.

Jernigan may not be a true zero/one technique nose tackle, but that’s where he’ll play most, and with improved consistency, could be a force for Baltimore. But as of now, Williams is the more developed player, whose playing time was criminally low last season (93 snaps) as his rare combination of strength and athleticism makes him the complete package at the position.

That wasn’t more apparent than when the Ravens played the Steelers in Pittsburgh last season, and Williams’ uncontested strength was on display. Expect a much bigger role for Williams, someone worthy of a promotion.

Advantage: Williams 

Nickel Cornerback (Chykie Brown vs Asa Jackson) – Is “neither” an option? No? Well, I guess one has to have the advantage then. Ideally, the Ravens would benefit from a veteran addition at cornerback to spice up the competition behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

But for the time being, the battle for the third/nickel corner role will be a race between two inexperienced defenders in Brown and Jackson.

The younger player, Jackson, has been known more for his multiple suspensions than on-field play through two seasons, as he has yet to record a defensive snap.

Brown, meanwhile, had a minimal role in 2013, but was a mainstay in Baltimore’s secondary during the playoff run leading up to the Super Bowl in 2012. He took on a large role in all three pre-Super Bowl games, and while he never stood out per se, he held his own against Denver’s pass attack, the toughest assignment he’s faced in his young NFL career.

The sample size is larger for Brown, so if the battle indeed comes down to these two contenders, it’s easier to buy into Brown with less of the unknown factor that Jackson brings.

Advantage: Brown

Backup Quarterback (Keith Wenning vs Tyrod Taylor) – For a detailed breakdown of why Wenning should ultimately win the job, check here. Long story short, Taylor has had three years to prove himself as a viable backup and hasn’t. Worrying about the backup quarterback position is far from a priority for Baltimore’s coaching staff, but the intrigue of starting the process of immersing Wenning in the offense will prevail by the beginning of the season, and he’ll be the backup for Week 1.

Advantage: Wenning

Keep an eye on the battle for the punter job between Sam Koch and undrafted rookie Richie Leone. No prediction on who wins that battle as of now, though, as dissecting the punter situation hasn’t been high on the list of priorities to address…yet.

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About Kyle Casey

Kyle Casey
Kyle's love of pro and college football stems from his passion for the Baltimore Ravens. He has held season tickets in section 542 of M&T Bank Stadium since 2004. He is currently a sophomore Mass Communications student at Towson University....more

9 Raves on “Ravens Camp Battles to Focus Upon

  1. r mattioli on said:

    I`m not a crazed brown guy….imo,he played last year because there was no one else….the td stat was impressive(and the red zone should be his niche),but,you could have put any number of mediocre wideouts from around the league out there,give them the snaps and they would have garnered 40 something receptions by default….he`s not quick/fast and doesn`t get very good separation(which along with poor o line performance was a major reason for flacco`s sacks and poor performance last year…flacco didn`t just fall off the end of the earth…he had no help aside from torrey smit who I`m sure drew most of the defensive attention)….

    if you`re convinced that jones and brown are the number 3`s(and it looks barring a great camp from campanaro,they win again by default) then just use them both situationally …who says you have to have one guy wilt on the bench if it`s determined that both are situationally capable?…

  2. Joshua on said:

    Kyle:

    Great analysis, but I think Jernigan will play more end than straight nose. His quickness may be better suited for end.

  3. Rxdoxx on said:

    Jones/Brown will probably be situational

    Jones between the 40s where speed must be defended with spacing, he stretches the D

    Brown at 6’4″ (vs 6’2″) from the 30s in where height can be more critical

    at least that is my guess so far

  4. Brian Tray on said:

    Just a few things…..
    I bet you have overlooked John Hurst as a guy that might end up being our right tackle this season. The way he neutralized Clowney shows he has the ability to play at this level.
    Jernigan will probably be in a rotation with Ngata and Williams but you can be sure he’ll see plenty of action. Keeping the defense fresh for the 4th quarter is a luxury we should exploit since we have the quality depth to do it.
    There must have been compelling reasons to keep Asa Jackson on the team last year through all his baloney. My guess and what I’ve heard is that he is a superior athlete that has huge potential. That would make sense and explain the Ravens not getting a veteran to replace Graham. Chykie Brown had Ed Reed’s endorsement 2 years ago and has Ozzie’s now. Plus he has looked good in the past as a playmaker. IMO whoever lines up with Smith and Webb is going to look pretty good as these 2 will carry the lion’s share of responsibility in the secondary. Both are pretty close to shutdown corners.
    I think both Brown and Jackson see considerable playing time.
    The biggest variable for the defense is free safety. I hope Brooks can handle it as it makes me wince to think a Rams castoff (Stewart) will be back there.

  5. Nick on said:

    I’ve heard so many people debating about Terrence Brooks and Darian Stewart. Brooks was taking snaps with the third team defense at one point in time during the last two weeks. The learning curve for the NFL is monstrous. Just look out for Darian Stewart is all.

  6. JustaslowZ06 on said:

    Jernigan is more suited for end and will be splitting time with KLM and Canty by my guess.
    Brooks vs Stewart is a no contest IMO. Let the kid get out there and take his lumps and learn. He’s far superior to Stewart.
    I’m betting our 3rdcorner isn’t on the team yet. Flowers anyone? Anyone? Lol
    Wenning vs Taylor isn’t even a contest. Taylor isn’t a NFL QB. He’s proved that. Time to move on.

  7. Scott on said:

    Considering Marlon Brown was recovering fron an ACL last season, he was fantastic. He should be faster, better at his route running and more confident this year. I agree with Rxdoxx that Brown will share snaps with Jacoby situationally. My sleepers in training camp this year are Jeremy Butler and Avery Patterson.

  8. Cheri on said:

    Here is my take.
    3rd WR I think will depend on what play calling Kubes decide to run on a certain play at a certain period time of the game.I think ultimatly Brown and Jones will see about equal time as 3rd WR option.
    RT AND Corner I am still hoping for a vet to be added to the mix.
    F/S I am hoping Brooks can win the job as Stewart dose not impress me.Was hoping for a better vet option then him.
    QB Maybe Wenning comes down with some mystery injury for this year goes on IR and then Taylor is the backup for one last year. Though I still think you could see Keenun or Yates from Houston landing here if and when one of them are cut from Houston.
    D/L call is tough. As I said here several times none of these guys are Ngta in his prime. Are they as good as the Rams front line with their 4 first round picks of Brockers, Donald, Long and Quinn very doubtful but a solid group.

  9. Anonymous on said:

    You honestly think the 6’2 300 pound Jernigan will see most of his snaps at NT and not DT or DE? That’s ridiculous.

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