The months of June, July, and August have long been used for speculative purposes when it comes to the NFL. We writers sit around, twiddling our thumbs and do our best to put out quality content without seeming redundant or pointless. Since OTAs ended last week, fans have been clamoring for any scrap of news. I don’t have anything new, but here are some things to watch for when training camp rolls around.
Ravens Front Office Personnel
With Jets new GM Joe Douglas convincing Chad Alexander to join him in Florham Park, the Ravens will need to hire someone of substance to fill that vacancy.
Whether they look outside of the organization or hire from within is yet to be seen, but the Ravens MO has always been “next man up.” Look for someone to get promoted.
The Statuses of Earl Thomas and Hollywood Brown
The arrival of Earl Thomas caught a lot of fans and media alike off guard. Thomas has spent most of the last 24 months healing and rehabilitating, but there’s no denying his on-field impact. In the first four weeks of the 2018 NFL season, Thomas was one of the highest rated safeties according to Pro Football Focus, and if he can regain even 75% of his previous status, it’s an instant athletic upgrade to the free safety position.
As for Brown, his Lisfranc injury has kept him sidelined since the end of the college football season, and the Ravens haven’t had the chance to even see him run since December 1st, 2018 against the Texas Longhorns. Many fans are worried about his ability to impact a game, not due to his own skill but instead due to the skill (or lack thereof) of quarterback Lamar Jackson. If Brown wants to succeed, the key is forming chemistry with the man under center. If Hollywood is anything like his cousin (Antonio), he will make the Baltimore Ravens much more fun to watch in 2019. But fans should temper expectations, and not be quick to label him a “bust” if he doesn’t start fast. Rookies rarely do in the NFL. Throw in that he has spent the entire spring and summer rehabbing, and he is well behind the curve. Have patience.
Lamar Jackson’s Throwing
If there is a dead horse that’s been beaten so far this offseason, it’s Jackson working on his accuracy. The scrutiny of which he’s been placed under is incredible. He has been painted as “not a real quarterback” by detractors who fail to realize he was second only to Baker Mayfield last season in terms of completion percentage by rookie quarterbacks.
Credit Jackson, who did and is doing his fair share of work and more. He is also shouldering the blame for plenty of the team’s shortcomings. After only eight weeks with the starters, Jackson started to look more comfortable on the field, and after an offseason as the starter, he should be even better. Even if you don’t like Jackson, give him credit for his work ethic, and get used to him being here, because unless there’s a serious injury or meltdown, he’ll be here for at least four more years.
The Missing Links: Offensive Line
The revolving door of linemen that have taken snaps at guard and center for the Ravens is worrisome. After watching Ryan Jensen, a very good run blocker, walk in the 2018 offseason, it was up to Matt Skura to take the job. Now, the line is nowhere near done being assembled. Some veterans will undoubtedly be cut by other organizations. As for left guard, I’m confident that fourth-round pick and former first-team All-American Ben Powers will usurp the starting job from the oft-injured Alex Lewis. Who will line up between Powers and Marshal Yanda though? That’ll be a real battle to watch.
Michael Pierce’s Weight
Some guys feel like the world is weighing on them, and I guess Pierce took that saying literally. He comes into a contract year significantly over playing weight, and boy was Harbs mad. If he can kick ass over the next five weeks with the training staff, he will be able to continue his excellent production from last year and can maintain his status of elite defensive tackle, thereby setting himself up for a nice payday.
If he can’t, well…that’s quite a large hole to fill on the DL.
What about you? What storylines are you excited to see develop once camp begins? Let me know below.