The first week of training camp is in the books… sorta. It’s been five straight practices and today is a day off, so we’re calling that a week.
Deal with it.
Regardless, the first week of camp has been very telling and eye-opening regarding specific players and what we can expect as we inch closer and closer to the regular season for the Ravens.
So what did we learn so far?
Boykin Is Going To Be Special
Sure this is early hype and we’ve seen camp warriors before… but not like this. The guys we’ve considered camp warriors were really just the wideouts playing the 4th quarter of a preseason game against other practice squad hopefuls, giving the appearance that they shine brighter than they truly do. Miles Boykin isn’t that.
Given that the Ravens have felt it necessary to start Boykin rotating in with the first team offense since day one of training camp speaks volumes in itself, but pulling down catch after catch against the likes of Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey? A unit widely considered one of the best in the NFL?
That’s both impressive and reason for Ravens fans to be downright giddy about the future of the former Notre Dame standout.
Powers Is Going To Fight for the LG Spot
Thanks to a failed Orlando Brown Jr. conditioning test, the Ravens were forced to slide James Hurst over to RT, inserting Powers into the LG spot with the first unit. While OBJr managed to pass the conditioning test on Day 2, head coach John Harbaugh relegated the second-year tackle to second-unit duties, where he’s remained for the entirety of camp thus far.
While it’s expected that Brown Jr. will move back to the first unit – possibly as early as tomorrow – the question becomes whether or not the coaches have seen enough from Powers to keep him at LG with the first team, or if they’ll move Hurst back inside and drop Powers back to the second team?
From everything I’ve seen in the past week, Powers isn’t going to go down without a fight. The rookie has shown poise (fits right in with the vets), power (pancaking defensive lineman), and persistence (always looking for a body to punish). Hurst may very well start at LG come Week 1 – but we could be seeing a situation similar to Brown Jr.’s in 2018, where Powers eventually starts, exceeding the ability of his predecessor, once Harbs stops being a hard head (Harbs head?) and plays the rookie.
Shane Ray Isn’t Awful
I’ve been watching Ray with a close eye, as the Ravens have been looking for somebody to step up and contribute a pass rush alongside Matt Judon. While former-Raven/current-Raven Pernell McPhee has been getting the first-team reps opposite Judon, and Tim Williams spent yesterday in McPhee’s slot while he sat out, Shane Ray is quietly showing he’s worthy of a roster spot.
When the second unit is on the field, we’re seeing Ray consistently working the left tackle and getting into the backfield. No, he’s not looking like a stud player or that he necessarily deserves to be a starter at this point, but Ray has been showing he can provide the Ravens with solid depth and I won’t be surprised to see him make the team and contribute 5-7 sacks this season.
The RB Room Is Shaking Out
Prior to camp, I found myself constantly going against the grain and insisting that Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram split carries closer to 50-50, with Justice Hill contributing a few touches a game, at best. While the latter appears to be the case (we’ll get to that), the distribution of snaps between Ingram and Gus thus far in camp are proving to be a wider gap than I realized.
Ingram is consistently working with the first team for the majority of the snaps, while Edwards is closer to 50-50 between first- and second-team snaps. That to me screams more lead-back role for Ingram as opposed to a true committee approach.
Hill, meanwhile, has shown immense burst and caught a few balls… but his pass pro is lacking. Multiple instances of Hill getting caught flat-footed with a linebacker bearing down can be enough to push him further down the depth chart to start the year. This isn’t to say he won’t learn over time – simply an observation thus far that indicates a lower snap count on offense. Perhaps usage on Special Teams will be his primary role to start the year? Could we see Hill returning punts to maximize that speed and burst?
My current projection of split carries is 60-35-5 for Ingram, Edwards and Hill, respectively.
The UDFA Train Rolls On
Peanut Onwuasor has all of the makings of another Ravens UDFA success story. Not only did he find a way onto the Ravens roster in 2016, but he’s worked his way up the ranks to a position where 2019 he’s being looked at as the next great leader of the storied Ravens defense.
But that’s not where the UDFA train ends for Baltimore.
Much to the surprise of many fans, second-year LB Kenny Young is not starting alongside Peanut, as another UDFA, Chris Board, has nabbed the first team reps through the first week of camp. Board looks like he’s spent his offseason truly preparing himself both physically and mentally and has really taken the starting role seriously as he looks to be the next big UDFA success story for Baltimore.
But again, that’s not where the UDFA train ends for Baltimore…
Indeed, the Ravens again are looking at a pair of undrafted free agents from the 2019 rookie class that stand a solid chance to make the roster and work their way to the levels of success we’ve seen in Peanut and Board. DL Gerald Willis was a much-hyped prospect that failed to hear his name called in the 2019 Draft and found his way onto the Ravens roster. Through a week of camp, Willis has been bullying offensive lines, and showed off a killer spin move in practice on Tuesday that resulted in a clear path to the QB.
WR Antoine Wesley is another UDFA prospect, and has a viable shot at the final roster spot in the WR corps. Wesley won’t wow you with size or speed, but his hands are phenomenal and he’s been making some fantastic catches in camp. Come to think of it, I believe he’s the only wideout without a drop in camp throughout the first week… a trait that Ravens fans will agree is a huge deal for this unit.
Willis and Wesley could both be following Peanut and Board as the next great Ravens UDFA prospects.