Relying on Experience

Street Talk Relying on Experience

Posted in Street Talk
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The stakes are too high for the Ravens to take any chances this season.

Coach John Harbaugh has one of the most talented rosters in his 12 years with the team and there are clearly Super Bowl aspirations permeating out of Owings Mills. 

As a result, the Ravens didn’t keep any undrafted rookies on their initial 53-man roster. Even though some of them performed well, most notably quarterback Tyler Huntley, safety  Nigel Warrior, wide receiver Jaylon Moore and running back Ty’Son Williams, they were not able to play in a preseason game because of the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, 10 of those players made their way to the practice squad.

The Ravens did keep all 10 of their 2020 draft picks on the initial 53-man roster, but nine of those players came from Power 5 schools, so they know what it’s like to play in a pro game.  

“We did miss the preseason games – I would say. It would have been helpful to see other players on tape around the league, and it would have been helpful to evaluate our own guys,” Harbaugh said. “It was tough for these guys to really establish themselves without having some game-tape and game opportunities to play. So, hopefully in the future we’ll have – to some degree – preseason games.”

First-round pick Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, a third-round selection, could be in the starting lineup Sept. 13 against the Browns. However, veteran L.J. Fort will also get many reps. 

Otherwise, the defense will be full of veteran players, including newcomers Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. That revamped unit will face a tough test against Cleveland, which has numerous playmakers on offense. 

The Ravens will counter the Browns with a high-powered attack of their own led by reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. The entire backfield — Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill — is still on the roster from last season when the Ravens shattered the single-season rushing record with 3,296 yards. The Ravens will also give rookie second J.K. Dobbins to make plays behind Ingram.

[Related: Dobbins An Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate?]

Hollywood Brown is expected to be one of the breakout players in the league this season. The second-year wide receiver was dominant throughout training camp, routinely getting behind the secondary for long touchdowns. A pair of rookies, Devin Duvernay and James Proche, passed all of their tests in training camp with flying colors, and now the question is how much action will they have in the opener against Cleveland. Both of them will get some opportunity to make an impact.

There are questions with the offensive line. The Ravens are set at tackle with Ronnie Stanley on the left and Orlando Brown Jr. on the right. Bradley Bozeman is dominant at left guard. Center Matt Skura has moved around well during practice after suffering a knee injury last season. Second-year Patrick Mekari has shown he can handle the duties hiking the ball to Jackson.

There has been some talk rookie third-round pick Tyre Phillips won the starting job at right guard over the veteran D.J. Fluker. That would be a bold move by Harbaugh starting a first-year player to protect Jackson in the opener. 

The Ravens might be reluctant to take unnecessary chances with personnel, especially in the early part of the season. This year’s team faces lofty expectations of being Super-Bowl contenders. They’ll need everything to go their way to meet that goal. 

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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