We always go into the season excited for the possibilities to come. Much of that excitement is based on the construction of the roster and what happened in the previous offseason. The dreaming starts and ends with Plan A. After the 2021 season, Baltimore Ravens fans should know that things can go wrong. You need backup plans and your backup plans need contingencies as well.
How equipped are the Ravens outside of their optimal setup?
Tyler Huntley is a capable backup quarterback. Last season he showed us that he is a work in progress and that there’s a reason he’s a backup. Huntley also showed some moxie and led a game-winning drive against the Chicago Bears. In Lamar Jackson’s five-and-a-half-game absence, you saw the good, bad, and ugly from Huntley. For a young undrafted quarterback, that’s the best you could really hope for.
If Jackson misses a patch of games, Huntley gives the Ravens a chance to compete and potentially stay afloat. That’s all you can ask of a backup quarterback. If Jackson misses more than a few games, the Ravens are in a much more perilous situation. Jackson can put the team on his back and win games because he makes the difference. Huntley can steer the ship if the team rallies behind him.
The Ravens are relatively loaded at running back. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards figure to be back. The Ravens signed Mike Davis and drafted Tyler Badie. Badie has a chance to come out of nowhere as a sixth-round pick and win a spot in the rotation. If the Ravens stay healthy at this position they have a stable of backs to balance the workload. They just can’t afford to lose both Dobbins and Edwards again. As long as they have one of the two, things should work at the running back spot.
The wide receiver position is unproven so the receivers are relatively interchangeable. The exception to the rule is Rashod Bateman. He needs to stay healthy and have a big year as the number one target. Baltimore fans can choose the receivers they get excited about. Personally, I’m big on Devin Duvernay and Tylan Wallace. The take-home point is that the Ravens need Bateman to make things work for the wide receivers.
The tight end position is overstocked. Mark Andrews is irreplaceable because he’s a matchup nightmare and a certified superstar. Behind Andrews though, the Ravens have Nick Boyle, Isaiah Likely, and Charlie Kolar. If something were to happen to Andrews it would be horribly disappointing, but the Ravens could still have a productive tight end unit.
The Ravens would have to go by a tight-end-by-committee model. Likely would have to be the tight end to stretch the field. Boyle is the best blocker and is reliable underneath. Kolar’s style is kind of splitting the difference between Likely and Boyle. I’m assuming the Ravens won’t keep five tight ends. With that in mind, I have the Ravens going with the two rookies and Boyle over Josh Oliver. Like I said, right now they’re overstocked.
The offensive line always needs depth. The Ravens should be much better off in that regard this year but there is still much to question. What is Ja’Wuan James at this point of his career and after coming back from major injuries? Morgan Moses should be the starting right tackle, though it may be too early to assume that. What are the Ravens doing at left guard; is it Ben Cleveland, Ben Powers, or maybe going back to Tyre Phillips? There’s a lot that needs to be figured out before we even pencil in that all-important starting lineup.
The good news is that the Ravens have more cooks in the kitchen. Moses has some experience at left tackle. If Ronnie Stanley misses time, sliding him over to the left is the obvious answer. That would leave Baltimore with two choices at tackle, James or the already established Pat Mekari. They should have at least eight offensive linemen on their initial 53-man roster and this is the most tackle depth they’ve had in years. Trystan Colon makes a solid backup to Tyler Linderbaum at the center position and Mekari can theoretically play every position on the offensive line. There’s still a lot to learn here, but as long as Phillips isn’t put at offensive tackle anymore, I recommend not losing sleep over the offensive line.
The defensive line is where things get a little dicey, if we’re being honest. Travis Jones and Justin Madubuike may have youthful exuberance but they can’t play every down. Michael Pierce only played in eight games last year after opting out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19. You don’t know what to expect from him. Calais Campbell is getting older and this could be his last year in the league. The problem is that the Ravens need more than that and we’ve gone through just about every notable defensive lineman on the roster. This is a concern and bringing back Brent Urban may not have been enough.
One must assume that the Ravens are going to add another name at outside linebacker. Right now the Ravens need to hope that Tyus Bowser is ready to play and that he stays that way. Bowser and second-year player Odafe Oweh are the two key players. Daelin Hayes breaking onto the scene in his second year would make a big difference and David Ojabo could add a lot when he’s ready to play. The Ravens may not have enough pass rushers as it is. They need players to take the next step in their careers, and they need to stay healthy at this position.
At inside linebacker, the Ravens will have a big three of Patrick Queen, Josh Bynes and most likely Kristian Welch. Theoretically, Bowser can play inside linebacker, though he’s needed much more on the edge. This group isn’t too worrying but the quality of depth could be thin here.
If the Ravens keep Chuck Clark that equates to a cheat code in terms of safety depth, with three starting-caliber players at safety. There’s no getting around the fact that things hinge heavily on Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters remaining healthy. With these two players available, the Ravens should have enough firepower in the secondary.
If one of them gets hurt again it’s a much different situation. Kyle Fuller was a big addition though. Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, and Damarion Williams round out a cornerback group much deeper than the Ravens were at this time a year ago.
All in all, the Ravens are fairly well equipped. You can’t predict injuries. It’s still too early to be bullish on the offensive line yet the unit feels much more reassuring than it did in the last two years. The Ravens desperately need Lamar Jackson, Rashod Bateman, and their star cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey to stay healthy.
The roster could use more pass rushers, but the roster is more than acceptable going into the season. Baltimore needs good luck on the injury front, just like every team in the league does, and Eric DeCosta has built the team fairly responsibly. Most position groups have some promise beyond their top stars. John Harbaugh just proved how strong of a coach he is when injuries do indeed stack up. This roster isn’t a concern-free roster but there are reasons for confidence.
Baltimore has more pages in the “Plan B” folder than they did a year ago, should they need them.