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Ravens beat reporter Zrebiec breaks down the OTA roster

The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec has covered the Ravens beat for several years now. I like this guy’s take on the current Ravens roster. Since joining the Sunpapers as a college intern in 2000, he has covered high schools, colleges, the University of Maryland men’s basketball team, the Orioles and now the Ravens. Jeff grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Loyola Maryland in 2001.

Here’s his analysis on some of the more interesting position groups:

OFFENSE

Running back: Terrance WestDanny WoodheadKenneth Dixon, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Taquan Mizzell

Zrebiec: “While there’s been speculation this offseason about the Ravens’ interest in other backs, team officials have said repeatedly they are content with West as the lead guy. This is a big season for the former Towson University standout who is a free agent after the 2017 campaign. Woodhead slots in immediately behind West because Dixon is suspended for the first four games. Dixon’s ban could open a roster spot for Allen, Taliaferro or Mizzell, an undrafted rookie who had a productive career at Virginia.”

Wide receiver 1: Mike WallaceChris MooreChris Matthews, Vince Mayle,Kenny Bell, Tim Patrick, C.J. Board

Wide receiver 2: Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds,Quincy Adeboyejo, Tim White, Aaron Bailey
Zrebiec: “The Ravens have 13 wide receivers on their roster and eight of them have never caught a pass in an NFL regular-season game. The team is excited about the potential of Moore, a fourth-round pick last year who is line for a bigger role. As things stand, Moore and Michael Campanaro will battle for the No. 3 wide receiver role. At 6-5 and 228 pounds, Matthews brings size and physicality, which is lacking with this receiver group. However, he needs to stay healthy and play more consistently.

“Perriman answered some skeptics by playing all 16 games last season. Now, he has to show improvement with his hands and route running. Even if the Ravens bring in another receiver, they want the 2015 first-round draft pick on the field a lot. If Campanaro stays healthy, he’s the team’s best slot option. Reynolds has worked hard in his transition to an NFL receiver. We’ll know soon how much progress he’s made. Adeboyejo, a big target out of Mississippi, is one of five undrafted rookie receivers on the roster.”

Tight end:Dennis PittaBenjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick  Boyle,Darren Waller
Zrebiec: “This is probably the toughest position to sort out because it depends largely on the health of Watson, Gillmore and Williams, who are coming back from significant injuries that cost them most or all of 2016. It also will be affected by whether Boyle or Williams are used at fullback, and whether Waller returns to his roots and plays some wide receiver. Waller is the most explosive and physically gifted tight end the Ravens have, so it would be foolish to dismiss his chances. It seems unlikely the Ravens will find a spot for all six, but special teams and position flexibility will factor.”

Right tackle: De’Ondre WesleyJermaine Eluemunor, Stephane Nembot
Zrebiec: “After the free-agent departure of Rick Wagner, this is the spot with the most questions. Lewis could make them moot if the Ravens decide to move him to right tackle. Team officials believe Wesley, Eluemunor and Nembot have the physical skills to play the position, but they don’t have much playing experience. There is also a chance the Ravens find a starting tackle on the free-agent market, with the top current options being Ryan Clady, King Dunlap and Orlando Franklin.”

DEFENSE

Rush linebacker: Terrell SuggsZa’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Boseko Lokombo
Zrebiec: “Suggs played 66 percent of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in 2016, a number that could go down given his age (he turns 35 in October) and the team’s depth at outside linebacker. Still, he’s a defensive leader and stout against the run, so he’ll be on the field plenty. It will be interesting to see whether the coaching staff simplifies things for Williams, a rookie third-round draft pick, and allows him to just focus on getting to the quarterback. After a disappointing sophomore season, Smith will have to earn his snaps with a productive summer.”

Strong-side linebacker: Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser, Brennen Beyer,Randy Allen
Zrebiec: “The Ravens took Bowser in the second round because they believe he can step in immediately and start at strong-side linebacker. However, he’ll have to beat out Judon for the starting job. Judon had a promising rookie season with four sacks, and another offseason in the weight room and with the defensive playbook should help him take the next step. If both young linebackers falter, the Ravens could use Albert McClellan in this spot as well.”

Weak-side linebacker: Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley,Donald Payne
Zrebiec: “The sudden offseason retirement of 2016 leading tackler Zachary Orr left the Ravens with a huge void alongside Mosley. That team officials haven’t added another veteran – and there’s been no indication such a move is imminent – is a show of faith in Correa. A second-round pick last year, Correa played just 48 defensive snaps as a rookie. The Ravens will give him every chance to earn a starting job. Onwuasor, a good special teams player, and McClellan will be next up if Correa doesn’t seize it.”

Defensive end: Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi
Zrebiec: “Lawrence Guy started for parts of two seasons at the five-technique defensive end spot, but his departure in free agency provides an opening for several young players. This will be one of the most interesting position competitions in training camp. Urban might be first on the depth chart now, but that’s more a nod to his experience. Wormley, a rookie third-round pick, is said to be NFL-ready. Kaufusi, a third-rounder in 2016 who missed his entire rookie season with a broken ankle, could factor in as well.”

Cornerback 1: Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Maurice Canady, Sheldon Price,Robertson Daniel
Cornerback 2: Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Kyle Arrington, Carlos Davis,Jaylen Hill
Zrebiec: “For all the perceived improvements the Ravens made on the back end, Smith remains their top cover corner and the team needs him healthy. Smith has played more than 11 games in just two of his six NFL seasons. The team doesn’t want to have to rush Humphrey, its first-round pick this year, into a starting role. He’ll likely enter camp as the No. 4 corner, but he probably won’t stay in that spot for long. Canady can play both corner and safety, and should help immediately on special teams.

“Carr, a 10-year veteran, is expected to start at corner opposite Smith. He has started every game in his career and while he’s not considered a shutdown guy, his experience and durability should help a cornerback group that has lacked both in recent years. After starting 11 games in a solid rookie season, Young is expected to move to the slot, a better fit given his size. It isn’t yet clear whether Arrington, who missed all of last season because of a concussion, is healthy again and in the team’s plans.”

 

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