With Ravens training camp beginning, we finally have a chance to enjoy Baltimore sports without forcing ourselves to sit through the horror that is Orioles baseball. But before catching purple fever, it’s important to know some of the storylines to follow this summer. Here are the five biggest “things to watch” in Ravens training camp:
- Lamar Jackson – This was a fairly obvious choice. The Ravens made waves when they drafted the dual-threat quarterback, and everyone is excited to see what he brings to the table. While Jackson won’t push Flacco for the starting spot Week 1, many believe he will be a useful gadget for the Ravens offense. He is the top playmaker on the team, and he will see the field from the get-go.
- Wide Receiver Group – The Ravens made a point of improving their passing game this offseason, signing Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead in free agency, and doubling down by drafting Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley in April. However, there are some other intriguing names on the roster, including Chris Moore, last year’s preseason star Tim White, and of course, former first-round pick Breshad Perriman. Will Perriman make the roster? Will both rookies avoid landing on the practice squad? How does Chris Moore look after a promising second-half of the 2017 season? There are plenty of questions still to be answered.
- Pass-Rush – I believe that the area where Wink Martindale’s promotion will be most evident will be in his blitzing packages. The Ravens defense will be more aggressive this season, and I am extremely curious to see the team’s ability to get after quarterbacks in the preseason. In addition, we will see the progress made by second-year linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser – both of which must be impact players this season.
- Offensive Line – The Ravens are returning a number of healthy starting linemen, including Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Nico Siragusa. But, considering the plethora of injuries last season, the line held up well. To that point, the Week 1 arrangement will be interesting to see, and it will likely be determined based on the performances of certain players over the next two months. For example, will T Orlando Brown look like the lineman projected as a first-round pick or the slow, unathletic player who embarrassed at the Scouting Combine? And, if it’s the first result, will Brown do enough to push recently resigned lineman James Hurst for the starting job? Either way, changes will be made to an O-line that looks fairly strong.
- Running Back – Personally, I have my concerns about this group. While Alex Collins burst onto the scene last year, his season reminds me a lot of Justin Forsett’s 2014 season, which was followed by a subpar showing in 2015. I fear the same may happen with Collins. However, I can think of a few reasons to be optimistic about the group, as well. First, Collins and Buck Allen – who also impressed – ran behind an O-line that was riddled with injuries and should open up more holes for them this year. Second, the Ravens invested significant capital in improving the passing game, which may result in a more balanced attack, taking pressure off of the running back core. Finally, the Ravens return Kenneth Dixon from injury and suspension in 2018. Dixon showed promise in his rookie season, and while he cannot be fully trusted to stay on the field, he could be an explosive change of pace to add to what could become a nice three-headed monster at RB.
The Ravens will be an intriguing team to follow in 2018, with a number of storylines to pay attention to. If things go well, they may find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Here’s to their successes being more frequent than the Orioles’.