Ravens News 7/20: Least Penalized and more

Ranking the Ravens’ position groups, from weakest to strongest: Lamar Jackson, linebackers lead way for 2023

Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun

Defensive line

Calais Campbell was a vocal leader and the Ravens’ best interior rusher, tallying 5 1/2 sacks last season, but he signed with the Atlanta Falcons in March.

The good news is Justin Madubuike, who has been inconsistent much of his first three years in Baltimore, also had 5 1/2 sacks in a breakout season. He and the rising Broderick Washington are in the final years of their rookie contracts, which means they’ll need to be productive to get the money they want. Michael Pierce has also looked good in the offseason and likewise can clog the middle and occasionally get after the quarterback.

Still, there are some questions about the pass-rush ability and depth of this group, which is rounded out by 2022 second-round pick Travis Jones and veterans Brent Urban and Angelo Blackson. Again, don’t be surprised if the Ravens look to add a defensive end or edge rusher before the season starts.

Offensive line

The Ravens return four starters on the offensive line, with Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley finally healthy and anchoring a cohesive, tough and talented bunch.

Last season, the line committed just 24 penalties during the regular season, fewest in the NFL. Rookie center Tyler Linderbuam didn’t miss a snap, while veteran Morgan Moses was again one of the best if not most underappreciated tackles in the game. Patrick Mekari and Daniel Faalele, meanwhile, have proved versatile enough to play multiple positions.

If there is a question mark, it’s at left guard. The job is up for grabs after Ben Powers left for the Denver Broncos in free agency, but rookie sixth-round draft pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu got reps there during the Ravens’ minicamp and impressed. This will again be one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

Training Camp Competition: Cornerback

Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com

Best Battle

The competitions for the No. 3 and No. 4 corner spots are wide open, at a position where depth is crucial. Second-year players Williams and Armour-Davis have shown promise but need to stay healthy. Mullen, Worley and Blu Kelly will also have an opportunity to push for playing time. Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald has interchangeable parts in the secondary and has multiple candidates who can play the slot, including safeties Kyle Hamilton and Ar’Darius Washington. However, a cornerback who enjoys a strong training camp and preseason could win a regular role in the rotation, particularly in passing situations.

Under the Radar

Williams is a talented player who has the skillset to play slot corner, but he did not see action during mandatory minicamp because he was dealing with an undisclosed injury. The fourth-round pick played 226 defensive snaps and had 24 tackles as a rookie. Training camp will be huge for Williams to show that he’s healthy and ready to take another step forward in his second year.

Ravens LB David Ojabo has goal for Baltimore’s defense in 2023: ‘Go put on a show’

Christian Gonzales, NFL.com

Despite some losses on defense, Ojabo believes the Ravens still have enough talent to compete with anyone if they can figure it out in 2023.

“We all feed off each other. … You just feel it when everybody’s clicking,” Ojabo told The Lounge Podcast of the team website. “I feel that’s what we have in the locker room now. We just gotta put it on paper. Can’t talk too much, that’s how people get caught up. Don’t talk about it, man. When the pads come on, when the lights come on, when it’s showtime, go put on a show.”

Baltimore has seen veterans Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Calais Campbell and Chuck Clark depart. With Ojabo enjoying a healthy offseason heading into training camp, the linebacker must produce at a higher level to help fill the void.

NFL season is 50 days away: Here are 50 under-the-radar players who could shape the 2023 season

Zachary Pereles, CBS Sports

Rashod Bateman, Ravens: Bateman isn’t the shiny new toy — that’s first-round rookie Zay Flowers — and he isn’t the biggest name — that’s Odell Beckham Jr. — in the Ravens’ wide receiver room, but he might have the biggest upside. In three full games before getting injured last year, he had 226 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens will throw more with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and Bateman’s presence would be a huge help.

Odafe Oweh (EDGE), Ravens: The Ravens generated pressure on just 30% of opponent dropbacks last season, their lowest in the last six years. Oweh, a former first-round pick, will be charged with changing that. He had just three sacks last season after five as a rookie, and his pressure percentage fell as well. Oweh should be in line for starter duty, though David Ojabo could push him.

Which NFL teams are best bets to win each division? Projecting over, undervalued squads

Austin Mock, The Athletic

AFC North

Most overvalued team

Pittsburgh Steelers

There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to the Steelers, but a lot of the optimism seems to be banking on a second-year leap from quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett played really well down the stretch (against a weaker schedule), but he still might be the fourth-best quarterback in the division. The AFC North isn’t as strong as the AFC East in my model, but it’s not far off. If the Steelers want to contend for a division title, they’ll need a Trevor Lawrence-esque sophomore season from Pickett and he’s just not the same level of prospect.

Best bet

Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North (+220)

The Ravens locked up Lamar Jackson for the long term and are reshaping their offense in hopes of jump-starting a unit that has gotten a little stale the past few seasons. Jackson’s 2019 MVP season feels like ages ago and Baltimore seems to have agreed as the Ravens hired Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken, signed free-agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and drafted receiver Zay Flowers in the first round of the NFL Draft. I’m a big fan of Monken, and if the improved receiving corps can give a boost to the passing game, you could see a more-balanced offense thrive in tandem with Jackson’s running ability.

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