Looming questions for Ravens camp
Quarterbacks and rookies have already reported to camp, and the full roster will take to the fields at the Owings Mills facility on July 30th. The pads will be strapped on for the first time and we’ll have that amazing feeling that real football is just around the corner.
Here are some things I’ll be looking for in the coming weeks during camp, and pre-season game action, leading up to the regular season opener when the team should have these questions answered for us.
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Will Matt Schaub solidify himself as Joe Flacco’s backup?
Schaub, on paper, is the clear favorite to backup Joe Flacco who hasn’t needed the services of a backup quarterback in his seven year career (writer knocks on wood). But will he earn it? Something to keep an eye on as Schuab will likely get more reps than any other QB in preseason games. The 34 year old veteran only attempted nine passes in 2014, unable to beat out rookie Derek Carr for playing time. Keith Wenning in his second season, not picked off of last years practice squad by another team, will have another chance to move up the depth chart. Bryn Renner is the longshot, starting camp as the fourth option at QB.
Which rookie will be a bigger factor on the offense? Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, or Javorius Allen?
Both Perriman and Williams have to potential to earn starting roles on the team. The knock on Perriman coming out of the draft was his hands. But experts reassure us that those were “concentration drops”. Concentration problems, or bad hands, the end result is still the same. We’ll see if he brings his hands to the pro game. Grades on Williams are very high after mimi-camp, but let’s see when he straps the pads on. The rookie is still very young, drafted just after his 21st birthday, and has some developing to do. We’ll see how quick he adapts to the pro game where rookie TEs don’t often flourish. Allen will likely be less of a factor having to find time behind Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro.
Will Marc Trestman use Justin Forsett as a pass catcher like he did Matt Forte in Chicago (100 catches) and is he built for that?
A bigger question might be how long Forsett’s durability will hold up, after having double the workload he ever had in one year. Assuming he’s the full time back again, he was targeted 56 times in the passing game a year ago. If Mark Trestman looks to increase that, as his tendencies are to involve RBs more in the passing game, it might not the best use of the Ravens receiving weapons. Pro Football Focus measures receiving efficiency by yards per route run. In that department, Forsett ranked tied for 39th out of 42 RBs. Maybe Taliaferro or Allen would be better suited as the 3rd down back.
How will the progression of James Hurst and rookie Robert Myers go?
Injuries on the O-line are inevitable, so we need to know if the backups are capable. Hurst was good at times and bad at times toward the end of 2014 when Rick Wagner was placed on injured reserve. Robert Myers has much more to prove as a rookie from a smaller school (Tennessee State). Jah Reid was also brought back into the fold, but I don’t think anyone is holding their breath that he will be a factor to step in and contribute in a positive way.
Will John Urschel get more reps at center this year?
Urschel looks to be one of the better interior lineman on this squad, but there is no room for him at guard full time with Pro Bowlers Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele penciled, actually, penned into the starting roles. Jeremy Zuttah wasn’t at 100% health through 2014, and Urchel has the ability to play center. Zuttah had offseason hip surgery which hopefully puts him at full strength going forward. How will Zuttah show in top condition, and is the route to more playing time for Urschel winning the battle at center?
Who will return kicks without Jacoby Jones around?
One front runner for the role is likely Michael Campanaro, who got a lot of chances last pre-season. While he has the abilty, does his proneness to injury make you weary of putting him in that spot? Another candidate is Asa Jackson. He returned a kick for a TD in preseason game in the past. Jackson, who needs to prove himself to earn more playing time, may need to establish himself on special teams to do just that.
Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore. How do these high potential players appear after season ending injuries?
Getting both players back healthy for the start of the regular season is almost the equivalent of signing a couple free agents. Both players earned high praise in their draft classes, and in their short time in previous training camps, before season ending injuries stalled their development. If both players remain healthy, the depth the Ravens would have on the defensive front would be incredible.
Does Arthur Brown force his way into playing time?
Brown needed to bulk up a bit more to play linebacker at the pro level. Reports are he has done that this offseason. A second round pick being a healthy scratch in his second season is a huge disappointment. Coming into his third year, and developmentally being lapped by rookie star C.J. Mosely a year ago, Brown has to force his way on to the team. Not only have a good training camp. But a stand out camp that makes Coaches John Harbaugh and Dean Pees have to get Brown into the rotation in 2015.
Do the new additions in the secondary, Kendrick Lewis and Kyle Arrington, improve the unit?
The secondary was the Achilles heel of the Ravens in 2014, as two corners were cut midseason. It was almost a miracle that they made it to the divisional round of the playoffs with the sixth options at corner. Lewis will force the hand of underperforming Matt Elam at safety. Arrington is a slot specialist, and makes for quite the unit if Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb stay healthy. You can’t say the Ravens didn’t try to upgrade their biggest weakness. We’ll be playing close attention to see if the new additions pay off.