The 5 Biggest Takeaways from Baltimore Ravens' Rookie Minicamp
When guys like Matt Elam and Arthur Brown took the field for the Baltimore Ravens' rookie minicamp, they had the weight of an entire offseason on their shoulders. As replacements for guys like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, Brown and Elam were expected to impress and do so early.
Beyond the big-name rookies, there were plenty of other stories to come out of the minicamp, including signings, trades and and some under-the-radar prospects to stand out.
Let's take a look at all these stories and more as we recap the biggest takeaways from the Ravens' rookie minicamp.
3 Rookies Could Start on Defense
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Right off the bat, three Ravens stood out as future starters in Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and Brandon Williams.
BaltimoreRavens.com's Garrett Downing had nothing but good things to say about the trio. Of Elam, he spoke of his speed, his intelligence and his versatility. Of Brown, Downing spoke highly of his physical attributes, noting that Brown looked bigger than his listed size. Williams received perhaps the highest praise, as Downing noted Williams' strength in taking on multiple blockers.
John Harbaugh himself also sang Elam and the rest of the rookies' praises, saying (h/t BaltimoreRavens.com):
Matt really picked things up quickly – the same for Arthur [Brown] and really all of those guys. He really did a nice job of communicating in the backend, which is not usual for a rookie. Most rookie defensive backs – even all defensive players – have a tough time with the communication part of it, because they aren’t confident enough to make the calls. He’s smart. He picked it up quickly. He jumped right back there and made calls with force; he was very forceful back there. He played fast. He looked good.
The Ravens could experience a learning curve with so much youth, but they've been so impressive thus far that there is plenty of reason for optimism. Expect plenty of contributions from rookies this season.
The Ravens Made Moves on the Offensive Line
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While seeing live football again was great, the most important developments over the past few days have been roster moves. The Ravens finally addressed the left tackle position by re-signing Bryant McKinnie. They weren't done there, adding depth by trading for Indianapolis Colts center A.Q. Shipley.
Both of these solidify an offensive line that was the most glaring issue for the Ravens after the draft. McKinnie will start at left tackle as long as he's healthy and reasonably fit. Shipley, meanwhile, will provide competition at center while providing solid depth along the interior of the offensive line.
The Ravens still need a left tackle of the future, but they at least put off that immediate need for another year or two.
An Addition to the Coaching Staff
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The Ravens have added Steve Spagnuolo to their already-stacked coaching staff in a move that should pay dividends for both sides.
Spagnuolo does great work with pass-rushers, as he is best known for his work with the New York Giants' brilliant defensive line as a defensive coordinator. The hope is that he can use his role as senior defensive assistant to boost the pass rush and provide his insight across the defense.
The position is great for Spagnuolo too, as his reputation is at an all-time low. A chance to lie low and contribute to a top-tier defense could be just what he needs to revive his career.
Under-the-Radar Rookies Who Could Make an Impact
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Matt Elam and Arthur Brown might be making all the headlines, but a few late-round picks and undrafted free agents stood out as well.
Ricky Wagner, a fifth-round offensive lineman from Wisconsin, has already stood out for his versatility. Wagner sees himself as able to play both tackle and both guard spots. That versatility will be big for the Ravens, who like their backups to play multiple roles.
Kyle Juszczyk, a fourth-round selection from Harvard, seems to be the heir apparent to Vonta Leach, but his versatility is what is currently setting him apart. The man known as "Juice" can play from the slot, tight end and a traditional fullback's role. He is a natural receiver with upside to be a real playmaker.
Finally, Matt Furstenburg, an undrafted tight end from Maryland, has stood out as the most likely undrafted free agent to earn a roster spot. Furstenburg is a smaller, fast tight end in the mold of Ed Dickson, but his athleticism and overall receiving skill set is intriguing.
Questions at Receiver
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For all the holes the Ravens have filled this season, one remains wide open—wide receiver. The Ravens have not made a move to account for the loss of Anquan Boldin, but a move is coming.
Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun writes:
It seems that it’s a matter of when, not if, in terms of the Ravens adding a veteran wide receiver.
The Ravens don't seem likely to add a free agent, as the pickings have become slim. That means a trade could be inevitable, but who the target is remains to be seen. The Ravens will be sure to keep their ears open to find out who could become available at a reasonable price.