The Ravens have several players who will be battling for starting positions heading into training camp this season.
Every season several teams have position battles that take place during training camp to determine who will hold the starting spot when Week 1 rolls around. The Ravens are no different, as they have several key spots up for grabs this offseason.
What makes the Ravens' position battles even more interesting is that several rookies could be filling big shoes at the start of the season.
While training camp is still a few months away, it's never too early to look into what some of the more notable position battles could be. That being said, here are five position battles to look for while the Ravens are in camp.
James Ihedigbo was initially thought to be the starter at strong safety prior to the Ravens drafting Matt Elam.
While the Ravens had several players leave town during the free-agency period, one player they chose to release was strong safety Bernard Pollard. Pollard was an absolute force for Baltimore last season, leading the team with 98 tackles, making his release a bit of a surprise.
The Ravens chose to re-sign safety James Ihedigbo to a one-year deal, but the well-traveled veteran may not be the favorite to take over Pollard's position.
The Ravens drafted Florida safety Matt Elam with the final pick of the first round in this year's draft. There is no reason to think that he can't be the starting strong safety by the season opener.
The Ravens have little commitment to Ihedigbo given his contract. With Elam being Baltimore's first-round pick, he is the clear favorite at strong safety for years to come. Don't be surprised to see Baltimore slot Elam at the top of their depth chart to replace Pollard.
There are big shoes to fill at the middle linebacker position following the retirement of Ray Lewis.
Of all the position battles, none may be more interesting than the one at middle linebacker.
The Ravens have three candidates who will look to fill the hole left by Ray Lewis. Veterans Jameel McClain and Rolando McClain will look to fight off rookie Arthur Brown for the top spot.
Rolando McClain may have a tough time holding down a roster spot following his arrest in late April, just a few days after Baltimore signed him. McClain has been arrested three times in the last 11 months, making him an unlikely player to retain should he struggle during camp.
Jameel McClain could be a more likely favorite to be awarded the starting middle linebacker spot given his production in years past. McClain has been a nice piece on Baltimore's roster, showing great value on special teams and as a defensive starter. He recorded 79 tackles in 13 games last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
McClain's injury could leave some doubt heading into camp, but he is reportedly healthy and ready to go for the start of 2013.
The most interesting prospect to fill the middle linebacker position could be a rookie. Baltimore selected Brown in the second round of the draft, sparking numerous conversations about how soon he could step in at the position as a starter.
Brown played a key role for the Kansas State Wildcats during his junior and senior years, racking up more than 100 tackles in both seasons. He's a tough, physical player who has proven to be a viable option at stopping the run at the collegiate level, and even showed some ability in pass coverage.
It's too early to say who the favorite is to start for the Ravens at middle linebacker, and no clear-cut favorite will likely emerge prior to camp. Expect all three players to get a healthy share of snaps with the first-team defense to give coaches a chance to see who is the best fit.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb looks to return from a torn ACL that ended his 2013 season.
The preferred starter could be Jimmy Smith, who is entering his third year in the league. The Ravens drafted Smith 27th in 2011. He was widely considered to be a favorite for significant playing time with Baltimore early on, but struggles on the field and a history of injuries have hurt the young player's career.
One of the most intriguing options at corner could be seventh-year pro Corey Graham. Graham was brought to the Ravens last season after spending his first five years with the Chicago Bears. Widely considered to be a special teams player, Graham stepped up big for the Ravens in Webb's absence, starting eight games for Baltimore.
Smith and Graham will likely battle for the next spot on the depth chart at cornerback, and it may not be decided until the final week of camp.
The Ravens signed defensive tackle Chris Canty this offseason.
The Ravens struggled at defensive tackle last season, as Terrence Cody and Ma'ake Kemoeatu could not make much of an impact. There were times Haloti Ngata was slotted into defensive tackle, but given his versatility and talent at defensive end a permanent solution would be nice.
The Ravens attempted to solve their problems at defensive tackle when they signed veteran Chris Canty to a three-year deal. Canty has established himself as a formidable player in the league. He has had a relatively healthy career with the exception of 2009 and last season, when he missed seven regular-season games.
Rookie Brandon Williams could prove to be a threat to Canty heading into training camp, given his size and remarkable strength. The 6'1", 335-pound defensive lineman dominated the bench press at the scouting combine, posting 38 reps, tied for the most among defensive linemen. Williams' size bodes well for a defensive lineman as he possesses ideal height, which allows him to play behind his pads and drive back opposing blockers.
Ultimately, it would not be surprising to see Canty and Williams share a lot of time on the defensive line as the season unfolds. Both have good qualities that could make them favorable options for the Ravens' defense, but it will be interesting to see if either manages to set himself apart.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith will be asked to lead a young receiving corps in 2013.
Baltimore's wide receivers are one of the biggest question marks heading into training camp. Torrey Smith now finds himself as the most experienced wide receiver following the departure of Anquan Boldin.
Receiver Jacoby Jones is entering his seventh year in the league, but given that he is primarily considered to be a punt and kick return specialist he seems to have been dismissed from this conversation. Jones possesses elite speed, and you likely won't forget his game-tying touchdown in the AFC divisional playoff game anytime soon, but he has always been an inconsistent receiver.
Assuming Jones doesn't win the battle at wide receiver this offseason, the competition becomes very open, mostly due to lack of experience. As it stands the veteran candidates with a chance to win the second receiver spot appear to be Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, David Reed and Deonte Thompson. During their time in the league, this group has combined to catch only 15 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown.
The receiver battle will be one of the most interesting competitions to observe in Ravens' camp, as it seems like anybody could secure the spot. Look for one receiver in this group to rise up and set himself apart.