Predicting Baltimore Ravens' Depth Chart, Post OTAs
The 2013 Baltimore Ravens have already taken the practice field as a unit, and their roster and depth chart are starting to crystallize as a result. While the on-field action must be taken with a grain of salt, it is still valuable in determining where exactly the Ravens' new additions stand in relation to their teammates.
In a lot of cases, new additions will be taking the field with the starters on opening day. Michael Huff and Matt Elam are two obvious examples in the Ravens' defensive backfield, but several other new Ravens will also get a chance at a starting job.
Still other new starters will come not from free agency or the draft, but from the Ravens' own roster. Guys like Deonte Thompson and Jimmy Smith could be looking at promotions this year.
OTAs certainly helped clarify this picture, but there is still a lot of action before an opening-day depth chart is crafted. With this in mind, here is a very early look at the 2013 Baltimore Ravens' depth chart.
First String: Joe Flacco
The less news out of Ravens' camp regarding Flacco, the better. Not much has been said about the well-paid quarterback, and one would have to imagine that any Flacco struggles would be picked up by the media. Of course, Flacco would be the starter regardless.
Second String: Tyrod Taylor
No surprise here either. The incumbent backup, Tyrod Taylor, will be back another year, hopefully to ride the bench except for the occasional mop-up duty or designed run.
First String: Ray Rice
Barring an injury, Ray Rice will be back to rush for another 1,000 yards and catch at least another 50 balls. The only question mark will be whether or not Bernard Pierce starts to eat into his carries.
Second String: Bernard Pierce
The Ravens have historically been two-deep at running back, but they've never had a backup as talented as Pierce. He's the fastest running back on the roster and also the most powerful. He has a ton of potential, so the Ravens need to be sure to get him the ball more this season.
Third String: Anthony Allen
Anthony Allen will need to beat out Bobby Rainey for a roster spot, but his special teams prowess should help him do just that.
First String: Kyle Juszczyk
Vonta Leach is sadly done in Baltimore, per his Twitter account, opening the door for Kyle Juszczyk to become the starter. The learning curve is pretty easy at fullback: Hit or be hit. Juszczyk should be more of a weapon with the ball in his hands than Leach was, but time will tell if he's as good of a blocker.
First String: Torrey Smith
The only receiver on the roster who is a surefire starter, Torrey Smith will be looking to finally break the 1,000-yard barrier.
First String: Jacoby Jones
The Ravens will want to limit Jacoby Jones' snaps to help him on special teams, but he will still see an increased role to help make up for the loss of Anquan Boldin.
Second String: Deonte Thompson
Once a dark-horse pick for an increased role, Deonte Thompson looks to be a real contender to take over as a starter. He might not begin the season there, but don't be surprised if he earns a starting job by the end of the season.
Third String: Tandon Doss
Tandon Doss looks ready to improve upon last season, which saw him have a bad case of the drops, but Deonte Thompson seems likely to overtake him in line for reps.
Fourth String: Aaron Mellette
A dark-horse candidate to see the field, Aaron Mellette has the size and body control to be a factor at times this season.
Fifth String: Tommy Streeter
The Ravens are deep at wide receiver, so don't be surprised if they keep six. Tommy Streeter has a chance to be the last one up, as his speed and size would make him a factor in deep-ball situations. The route-running prowess isn't there yet for a larger role, but Streeter could be an immediate factor as a red-zone and deep threat.
First String: Dennis Pitta
Technically, Ed Dickson was still the starter last season, as the Ravens used him more as a blocker. Dennis Pitta, though, is the guy in Baltimore and could see an increased role this season thanks to Anquan Boldin's departure.
Second String: Ed Dickson
The Ravens need to find an upgrade over Dickson in terms of blocking, but Dickson is a threat down the seam who can stretch defenses with his athleticism. He will continue to serve as a decent alternative to Pitta.
First String Left Tackle: Bryant McKinnie
Last season proved that Bryant McKinnie is the best tackle on the roster, and this season should see his playing time reflect that.
First String Right Tackle: Michael Oher
Michael Oher is at a crossroads in his career, as he needs to prove he is worth a long-term investment. Still, Oher is pretty much the only option at right tackle, so he will easily get the starting job.
Second String: Ricky Wagner
The Ravens are shockingly thin at tackle, meaning rookie Ricky Wagner should earn a big role right away. He won't start, but Wagner's versatility should allow him to become a top backup. Realistically, though, an injury to the starters would force Kelechi Osemele outside before Wagner enters the lineup.
First String Left Guard: Kelechi Osemele
Kelechi Osemele impressed in his short stint at guard in the 2012 playoffs, which should bode well for an even better 2013.
First String Right Guard: Marshal Yanda
Marshal Yanda remains one of the top guards, if not the top guard, in the NFL.
Second String: Jah Reid
Jah Reid was mediocre in a starting role last season, but he has the physical tools and passion to become a starter down the road at either guard or tackle.
Third String: Ramon Harewood
Ramon Harewood showed toughness in the run game last season, but he could stand to work on his foot quickness before he takes on a permanent role.
First String: Gino Gradkowski
Gino Gradkowski was drafted in 2012 to replace Matt Birk, and now he has the opportunity. Gradkowski impressed in limited reps last season.
Second String: A.Q. Shipley
Though A.Q. Shipley could start for most teams, he will be the backup in Baltimore, providing excellent depth at both center and guard.
First String: Chris Canty
The Ravens signed Chris Canty to be a starter, and that's what he will be. Canty is already one of the Ravens' best pass-rushers, and his run defense should be a strength as well.
Second String: Art Jones
Art Jones impressed at the end of last season, earning a chance to become a starter down the road. His energy and lower-body strength provided a nice spark last season, ensuring Jones a role this season.
Third String: Pernell McPhee
Where exactly Pernell McPhee will play this season remains to be seen, but he will play. McPhee is one of the Ravens' better pass-rushers, and he can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up.
First String: Brandon Williams
Brandon Williams is physically impressive, showcasing monstrous strength and surprising quickness. He should adapt quickly to the NFL game and start immediately.
Second String: Terrence Cody
Terrence Cody is at a career crossroads, needing to improve significantly to even garner any playing time at all.
First String: Haloti Ngata
Obviously, Haloti Ngata is the top defensive lineman on this team. If he returns healthy this season, Ngata should regain his All-Pro form.
Second String: Marcus Spears
Marcus Spears should be a quality rotational defensive lineman, but he won't challenge for a starting role.
First String: Daryl Smith
The Ravens signed Daryl Smith for minimal money, but he should become an immediate starter for them. Smith is a sure tackler with a nose for the football.
First String: Jameel McClain
Jameel McClain lost most of last season due to injury, but his ability to take on blockers is valued and should help free up his teammates to make plays all over the field.
Second String: Arthur Brown
The addition of Daryl Smith means that Arthur Brown might not become an immediate starter, but his speed and instincts should help him have an immediate role in passing situations regardless.
Third String: Albert McClellan
Albert McClellan deserves a chance at the starting role, but he probably won't get it in Baltimore. McClellan is an excellent run defender who should play a rotational role this season.
First String: Terrell Suggs
Terrell Suggs needs to come back strong from a season marred by injury, but his run-stuffing remains unquestioned.
First String: Elvis Dumervil
Elvis Dumervil will be locked in a tough competition with Courtney Upshaw, but both will see plenty of reps. Dumervil is the better pass-rusher and thus earns the starting role.
Second String: Courtney Upshaw
Upshaw is perhaps the best run defender the Ravens have, but his limitations as a pass-rusher should help Dumervil keep the starting role.
Third String: John Simon
John Simon probably won't play much in the Ravens' base defense, but he'll see some time in mop-up duty.
First String: Lardarius Webb
When healthy, Lardarius Webb is a top-tier cover corner. He needs to recover from a torn ACL, but it's a recovery he has made before and should be able to do again this year.
First String: Jimmy Smith
So far, Jimmy Smith has been a disappointment, but he'll be given every chance to take the starting job.
Second String: Corey Graham
Corey Graham was a hero at times last season, but he simply can't match up with the top receivers in the NFL. He remains, however, an excellent nickel corner.
Third String: Chykie Brown
Chykie Brown is a physical but inconsistent corner who has more potential than production at this point. Getting some experience last season was definitely beneficial for the talented corner.
Fourth String: Marc Anthony
Marc Anthony will have to battle Asa Jackson for a roster spot, but Anthony is a more recent draft pick who has had fewer character issues.
First String Free Safety: Michael Huff
Michael Huff is fast and at his best playing in the deep middle of the field. Don't be surprised if he turns out to be an upgrade over Ed Reed.
Second String Free Safety: Omar Brown
Omar Brown has had an uphill battle so far in the NFL, but his preseason production last season was no joke. He has a nose for the ball that should lend itself well to special teams while Christian Thompson starts the season suspended.
First String Strong Safety: Matt Elam
At once both a big hitter and an excellent cover man, Matt Elam should contribute in a variety of ways as the starting strong safety. He can play in the box but is just as comfortable lining up in the slot.
Second String Strong Safety: James Ihedigbo
James Ihedigbo was an underrated pickup last season who impressed as Bernard Pollard's backup. Ihedigbo provides a great spark but occasionally plays out of control.
Kicker: Justin Tucker
Tucker was nearly perfect last season. This season, the only way he can improve is to be perfect.
Punter: Sam Koch
Always solid but never elite, Sam Koch should average 45.0 yards per punt and around 39.0 yards net this season.
Long Snapper: Morgan Cox
Most people don't know the Ravens' long snapper. That's a good thing. It's Morgan Cox, and he's as steady as they come.
Kick and Punt Returner: Jacoby Jones
Jacoby Jones was awesome last season as a returner, and his encore should be just as dynamic.