The Most Intriguing Rookie Storylines at Baltimore Ravens OTAs
Organized team activities are just another step towards real football, but for the Baltimore Ravens rookies it is their first opportunity to play with their more experienced teammates. It’s their chance to make a good first impression and prove they belong on football’s biggest stage.
Fans need storylines to fuel them over the remaining stretches of the offseason, and this slideshow compiles the most intriguing ones that pertain to the newest Ravens.
From first-round picks to the undrafted, there are a number of fascinating narratives that will start to unfold over these OTAs.
Is C.J. Mosley the Favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year?
From every account, C.J. Mosley was the most impressive rookie on the field during rookie minicamp, and it looks likely that he will parlay that into a starting job alongside Daryl Smith in the center of the defense.
Mosley has made to transition to an NFL locker room look surprisingly easy, drawing praise from his new head coach. Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun shares some of those kind words from Coach Harbaugh:
Probably the first impression is that he seems very comfortable in a defense. He understands the game very well. So, he’s been really well-coached, obviously. That was a big plus coming out, we knew that.
But it’s not like he doesn’t know what gap he is fitting in. It’s not like he doesn’t know what adjustment to make. That’s a long way ahead for a rookie. Plus, he is athletic, and he moves around really well.
With his instincts and athleticism, Mosley looks set to rack up a ton of tackles and be a major contributor his debut season—making him one of the favorites to bring home a trophy at the end of the year.
Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN picked Mosley as one of his favorites to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, with Aaron Donald (St. Louis Rams) and Jadeveon Clowney (Houston Texans) being some other prominent candidates.
Mosley has looked superb in individual drills so far, but now he’ll get the chance to run with the first team and show how well he plays with his peers. OTAs will be our first chance to see if Mosley is a “special” inside linebacker, and the Rookie of the Year could potentially be the first of a number of awards coming his way in the future.
Does Timmy Jernigan’s Strength Translate to the Next Level?
At Florida State, Timmy Jernigan looked like a man among boys. Then again, he was playing with boys.
He manhandled his opponents, using his strong upper body to slap linemen out of the way and knock blockers on their backsides. But a closer look at the film shows that he relied on that strength to make his plays.
He’s not a quick-twitch athlete, and he needs to learn how to use his hands better to shed blocks and make plays.
There is definitely upside and room to grow, but strength is Jernigan’s primary weapon. In OTAs, we’ll get to see if Jernigan’s raw power translates to the NFL.
Will he be able to knock aside offensive linemen that outweigh him by 20-30 pounds? The answer to that question will reveal whether he’ll be a big-time player on the D-line this season, or whether he’ll need work on his body before playing a more significant role down the line.
How Quickly Is Terrence Brooks Progressing?
With every safety on the draft board, the Ravens chose not to address their biggest need and drafted C.J. Mosley instead. This was the right move in terms of pure talent, but the decision also meant that the Ravens waited until the third round to add Terrence Brooks—a very talented but somewhat raw safety prospect.
Given the dearth of other viable options at the free safety position, Brooks is the early favorite to win the starting job, basically by default.
While the duo of Brooks and Matt Elam should be a very dynamic one in the future, there are questions about whether Brooks is ready for such a major role in his first NFL season.
Athletically, there are no questions. Brooks is already one of the most athletic safeties in the NFL, but will he be mentally ready for the challenge?
The coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on his progress to determine whether a veteran safety should be brought in. For that reason, you should be following his development too.
Can Keith Wenning Prove Enough to Replace Tyrod Taylor?
The battle for the backup quarterback spot will be one of the most intriguing battles of the preseason, and it could be a very significant one. It would be preferable that the team only carries one backup QB to free up a valuable roster spot at another position, but the Ravens may not have that luxury.
Since the Ravens spent a sixth-round pick on Keith Wenning, it’s highly unlikely that they risk losing him to another team by stashing him on the practice squad (where another team is free to sign him to their 53-man roster).
Moving forward with that assumption, the Ravens will be faced with the dilemma of carrying three quarterbacks (something they haven’t done since 2009) or going with the rookie as the lone backup to Joe Flacco.
Wenning clearly has more upside than Tyrod Taylor, but he’s a work in progress. OTAs will provide the Ball State product with his first chance to prove that he can handle the duties of an NFL quarterback and give us a clearer picture of Taylor’s job security.
Will Any of the Undrafted Free Agent Cornerbacks Contribute in 2014?
The Ravens have an opening for the No. 3 cornerback and only carried four cornerbacks into this offseason. As such, their decision to not draft a cornerback made them an intriguing option for the undrafted cornerbacks since it gave them a relatively good chance of making the final roster.
It would be surprising if none of the UDFAs latched on to at least the practice squad since there are a few promising developmental options like Sammy Seamster and Deji Olatoye.
But the more relevant question for the Ravens right now is whether any of those UDFAs can make an immediate impact and challenge for some playing time.
Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown are set to duke it out for that No. 3 job, but it would be a huge bonus if one of the priority free agents was able to contribute this season on defense or on special teams since the Ravens need to find a way to add more cornerback depth and none of the options on the market (right now at least) are particularly appealing.
Did Ozzie Newsome Once Again Strike Gold on the UDFA Market?
Undrafted free agents make their biggest impressions in the preseason games, but OTAs will be a good chance for us to gauge if Ozzie Newsome has once again managed to find a diamond in the post-draft rough.
James Hurst fell due to his injury, but he clearly has the size and talent to make it in the NFL. Derrick Hopkins and Jamie Meder are two physically imposing defensive tackles that have the tools to develop nicely in the Ravens system.
Can one of the aforementioned cornerbacks (previous slide) impress and earn his way onto the roster?
The list of UDFAs signed by the Ravens that went on to greatly exceed expectations is long, and we’ll get a chance in OTAs to see if another name (or two) will be added to that list.
Shehan Peiris is B/R's Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related. For the latest Ravens news, draft analysis and links to episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter:
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