Baltimore Ravens: Players Climbing the Depth Chart This Offseason
While it is the offseason, NFL players can climb up their teams' respective depth charts by performing well in organized team activities and minicamps.
For the Baltimore Ravens, that's been the case with several players who've performed well and caught their coaches' attention. Even better: This has occurred largely at positions where the Ravens really need players to step up.
It's too early to make definitive depth-chart projections, but OTAs do offer the first glimpse into what the 2014 roster and opening-day depth chart will look like.
Here's a look at three Ravens who are climbing the depth chart this offseason.
OT Ricky Wagner
Offensive tackle Michael Oher departed in free agency, leaving the Ravens without their starting right tackle of the past four years.
The Ravens offensive line allowed 48 sacks in 2013, which was tied with the Buffalo Bills for the fourth-most in the NFL. Oher allowed eight of those, and his potential replacement, Ricky Wagner, allowed three in just 131 offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Coming into OTAs, Wagner didn't have a lot of competition to win the starting right tackle job. Undrafted free agent James Hurst and Ryan Jensen, a converted guard, are his only competition.
Still, Wagner has manged to impress head coach John Harbaugh in OTAs.
To me, Ricky has been – I don’t want to say he’s a surprise, because I expected him to play well – but I think we put a lot on his plate early walking in here as a starter, new scheme and those types of things. He has responded and hasn’t missed a rep. He plays very hard in what we’re doing, so we just have to keep going. But I’ve been very pleased with Ricky. (via BaltimoreRavens.com)
Again, Wagner isn't facing a lot of competition right now. But by performing well in OTAs, he's giving the Ravens more reason to believe in him come opening day—and more reason not to look for outside help via trade or in free agency at the position.
RB Justin Forsett
Justin Forsett has gone from being the third- or fourth-string running back to running with the first-team offense in Ravens OTAs.
Here's the original report from ESPN's Jamison Hensley:
The veteran journeyman is extremely small, but extremely fast. He displayed good hands in catching passes out of the backfield and turned upfield in a hurry.
Forsett took most of the reps with the first team, although no one should read too much into that. This could easily have been a message to Rice and Lorenzo Taliaferro, both of whom were arrested this offseason.
Forsett carried the ball just six times for 31 rushing yards while battling a foot injury in his lone year with the Jags. He signed with the Ravens on a one-year deal this offseason.
In seven NFL seasons, Forsett has rushed 347 times for 1,692 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. He's also caught 115 passes for 850 yards (7.4 yards per catch) and one score.
Forsett has just eight career games in which he's received 10 or more carries. It's unlikely he'll have many, if any of those in 2014—but he's the No. 1 back for now.
CB Chykie Brown
After letting Corey Graham depart in free agency, cornerback is a position where Baltimore needs someone to step up. Graham played in 1,293 defensive snaps over the past two seasons—so there's a lot of playing time up for grabs.
As of now, Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are the only cornerbacks with any NFL experience on the roster. Webb and Smith are locked in as the starters.
Brown played in just 39 defensive snaps in 2013, and Jackson was only used on special teams. Entering his fourth NFL season, Brown has an opportunity to climb the depth chart, and he's impressing thus far in OTAs.
"And Chykie Brown has been playing good. He’s had his chance to get out on the field and [gain] experience, but now he gets thrown in and it’s his," Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said (via BaltimoreRavens.com). "He’s going to get to show you all what he’s capable of.”
Perhaps the Ravens have not added another cornerback in NFL free agency or the draft because they believe Brown is ready to answer the challenge in 2014.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley said in a recent chat he doesn't foresee Baltimore adding another corner to compete with Brown anytime soon.
“Don't see the Ravens picking up a cornerback until the final major cutdown,” Hensley wrote. “The available corners, like [Asante] Samuel, are either aging or coming off injury. I expect the Ravens to stick with the group they have and evaluate them."
In three NFL seasons, Brown has registered 39 tackles and seven pass defenses. He'll need to do a lot more than that in 2014 to justify a significant bump in playing time.