Baltimore Ravens: Top Position Battles to Watch in Camp
Every member of the Baltimore Ravens will be battling for something in training camp, be it a roster spot, playing time or bragging rights. This list ranks the top six position battles to keep an eye on as a prelude to the start of the regular season.
The battles are ranked in terms of importance and competitiveness. That’s why the sixth-ranked battle, for the backup quarterback job, falls where it does on the list. It will be a close competition, but it ultimately means shockingly little since Baltimore is doomed if either of those second-string quarterbacks need to take the reins of the offense.
Each one of the positional skirmishes will play a role in how the 2014 season unfolds, so it’s definitely worth your time to monitor them in training camp and the preseason.
6. Backup Quarterback
Favorite: Tyrod Taylor
Challenger: Keith Wenning
As I mentioned on the intro slide, the reason for this battle coming in last of the bunch that made the cut is because the outcome will not have a significant effect on the Ravens' 2014 season.
It could, however, have far-reaching consequences on the state of the Baltimore quarterback position moving forward.
Joe Flacco is the unquestioned starter for as long as he’s in purple and black, but Tyrod Taylor’s contract expires at the end of the season and Keith Wenning has the potential to be a long-term backup.
Taylor is battling for his job, while Wenning is fighting to prove his potential and earn a spot on the final roster.
It’s certainly an intriguing competition to watch, but Baltimore is in deep trouble if either QB is on the field when the regular season rolls around.
5. Backup Running Back
Favorite: Bernard Pierce
Challengers: Lorenzo Taliaferro and Justin Forsett
The running back situation is still in flux as Baltimore awaits word on the length of Ray Rice’s suspension. As a result, the backup position is shrouded in mystery.
Bernard Pierce is the favorite thanks to his impressive rookie season, but he was underwhelming in 2013 and is still recovering from an offseason surgery which caused him to miss OTAs and the opportunity to get first-hand experience with Gary Kubiak’s new playbook.
That could open the door for Lorenzo Taliaferro and Justin Forsett to supplant him as Rice’s primary backup—or as a potential starter for the games that Rice misses.
All four RBs are very capable players, but it’s unclear whether they will all make the final roster. That makes training camp vital for each back.
Thanks to the depth at the position, this battle should have a minor impact, but it will definitely be interesting to watch which back stands out in training camp.
4. Wide Receiver No. 3
Challengers: Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown
You’ll notice that I haven’t listed a favorite for this one. That’s because it’s totally wide open in my opinion.
In reality, “winning” this battle may not mean a whole lot, as it’s easy to picture Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown getting relatively similar play counts.
This will definitely be a major competition for the Ravens, though.
Both players have the talent to thrive as a No. 3, and they could make the Baltimore passing attack a very dangerous one as complements to Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels.
3. Cornerback No. 3
Favorites: Dominique Franks and Aaron Ross
Challengers: Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson
Baltimore has plenty of in-house options to replace the free agents they lost this summer—except Corey Graham. The defense will sorely miss his presence and there are no clues as to who will replace him in the lineup.
Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson were the original challengers, but then the front office brought in Dominique Franks and Aaron Ross to spice things up.
This will be a major storyline for the Ravens as training camp progresses since CB depth is one of the more glaring weaknesses on the team. Will one of these candidates be able to lock down a major role? Will Ozzie Newsome have to bring in another defensive back?
There are plenty of question marks surrounding the position before training camp, and that uncertainty may only continue to intensify.
2. Starting Free Safety
Favorite: Darian Stewart
Challengers: Terrence Brooks
Darian Stewart has a hold on the starting job right now, but Terrence Brooks is more talented and could overtake Stewart in the pecking order with a strong camp.
Regardless of who actually wins the battle, it will be an important factor in Baltimore’s defense this season.
The lack of a rangy free safety was clear last season, as big passing plays and miscommunications in the secondary led to far too many failures from the defense.
It will be particularly fascinating to watch Terrence Brooks to monitor his development as an NFL player. Brooks definitely has more upside, but is he ready to start in his rookie year? We’ll find out the answer to that question in training camp.
1. Defensive Line
Favorite: Brandon Williams
Challengers: Timmy Jernigan, DeAngelo Tyson, Brent Urban, Terrence Cody
This is No. 1 on this list because there are so many players vying for a favorable spot in the D-line totem pole, but also because one of those young linemen will have to be step into the shoes of Arthur Jones. That’s a very prominent role on a defense trying to get back to its roots and become a top-five unit in this league.
Thanks to the versatility of the players and scheme, we’re not sure whether one of these players starts at DE or NT, but this will have a huge impact on the strength of the Ravens defense.
The secondary has a few holes, so Baltimore will need to control the trenches to have any hope of being an elite defense.
The talent is definitely there, but are they ready for the prime time?