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Five Ravens who are set for a position battle in training camp

Five Ravens who are set for a position battle in training camp

After, by most accounts, a successful offseason for the Ravens, they’ve added some intrigue to various positions across the roster. 

Here are five players who are in for a training camp battle when the Ravens return to camp:

Mark Ingram, running back

Ingram isn’t in danger of losing his spot on the roster by any means. And he'll almost certainly keep his role as the team’s starting running back in week one of the 2020 season, too. But that doesn’t mean his role will be the same.

While it might seem weird to see a 1,000-yard rusher who had 200-plus carries last season on this list, the nature of the running back position in the NFL can be cruel.

In just his first season as a Raven, he made an impact in the locker room and on the field as he became one of the linchpins of the Ravens’ NFL-best offense. Now, Ingram will be fighting for snaps. 

The Ravens drafted J.K. Dobbins 55th overall in last month’s draft, a sure sign they’re thinking about the future and what could come of Ingram's contract, which has two years left on his contract. And, to be clear, the Ravens didn’t draft Dobbins in the second round to sit on the bench all season. 

Dobbins, who ran out of the shotgun exclusively at Ohio State, registered 2,000 yards on the ground last season and drew high praise from general manager Eric DeCosta after his selection. In terms of a scheme fit, it was as good of a match that could be expected.

With Justice Hill and Gus Edwards on the roster, both young options, Ingram’s second season with the Ravens could be drastically different than his first. 

Miles Boykin, wide receiver

There’s good and bad news for Boykin. 

The good news is that he’s still perhaps the leading contender to see playing time on the outside at wide receiver, as the Ravens didn’t address that specific position with a high draft pick. 

The bad news is they added three skill position players to the mix. 

Rookie wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche will compete for snaps, and though they’ll likely line up in the slot, they’ll join Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown on a roster suddenly starved for targets. 

Simply, there’s only so many targets that can go around and it’s up to Boykin, who had a stellar training camp but didn’t see the field much in the regular season. 

If Boykin has a strong training camp once again and can follow that up with a good start to the season, he could become the Ravens’ third receiving option in a suddenly crowded skill position group.

Daylon Mack, defensive lineman

The Ravens overhauled their defensive line more than any other position group on the roster this offseason. With Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe now projected as starters and Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington in the fold as recent draft choices, the options for depth dwindle quickly. 

JIhad Ward figures to be next in line to earn snaps, meaning the competition for who makes the roster on the defensive line could come down to whether or not the Ravens keep seven defensive linemen. If they do, Mack could be the guy. 

Baltimore doesn’t have a true run-stuffing nose-tackle on the roster after Williams, and Mack fills that role. A 2018 fifth-round pick, Mack spent all but one game last season either on injured reserve or the inactive list. 

He’ll have to impress in camp, or else he could find himself in danger of missing out on the final roster. 

L.J. Fort, inside linebacker

No player on the Ravens’ roster saw his outlook change more suddenly than Fort. 

A week before the NFL Draft, Fort was projected as a starting inside linebacker. Then the Ravens drafted Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison in the first three rounds of the draft. 

With Queen seemingly a lock for starting reps, Fort will be forced to compete with Harrison, as well as Jake Ryan, Otaro Alaka and Chris Board to see the field. If defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale wants to put Fort on the field as the weak-side linebacker, he could pair him with one of the rookies to add some veteran stability there. 

Still, Fort’s outlook for a significant role in 2020 took a hit with Queen and Harrison’s selections.

Ben Powers, guard

Ben Powers, a 2018 fourth-round pick, figured to have the inside track for the starting right guard position. Then the position got a whole lot more crowded.

In the aftermath of Matt Skura’s injury and Marshal Yanda’s retirement, there’s a whole lot to be decided at center and right guard entering training camp. So the Ravens added a handful of players that can help at either position. 

Patrick Mekari, who played well in his five starts at center last season after Skura’s knee injury, will have more competition for the spot in training camp. The team drafted Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson and signed D.J. Fluker to add to the competition on the interior offensive line. Phillips is tranisitioning from tackle to guard, but has experience on the outside as well.

If Skura isn’t ready in time, Mekari is likely the front-runner to start at center with Fluker at right guard. With Bredeson in the mix as well, there's potentially five players who could start at right guard for the Ravens next season.

There’s a logjam on the interior of the offensive line, and Powers could find himself on the outside looking in.

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Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

According to a report from ProFootballTalk, the NFL has scrapped its first and fourth preseason games this season and cut the preseason in half. 

The Ravens were scheduled to play the Bills at home on Aug. 14 to open the season, then end the preseason on Sept. 3 against the Redskins. 

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Now, the Ravens’ tentative preseason schedule will have one road game, at the Cowboys on Aug. 22, and home against the Panthers on Aug. 30. 

According to the report, the move was spurred on by two factors: Firstly, that road teams would have trouble moving that many bodies and risk spreading COVID-19. Secondly, that no team has had on-field workouts this summer. Now, with training camps scheduled to start on July 28, teams will have more time to prepare for the season. 

The move came with coronavirus cases continually rising in the United States a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci said new cases could reach 100,000 per day if more preventative measures were not taken. On June 30, the U.S. had 46,042 new cases, the second-highest total since the pandemic began.

Baltimore is still set to report to camp at the end of the month, as is the rest of the NFL. With the new preseason schedule, they’ll have about three weeks to prepare for the first on-field game action of the season. 

The Ravens haven’t lost in the preseason since Sept. 3, 2015, when they lost 20-19 to the Falcons. 

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What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

It’s not a stretch to say the 2012 AFC Championship Game was one of the most painful losses in Baltimore sports history.

The Ravens went to New England off a 20-13 win in the divisional round and were a game away from the Super Bowl for the first time since 2008. 

And one of their biggest rivals stood in the way of the Ravens and their second Super Bowl appearance in history. 

Baltimore and New England went back and forth for the entire game, before a one-yard Tom Brady plunge on 4th and goal gave the Patriots a 23-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. 

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Despite a Joe Flacco interception midway through the fourth quarter, the Ravens held the Patriots out of the end zone and gave the ball back to their offense with under two minutes to play. 

Then, the Ravens marched into Patriots territory and found themselves at the 14-yard line with 27 seconds left. 

On second down, Flacco fired a pass to wide receiver Lee Evans in the right corner of the end zone. Evans had it in his hands — then he dropped it. A Patriots defender came in late to knock the ball out of his hands, a catch that would’ve assuredly lifted the Ravens to the Super Bowl. 

Evans never played a regular season game again. 

"It was an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl," he said after the game. "And I let it go."

Two plays after Evans’ drop, kicker Billy Cundiff trotted onto the field to attempt a game-tying 32-yard field goal. The kick hooked badly to the left, and the Ravens lost 23-20 just a few plays short of the Super Bowl.

Cundiff, who had made the Pro Bowl with the Ravens in 2010 and signed a five-year contract extension in January of 2011, suffered the lowest moment of his professional career 364 days after he put pen to paper. He was released in August.

But if the Ravens had won that game, whether through Evans’ touchdown or another play in overtime, it’s reasonable to assume things wouldn’t have turned out as well long-term for the team. 

The Patriots lost the Super Bowl two weeks later to the Giants, 21-17, as the Ravens regrouped and made additions. 

One of those additions was Justin Tucker, who signed as an undrafted free agent and beat Cundiff out for the job in training camp. Tucker is currently the most accurate kicker in NFL history. 

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The next season, the Ravens finished the regular season 10-6 and though they had to play in the Wild Card round, found themselves in Foxboro once again for the AFC Championship Game. They dominated the Patriots 28-13 and went on to win the Super Bowl two weeks later. 

So while Evans’ drop, and Cundiff’s miss, might’ve been painful in the moment, that game led to a Super Bowl victory a year later, as well as one of the best special teams players the league has ever seen.

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