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Ravens training camp preview: How much of a difference can the new defensive line additions make?

Ravens training camp preview: How much of a difference can the new defensive line additions make?

Rostered defensive linemen: Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, Jihad Ward, Patrick Ricard, Justin Ellis, Daylon Mack, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Aaron Crawford.

There wasn’t a position the Ravens attacked more aggressively than the defensive line this offseason. 

The Ravens traded for Calais Campbell from the Jaguars, attempted to sign Michael Brockers but were unable to finalize a deal and eventually landed Derek Wolfe, then drafted Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington with the 71st and 170th picks in the NFL Draft.

Now, the Ravens’ defensive line has undergone a facelift set in motion on Jan. 11, when Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for 195 yards on 30 carries in the AFC divisional playoffs. That loss clearly didn’t sit well with the Ravens, who were beaten at their own game in a season that had Super Bowl aspirations.

The Ravens’ starting defensive front against the Titans consisted of Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce and Chris Wormley. Off the bench, the team used Justin Ellis, Domata Peko Sr., and Jihad Ward to fill in the rotation. 

Now, just Williams, Ellis and Ward remain on the roster along with Daylon Mack, who was on injured reserve. And Ellis, who is on the roster bubble, isn’t safe either.

Size was clearly of importance this offseason, as the Ravens added Campebll (6-foot-8 and 300 pounds) and Wolfe (6-foot-5 and 285 pounds) to join Williams, who is 6-foot-1 and 336 pounds.

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Last year, the Ravens ranked 21st in the NFL with 4.4 rushing yards allowed per game, though teams rarely ran the ball against the Ravens simply because they were likely trailing and needed to pass. And even though Campbell, Williams and Wolfe are all older than 30-years-old, they should provide an immediate boost up the middle.

Campbell, who has been in the league since 2008, hasn’t missed a game in five years as a member of the Cardinals and Jaguars. In his last three years in Jacksonville, he totaled 31.5 sacks, 195 tackles and 77 quarterback hits. 

Wolfe’s career has been much more up-and-down, as he’s battled injuries for the last handful of seasons. He’s played 16 games three times in his career and just once since 2015. But he can rush the passer still, as he had seven sacks for the Broncos last season.

The Ravens ranked 21st in the NFL in sacks (37 total) a year ago, but second in quarterback knockdowns (59). Without clear and cheap options to improve the edge rusher position, they made a few savvy additions to the interior which should give edge rushers Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser more one-on-one matchups outside.

With the starting three defensive linemen seemingly set in stone, the Ravens will have Ward, Ricard, Washington and Madubuike as young depth along the interior. From there, however, the numbers get muddled. 

If the Ravens want to keep seven true defensive linemen with Ricard mostly on offense, the last spot would likely come down to Ellis and Mack, two bigger defensive linemen on the roster. 

That would only leave one lineman, unrestricted free agent signee Aaron Crawford, who is likely a candidate for the practice squad at the start of training camp. 

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Otherwise, the Ravens’ four additions in free agency and the draft, along with the re-signing of Ward, essentially wrote the depth chart out before the summer. 

The defensive line will need to pressure the quarterback more than it did a season ago, but will be aided by an improved secondary and linebacking corps. Not only will the Ravens get back cornerback Tavon Young from injury this year, they drafted linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison in the first and third rounds of the draft.

With an improved back-end keeping things clean for the Ravens’ defensive line, all the elements are there for a dominant season from the revamped unit. 

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NFL unveils new Oakley mouth shield to mitigate spread of coronavirus

NFL unveils new Oakley mouth shield to mitigate spread of coronavirus

Get your styling Ray-Bans ready for Sunday's this fall. 

In a partnership with Oakley, the NFL took another step on Wednesday evening in figuring out how to best go forth with the 2020 season in the safest possible way. The league unveiled its all-new mouth shields as the latest piece of technology to try and ensure football Sunday's won't be another item added to the long list of cancelations this year. 

With a large focus of the company's lifestyle products going towards an irrefutable style, it's no wonder Oakley decided to use the slick black Baltimore Ravens helmets to demonstrate. 

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But in all seriousness, the impact these mouth shields can have seems to be more than ten-fold in an ever-changing society from a health and safety perspective. As one of the most contact-filled sports there is, professional football is going to have to adapt to life under a pandemic and these innovative new features are doing well to do just that. 

According to an NFL release, the mouth shields fit right inside the inner-linings of the facemask and sport skinny slits in it to enhance breathing capabilities while reducing air particle transmission.

It's still in the drafting phases of constructing the best possible helmet additions, and after players and manufacturers send some notes back to Oakley and the NFL, the mouth shields will surely improve. 

While it seems unlikely there is going to be a final version of the mouth shields that completely eliminate the chances of contracting COVID-19, it's going to be technology like this that will make the 2020 season a possibility. 

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Ravens WR Willie Snead: ‘Can you imagine the fall with no football at all? I mean, I can’t’

Ravens WR Willie Snead: ‘Can you imagine the fall with no football at all? I mean, I can’t’

Willie Snead IV can’t imagine what fall would look like without football.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the NFL to adjust its offseason schedule, each team around the league scrambled to make changes to its offseason programs. 

By all accounts, the Ravens have made things as easy as possible for players to make the transition in Owings Mills to remain socially distant. Their hope is to make playing actual games — still not a guarantee — as easy as possible.

Despite challenges in Major League Baseball, there’s not a lot of doubt from people around the league about whether a season can happen.

“I know basketball is going,” Snead said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. “I know baseball is going right now. But, when football comes around, can you imagine the fall with no football at all? I mean, I can’t. So, it’s going to be an adjustment without fans, especially in training camp, but I know once we start rolling on Sundays, I know the whole environment in our nation is going to change.”

Around the facility, players are constantly being reminded to keep their distance, wash their hands and wear their masks.

“I feel like, here, they’re doing a great job of just having everything...Locker rooms — we got separated lockers,” Marquise Brown said. “We got monitors to track how close we are to people. They’re making it as safe as possible, and that was something that everybody was skeptical about — how it would be. But once we got here, we were like, ‘This could work.’”

Both Snead and Brown made significant changes to their bodies in quarantine, as Snead dropped seven pounds and Brown added about 20. In quarantine, there was still a sense of normalcy as both players worked out for the upcoming season. 

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At the Ravens’ facility, however, with all the precautionary measures in place, there’s no real escape from how different the 2020 season is set to be. 

“You have to take these tests every day,” Snead said. “Coming in, we had to wait a week to get in the building, which was different. But once we got into the building, I could just tell the Ravens organization in itself took that next step of making sure everybody is safe. Everybody is doing everything they have to do to make sure that we are all being safe, staying clean, and just making sure that we are taking care of ourselves, at the end of the day.”

With those specific measures in place the hope is to have a full, and as normal as possible, regular season.

“I know the NFL and the NFLPA took the best steps to make sure that we can have football this year,” Snead said. “And when it comes down to it, every guy has to hold themself accountable to make sure that they’re ready for Sundays, they’re healthy for Sundays. And hopefully, we can make sure this thing goes all the way.”

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