Heading into Ravens training camp, you already knew the big-name players and virtual locks of the roster. While their progress is still something to monitor, a little over a week of practice has given some lesser-known performers a chance to show their stuff.
As joint practices and preseason games begin, a mix of young players and veterans are competing for the final spots on the 53-man as the roster crunch begins. Additionally, other players are spending the weeks trying to make their impact felt on the field. Here are some defensive guys to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Anthony Averett (CB)
The Ravens secondary is loaded. Like, really, really loaded. The surplus of veteran skilled defenders makes it potentially one of the most dominant heading into the season. But because there are so many options, so many that even the veterans are competing for playing time, it is slim pickings for the rest of the group.
Even with that, the second-year Averett is still someone to keep an eye on. He's one of the few young cornerbacks on the roster that has seen some regular-season time (11 games). Though limited, it gives him an advantage in the familiarity and experience departments. As he continues to get more reps and become more comfortable in the system, the potential should turn into production.
It's hard to see Averett being a starter in the secondary, but he could be a good depth piece or someone who gets his name called barring an injury.
Tyus Bowser (OLB)
First off, being a football player with the name Bowser is a big plus. The puns are endless, and at least on paper, you seem like someone who is going to hit hard and tackle aggressively.
Okay, now back to the actual analysis. Bowser is someone that has caught the attention of coaches during the initial days of camp, and that's important for not only the Ravens, but for himself as well. A 2017 draft pick, the staff had hopes that after getting his feet wet in the NFL, Bowser would make the leap to someone who could consistently contribute to the defense. That hasn't exactly been the case yet and as he enters year three the leash is getting shorter.
"You have to do it right now," defensive line coach Joe Cullen said of Bowser's progression. "The clock has ticked."
Bowser did record a pick-six during the joint practice with the Jaguars on Monday, but he'll need to continue to ride that momentum into some more solid play. The Ravens want to believe in him, but he's got to show it now.
Pernell McPhee (OLB)
McPhee's situation differs from the first two. He's going to make the roster and he's going to get playing time. Yet, he's still a name to pay more attention to as he's sort of gotten lost in the shuffle in recent years. After a subpar 2018 season with the Redskins, he's back with the team he began his career with and seems to be rejuvenated.
Don Martindale said that McPhee looks as good as he did during his first tenure in Baltimore where he helped the 2012 team to a Super Bowl. Cullen backed up that statement by praising McPhee and stating that he'll be a big part of the edge pass rush along with Matt Judon. Additionally, the 30-year old brings a veteran voice to a defense that just lost a few of those.
Looking for a good resurgence story? Tune in to Pernell McPhee.
Zach Sieler (DT)
The interior pass rush has some big playmakers in Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, but there are still questions as to just how deep and impactful that unit will be. Zach Sieler may be helping solve some of those issues.
A steady force throughout camp so far, Cullen believes he'll not only make an impact in subpackages, but he'll continue to challenge the starters and raise everybody's performance. The more service and depth the Ravens can along the line, the better the defense will be.
Gerald Willis (DT)
Sticking with the defensive line, Willis may be a prime candidate for a player who goes undrafted before working his way on to a team and becoming a solid player. No one took a waiver on him in the draft, but that sort of looks like a mistake now.
A big guy (300 pounds), Willis is physical yet nimble upfront. Competition is heavy at the position, but he's got a big chip on his shoulder to help with motivation.
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