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Ravens training camp preview: Wide receiver competition wide open from top to bottom

Ravens training camp preview: Wide receiver competition wide open from top to bottom

Rostered wide receivers: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead IV, Antoine Wesley, Chris Moore, De’Anthony Thomas, Jaleel Scott, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Jaylon Moore, Michael Dereus. 

With the exception of the interior offensive line, there’s not a position more up for grabs on the Ravens’ roster than wide receiver. 

Not only are the starters not set in stone, there’s much to be decided on the back half of the depth chart as well. 

Of the top five targeted Ravens receivers last season, just two (Marquise Brown and Willie Snead IV) were wide receivers. The other three were the team’s trio of tight ends. This year, that could be vastly different. 

The Ravens traded Hayden Hurst to the Falcons in the offseason, and as they’re looking to create a more balanced offense, there’s an opportunity to be had for the team’s second wide receiver and third option in the passing game. 

Who that could be, however, is up in the air. 

With Brown, who had 46 catches for 584 yards and seven touchdowns last season, now totally healthy, he’s expected to take a step forward in his second season in the NFL. He’s the team’s top wideout entering training camp. 

The second spot on the depth chart could belong to a handful of players, but perhaps the most popular pick is Miles Boykin. 

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The 93rd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Boykin had a standout offseason last year for the Ravens and impressed in training camp -- but despite the expectations, he made just 13 catches for 198 yards in his 16-game rookie season. 

With a year under his belt now, both he and the Ravens front office are expecting a step forward in his second season. 

From there, the wide receivers are essentially thrown into a blender.

Last year, the Ravens lined up in ‘11’ personnel 47 percent of the time, according to SharpFootballStats.com, meaning they had three receivers on the field for nearly half of their total offensive plays. Without Hurst, that number could rise in 2020. 

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Next up could be rookie receiver Devin Duvernay, the 92nd pick in this year’s draft. At 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, he played the slot receiver position at Texas and boasted some of the best hands in the nation. He tallied 1,386 receiving yards and ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, enough for the Ravens to pick him in the third round.

If the Ravens were to line up with a trio of Brown, Boykin and Duvernay on the field in 11 personnel, they’d have one of, if not the fastest offense in the NFL. While Brown didn’t run at the NFL Combine in 2019, he believes he would’ve broken the 40-yard dash record of 4.22 seconds. 

Seemingly a dark horse at the position, Snead has flown under the radar this offseason simply because of the team’s new additions and expected increases in production from young players. But Snead, who was third on the team in targets (46) and tied for third on the team in catches (31) a season ago, has not only a willingness to block downfield, he’s also got a knowledge of the offensive system -- a luxury not given to Duvernay or fellow rookie James Proche. 

In an incredibly limited offseason, and with perhaps a shortened training camp on the horizon due to the coronavirus pandemic, Snead might be able to seize the team’s second or third receiver role simply because of his veteran presence on the field. 

Proche, another sure-handed wideout, was a sixth-round pick out of SMU in this year's draft. While he doesn't project to be a starter immediately in the Ravens' offense, he could make an impact early in his career on special teams as a returner.

Last year, the Ravens kept six receivers on their initial 53-man roster before they added return specialist De’Anthony Thomas later in the season. They mostly only used four receivers on offense down the stretch, though. 

Jaleel Scott was inactive for a majority of the season and Chris Moore and Thomas were nearly exclusively special teams players for the back-half of 2019. All three are on the roster entering 2020. 

Moore, who recently had his special teams ability praised by coach John Harbaugh, appears to be a lock for the roster in 2020.

In fact, Brown, Boykin, Duvernay, Proche, Snead and Moore figure to be the team’s top six receivers before training camp begins. The Ravens only lost Seth Roberts in free agency at the wide receiver position, meaning there aren’t many longshots that could make the roster with such little turnover.

Unless Thomas or Scott shines to the point where the Ravens can’t afford to let them go, the wide receiver position -- in terms of who makes the final roster -- isn’t as contested as it might seem.

From there, though, it’s a wide open competition. 

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Lamar Jackson hosts throwing session with Ravens teammates in Florida

Lamar Jackson hosts throwing session with Ravens teammates in Florida

NFL teams may not be hosting OTAs this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic nor will they be permitted to use their normal training camp facilities, but that hasn’t stopped teammates across the league from getting together for workouts as the country has begun to open back up.

Among them is Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who invited teammates down to Florida for some group workouts before training camp begins. A few sports fans stumbled on the Baltimore players in a park this week as Jackson was hosting a throwing session with receivers Miles Boykin and James Proche.

According to The Athletic, Boykin has been working out in Baltimore this offseason with new Ravens backup quarterback Trace McSorley. Proche was drafted in the sixth round last April and is hoping to stick in a Ravens wide receiver group that includes Boykin, Marquise Brown, Willie Snead and third-round pick Devin Duvernay.

NFL officials still hope to kick off training camp on time by the end of July.

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Four Ravens that could have a breakout season in 2020

Four Ravens that could have a breakout season in 2020

The Ravens 14-2 season last year was, statistically, one of the best offensive seasons in NFL history. The regular season win-loss record was the best in franchise history and, frankly, there’s really only room to go down — on paper — for the Ravens in 2020. 

But individually, there are a few players that could take a big step forward this upcoming season. Here are four players who are going a bit under the radar that could impress.

EDGE, Jaylon Ferguson

Ferguson might be the player on this list the Ravens would benefit the most from getting a breakout season from. 

As the team’s No. 2 pass-rusher last season, he played in 14 games (nine starts) and had 2.5 sacks. He made 31 combined tackles and had nine quarterback hits. 

Now with Matthew Judon playing under the franchise tag, a productive season would give the Ravens a legitimate second pass-rusher off the edge to compliment Judon on the other side. His potential increase in production isn’t just based on Ferguson’s development from year-to-year, either. 

The Ravens made vast improvements to the front seven over the offseason and added veterans  Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, as well as rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington. With an improved interior rush, Ferguson could reap the benefits and have a breakout second season. 

If he does, not only will the Ravens have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, they’ll have one of the best defensive fronts, too.

WR, Miles Boykin

Boykin is maybe the easiest answer on this list. Not only does Boykin expect to have a breakout season, the Ravens expect him to as well. 

But it won’t come easy for the second-year, 6-foot-4 wideout. 

He had just 13 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns last season, which placed him eighth on the team in targets and receptions. Just two players ahead of him on the list, Hayden Hurst and Seth Roberts, departed in the offseason. 

The Ravens also added wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche in the third and sixth rounds, respectively, in April’s draft and then drafted running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round. Simply, there might not be a lot of targets to go around. 

And, with Marquise Brown now healthy in his second season, Boykin will have serious competition for targets in a monster year for his career outlook in Baltimore. 

ILB, Patrick Queen

Queen is the likeliest rookie to break out on the Ravens, and for good reason. 

He was the team’s first pick at 28th overall, at the biggest position of need on the roster. He’ll be handed an immediate starting spot and will play behind three big defensive linemen in Brandon Williams, Campbell and Wolfe. 

Defensively, the Ravens ranked 20th in the NFL in yards-per-carry (4.4) and 21st in sacks (37) last year, both numbers which should improve in the 2020 season. Queen should be the one to reap the benefits of that immediately. 

With a defensive line that’s vastly improved from a year ago, Queen — a three-down linebacker — should boost the Ravens’ front seven both in the run and pass game.

RB, J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins requires a bit of an exception to make this list. 

His 2019 season at Ohio State was one of the best in Buckeyes’ history. He had 301 carries for 2,003 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. But while his time at Ohio State screamed immediate starter in the NFL, he was drafted by one of the few teams in the league where that’s not abundantly clear. 

He’ll join the depth chart behind Mark Ingram and with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to compete for touches out of the backfield. That’s no easy task for the Ravens to manage. 

If, however, the Ravens manage the backfield’s touches successfully, there’s an opening for Dobbins to seize a bigger role in the backfield than some might expect. 

Make no mistake, the Ravens didn’t spend the 55th overall pick on a player to sit him on the bench. As to how much he’ll see the field depends on both Ingram’s play and Dobbins’ development, though. 

But if Ingram, who had 1,018 yards last season on 202 carries, doesn’t see the ball as much, there’s an easy path to being a prominent figure in the Ravens’ backfield.

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