Offensive Line Competition Headlines Ravens’ Training Camp Battles

Ravens Ben Cleveland

Getty Baltimore Ravens rookie guard Ben Cleveland looks on during training camp.

After a disappointing, injury-riddle 2021 season, the Baltimore Ravens are looking to bounce back and make a Super Bowl run in the last year of Lamar Jackson’s rookie contract.

To do that, they’ll need much-improved play from multiple units after an offseason that saw  significant turnover in Baltimore. Offensive starters like Hollywood Brown and Bradley Bozeman have joined new teams, while four cornerback departures have led to a new-look secondary.

The Ravens’ offseason overhaul has opened the door for several training camp competitions for starting jobs. With the arrival of Baltimore’s 2022 rookie class and several veteran free agents, John Harbaugh and his coaching staff will have their work cut out for them assembling the depth chart for this season.

Here are the Ravens’ hottest training camp position battles on the offensive side of the ball.

Vets Lead the Way at RT

The Ravens are hoping that All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley will make a full return for the 2022 season, allowing them to focus on right tackle.

Leading that competition will be three players who have never suited up for the Ravens: Ja’Wuan James, Morgan Moses and Daniel Faalele.

Ja’Wuan James spent most of 2021 in Baltimore rehabbing a torn Achilles after opting out of the 2020 season. He briefly joined the rest of the team on the practice field, but could not make enough progress to play before the end of the regular season.

Morgan Moses signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Ravens in March and arrives in Baltimore as their most-experienced offensive tackle. He’s started 16 games in each of the past seven seasons for the New York Jets and Washington Commanders, so he should be in pole position to win the starting job in Baltimore.

At 6-foot-8 and 380 pounds, Daniel Faalele has more than enough size to be a starting tackle in the NFL, but he only began playing football in 2016. The Ravens drafted him in the fourth round to be a future pillar on their offensive line, but he’s too raw to be pressed into a starting role as a rookie.

The Ravens have two other tackles on their roster in David Sharpe and Jaryd Jones-Smith, but both players profile as potential depth pieces on the practice squad.

This competition is also contingent on Ronnie Stanley’s health. If he can’t make it all the way back from his brutal 2020 ankle injury, Patrick Mekari – who started 12 games at right tackle last year – could figure into the right tackle competition as well. If Stanley isn’t healthy, Mekari could be requisitioned to play left tackle, as could James and Moses, who both have some experience there.

Ultimately, Moses should win the starting right tackle competition for his constant quality play and availability over his career. James hasn’t played more than three games since 2018, but a return to his pre-injury form could win him the job.

Youth Dominates at LG

The Ravens had three players play at least 10 games and 350 snaps at left guard last season – Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers and Ben Cleveland – and all three will compete for the starting job in 2022. Phillips and Powers are both 25, while Cleveland will be 24 by the start of the season, so the Ravens could be picking their left guard of the future this preseason.

Tyre Phillips won a starting guard job out of camp in both of his first two NFL seasons, so he should be viewed as a frontrunner for the left guard spot in 2022. Injuries to himself and other offensive linemen have prevent him from settling in at any one spot, but the 2020 third-rounder will have every opportunity to do so this year and win the job.

Ben Powers has made 29 appearances and 19 starts in the last two years, but that has always come after another starter has been injured. The Ravens trust him to play when needed, but the former Oklahoma Sooner has never been their first option. If the rest of the line is healthy, he could even be dangled as trade bait similar to Ben Bredeson in 2021.

Ben Cleveland was drafted in the third round last year to be Baltimore’s next massive, people-moving guard, but he failed to impress as a rookie. His 6-foot-6, 357-pound frame should lend itself well to the Ravens’ power rushing scheme, but the Georgia product will need to stand out in the preseason to earn a starting spot.

Phillips has an excellent shot of winning the starting job, but all three of these young players will have a shot. Expect this to be one of the most competitive battles all preseason.

Uncertainty in the Backfield

Entering the 2021 season, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins were co-starting running backs for the Ravens, a plan that was derailed by ACL tears to the duo. The team hopes the same will be true at some point this year, but both players are starting training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. It’s possible that either, neither or both of Edwards and Dobbins are ready for Week 1, so there could be anywhere from two to four available running back spots with plenty of carries to go around. (Dobbins, for what it’s worth, has insisted that he will be ready by Week 1.)

Justice Hill has been Baltimore’s third-string running back since he was drafted in 2019, but he’s coming off an Achilles tear of his own. His knowledge of the offense and experience on special teams should give him a leg up to make the team and even earn some early-season carries if he’s fully healthy.

Missouri bellcow Tyler Badie racked up 322 touches and 1934 total yards in 2021, so he’s capable of handling a heavy load both as a rusher and a receiver. He will see plenty of action in the preseason, giving him the chance to carve out a role early in the season.

Recent signing Mike Davis could be a steadying veteran presence in the backfield with just six fumbles on 550 carries in his career. If Edwards isn’t ready to start the season, Davis would likely be the Ravens’ next-best option for goal line duties.

Former Philadelphia Eagle Corey Clement and 2021 undrafted free agent Nate McCrary will be in the mix, too, though their fortunes are much more dependent on the health of the running backs ahead of them.

The makeup of the backfield will come down to the availability of Dobbins and Edwards, but after last year’s injury fiasco, the Ravens won’t rush anyone into a heavy workload. Hill, Badie and Davis all have a solid chance to contribute early in the year.

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