The Baltimore Ravens are a favorite to win the Super Bowl this season -- and for good reason. John Harbaugh's squad finished with a league-best 14-2 record in 2019, as the Ravens coasted to a No. 1 overall seed. Unfortunately, they were quickly ousted from the postseason by Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans, but this young team may have not reached the level of success they all are capable of yet.
Lamar Jackson took home the MVP, led the No. 2 overall offense and engineered the best rushing attack in NFL history. He also led the league in touchdown passes, proving he was able to take that extra step forward in his progression that turned him into a legitimate star. It's going to be hard work to reach the level of success the Kansas City Chiefs were able to this past season, but Baltimore is certainly on that path.
While the Ravens are bringing back the majority of their starters in 2020, they did lose a couple of important pieces. Harbaugh's first goal during this unprecedented offseason will be to evaluate his talent and establish a rough depth chart. This task will be more difficult than usual since there is no preseason due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Baltimore has plenty of talent, but which players will get more playing time than others? Let's take a look at five of the most intriguing training camp battles for the Ravens.
1. Right guard
The Ravens may not have lost many important players this offseason, but this offensive line is going to be very different without the now-retired Marshal Yanda. The potential future Pro Football Hall of Famer has been a mainstay along Baltimore's offensive front, and he helped pave the way for the Ravens to rush for an NFL record 3,296 yards in 2019. Replacing the gaping hole he leaves will be one of Harbaugh's main goals during training camp.
Baltimore selected former Oklahoma offensive lineman Ben Powers in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He played in just one game during his rookie season, but don't count him out when it comes to having a chance to win the starting job. One of the favorites to win this battle will probably be veteran D.J. Fluker -- who the Ravens signed back in May. The former first-round pick has played for three different teams over his seven years in the league and has started 88 of the 92 games he has played in. Ben Bredeson might get a chance in this battle as well, as the Ravens selected him in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was a first-team All-Big Ten player with Michigan last season and a second-team All-American. It will be hard to replace the kind of play Yanda was capable of at right guard, but the Ravens have a couple of young talented guys who could take a big step forward this season.
2. Wide Receiver
The wide receiver position could end up being even more of a strength for the Ravens in 2020, but Harbaugh is going to have to figure out how to establish his depth chart and see where each one of his weapons fits in best. Marquise Brown was the Ravens' top wide receiver in terms of yards and touchdowns last season, and he's expected to have an even bigger season in 2020. He will definitely secure a starting spot, but what about the spot opposite Brown? Is Miles Boykin ready to step up into a full-time role? Will Willie Snead hold down that spot? Could a rookie like Devin Duvernay or James Proche step up and impress during training camp? Additionally, who is going to get the most time in the slot? Snead certainly has played there before, but Dunvernay or Proche could be a more intriguing option.
We haven't even mentioned other talented players in the wide receiving corps such as Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott and Antoine Wesley, and who knows if the Ravens are still in on Antonio Brown? This is where not having a preseason could hurt the Ravens because you certainly would like to see all of these players get some game action as we head into the regular season.
3. Running back
Just like at wide receiver, the Ravens' running back room is loaded. The NFL's top rushing team has the potential to get even better in 2020, as they selected former Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round of this year's draft. Not only will Dobbins take some of the load away from Mark Ingram and bring some more youth to that backfield, the 5-foot-9, 209 pounder also fits how Baltimore deploys its running game rather perfectly. In Dobbins, Baltimore is getting another back who thrives running out of the shotgun and got most of his production in that formation. Of his 2,003 rushing yards for the Buckeyes last season, 1,755 of those yards came from the shotgun (via Sports Info Solutions), which ranked the second-most in college football in 2019. Along with that yardage output, Dobbins had 18 touchdowns and averaged 6.8 yards per carry out of the gun. Still, the Ravens have Gus Edwards and Justice Hill -- who both have flashed in the past.
All four of these backs have starting potential and they will all get playing time. Harbaugh can go on about how he doesn't have a true depth chart with his running backs and that he wants a four-headed monster in the backfield, but the truth is that some are going to get more playing time than others. Will Dobbins come in and make an immediate impact and force guys like Edwards and Hill more out of the rotation?
4. Middle Linebacker
The Ravens drafted two inside linebackers in Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison who both could make an immediate impact in their rookie seasons. Queen racked up 85 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks and one interception during his junior season at LSU, and appears to be a sideline-to-sideline player that could captain this unit. Harrison was a first-team All-Big Ten player who was a tackling machine that played incredibly well in between the tackles. Harbaugh said earlier this offseason that he expects both players to play "a lot of football this year," but in what positions exactly and will they be starters?
Odds are both will start on the inside, but you can't write them in as first-string players without giving Chris Board and the veteran L.J. Fort a chance. According to Harbaugh, Queen will likely play at MIKE (inside) linebacker and will indeed be a three-down player. Harrison, on the other hand, could start on the weak-side, and will also get some reps at MIKE linebacker. That means Fort and Board will indeed get some playing time -- but how much?
5. Kick and punt returner
Candidates: Justice Hill, Chris Moore, Willie Snead, James Proche
Hill was last year's leading kick returner, and he will likely retain that position in 2020. He could have some competition with the rookie Proche if Harbaugh wants to give him a chance, however. The position of punt returner is much more interesting, as last year's starter in De'Anthony Thomas has opted out for the 2020 season and his backup, cornerback Cyrus Jones, is no longer part of the team. Maybe this is where Proche could fit in.
Kick return battles aren't the most intriguing part of any training camp, but there are three facets of football and the Ravens will need to be elite on special teams if they want a chance at a Lombardi Trophy this season.