The Ravens will open up organized team activities tomorrow and, as always, much of the attention will be on quarterback Joe Flacco and the team’s rookies and newcomers. But here are five veterans who might be worth monitoring over the next couple of weeks. And I say “might” because these workouts are voluntary and there are no assurances that the following players will be participating:
1. Eugene Monroe, LT: There will be no open roster competition at left tackle even though James Hurst represented himself well as an undrafted free agent last year. It is Monroe’s job, but the Ravens will need him to be healthier and more consistent than he was last year after signing a big free-agent deal.
2. Courtney Upshaw, OLB: With Pernell McPhee gone, Upshaw should get more opportunities to show that he can rush the passer. Heading into a contract year, he needs to come into training camp in peak shape, which has been problematic at times in his career.
3. Matt Elam, S: This could be a make-or-break year for the former first-round draft pick who has been challenged by general manager Ozzie Newsome a couple of times this offseason. Elam says he’s in the best shape of his career. Will it translate to the field?
4. Marlon Brown, WR: After a strong rookie season, Brown took a step back last year and his struggles started last summer, when he dropped too many passes in practice. With Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones gone, Brown will get every opportunity to slide into that No. 2 wide receiver role.
5. Arthur Brown, ILB: The 2013 second-round pick hasn’t been able to get on the field over the past couple of years. With C.J. Mosley recovering from wrist surgery, Brown could get opportunities during the OTAs to show that he’s made progress and deserves to get more defensive snaps.
We’ll know more later this week about how far along center Jeremy Zuttah is in his recovery from offseason hip surgery. If he’s unable to participate in offseason workouts, it will be interesting to see who lines up at center with the starting offensive line.
The Ravens have two natural centers behind Zuttah on the roster: 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen and undrafted rookie free agent Nick Easton (Harvard). Then, there’s John Urschel, a natural guard who has very little experience at center, yet some evaluators believe that he could play the position.
Urschel is the Ravens’ top reserve guard, but if he could also serve as the primary backup to Zuttah, it would give head coach John Harbaugh options both in the construction of his 53-man roster at the end of the preseason and in his decisions on gameday inactives. The goal obviously is to keep the best eight or nine offensive linemen and Urschel’s versatility could allow Harbaugh to do just that.
Osemele and Dumervil are two of the Ravens hardest working and most competitive players. Osemele badly wants to make a Pro Bowl team and will be especially motivated given that he’s heading into a contract year. Dumervil wants to build off his 17-sack season and eclipse the 100-sack plateau for his career. He currently has 90.
I’d imagine Osemele and Dumervil got after each other pretty good in workouts, which is sure to benefit the Ravens in the long run.
The Ravens were the first team to be featured on the show in 2001. If you are waiting for a second appearance by the team, I wouldn’t hold your breath. There are three ways for a team to be exempt from the show: Have a new coach, make the playoffs in at least one of the previous two seasons and be on the show within the previous 10 years.
As long as Harbaugh’s team keeps making the playoffs on a regular basis, you won’t see them on “Hard Knocks.” Plus, even if they weren’t exempt, I’d imagine that Ozzie Newsome and company would do everything in their power to make sure that the Ravens weren’t selected.
With a judge last week dismissing the domestic violence charges against Ray Rice after the former running back completed the terms of his pretrial intervention, it’s fair to wonder whether the next eight weeks or so mark Rice’s last chance to get back to the NFL.
Since Rice didn’t play a single snap last season, any team that signs him would obviously want to see him extensively during training camp and the preseason. It’s also fair to wonder if the Dallas Cowboys aren’t willing to take a chance on Rice, is there a team out there that will?
This offseason, the Cowboys re-signed middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who has had extensive off-the-field issues; signed defensive end Greg Hardy, who was allegedly involved in a domestic violence incident last year; and drafted defensive end Randy Gregory, who fell into the second round because of concerns about multiple failed drug tests.
And the Cowboys, who lost starting running DeMarco Murray in free agency and replaced him with the oft-injured Darren McFadden, just last week worked out journeyman backs Felix Jones, Ben Tate and Daniel Thomas. They clearly are looking to add some running back depth. At this point, why not give Rice a look?