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Ravens news, notes and opinions on the team's biggest needs (not QB) and camp standouts

While all the attention has been on the backup quarterback role and the potential signing of Colin Kaepernick, I still wouldn't rank that position in the top three of the Ravens' biggest needs. That list has to start with the offensive line.

The Ravens entered camp in need of a veteran right tackle to at least compete with James Hurst, and perhaps an upgrade at center. They've since lost two interior offensive linemen — John Urschel to retirement and Nico Siragusa to a season-ending knee injury — so they now could use an experienced guard as well. Right now, I'm not even sure who would be the three or four reserve offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. Rookie fifth-round draft pick Jermaine Eluemunor would almost surely be one and Matt Skura would likely be another, but beyond that there's nobody remotely close to a lock.

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Ravens currently lack depth and experience on the offensive line and front office is looking for both

Their second-biggest need is probably a slot cornerback. It seemed the Maurice Canady knee injury was glossed over and it shouldn't have been. He can play the slot, on the outside and at safety. With Tavon Young down for the year, it appears that Lardarius Webb will assume the slot corner role. I'd rather have the flexibility of using Webb deeper and allowing him to move around to take advantage of his ball skills and instincts. Other slot options include Brandon Boykin and Anthony Levine Sr.

Then, I'd probably list running back and/or tight end as bigger needs than backup quarterback. I'd hate to take Joe Flacco's durability for granted, but if the Ravens can't protect the quarterback or run the football, I don't think it will matter much who is under center. Their offense will struggle regardless. That's why the front office's focus, at this time, should be on the offensive line, and it appears to be.

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Trade bait?

Don't be at all surprised if general manager Ozzie Newsome fills one or two needs via the trade route. It's always difficult to make deals and all of the injuries have thinned the Ravens' depth at different spots. But I could see the Ravens being willing to move some combination of Za'Darius Smith and Carl Davis, plus a mid- to late-round draft pick or two in an attempt to fill some holes. Smith and Davis won't have a ton of value, but some teams have an excess at certain spots and they're willing to make some moves to alleviate a roster glut.

Camp observations

The running game remains a work in progress and the patchwork offensive line probably hasn't helped matters much early in camp. But it has been really evident how much the team has prioritized fixing its run game. It seems to me — and I haven't charted it or anything — that so many more of the offensive plays in practice are runs than in past years.

Buck Allen is quietly having a really nice camp. He's running much harder and more decisively than he was last year and he's getting a ton of reps. I'm sure there's been one or two, but at the moment, I can't recall Danny Woodhead dropping a single pass yet in camp and there have been a ton of them thrown in his direction. You watch defensive lineman Michael Pierce and it's easy to forget that he was a virtual unknown in camp at this time last year, given very little chance to make the team. He's been quite a find.

Regarding Colin Kaepernick and ESPN's report, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said, “We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision.”

It's going to be very hard for the Ravens to keep undrafted rookie defensive tackle Patrick Ricard off the 53-man roster. Undrafted rookie wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo had to show the coaching staff something when a day after he was carted off the field, he returned to practice and made several big plays, beating Jimmy Smith for one of them. Lorenzo Taliaferro is a tough and determined kid, and I don't doubt he can make the transition to fullback, but it will be tough to get a read on that until the games start. I didn't know anything about Jacksonville State undrafted rookie corner Jaylen Hill when camp started, but he's playing himself into consideration for a roster spot.

I could only imagine how Steve Smith Sr. would have reacted if he was still here and the offense continued to make the same mistakes it's making at these practices on a daily basis. You talk about fireworks.

Insult to injury

There are a couple of byproducts of the injuries that aren't being talked about as much.

One, it certainly hampers the Ravens' roster flexibility at a time team officials are trying to put together the best 53. Any player put on injured reserve right now would have to clear waivers, meaning any team could claim them. That's why the Ravens haven't put young guys like Young, Siragusa and Kenneth Dixon on IR. Another team could claim them, keep them on the roster and then move them to IR on Sept. 3, when 53-man rosters need to be set and players can go on IR without having to clear waivers. So the Ravens really have no choice but to carry their injured players who are out for the season on their roster until Sept. 3.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore could be a guy the Ravens put on IR now to create a roster spot, because he's a free agent after the 2017 season anyway, and teams aren't likely to claim him. Why this matters is the Ravens should be cautious about playing vets much in the preseason, but you have to play someone. When you have a dozen or so players out injured and then you want to sit a bunch of the front-line guys, it doesn't give you too many options for preseason games.

And the other thing that has absolutely killed the Ravens and led to a lot of the criticism about their drafting is just how much time their young players have missed with injuries. When you just consider the past four drafts, look at how many guys that have or will miss full seasons or at least the majority of a season because of injuries: Gillmore, Brent Urban, Taliaferro, Michael Campanaro, Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, Davis, Bronson Kaufusi, Young, Dixon, Canady and now Siragusa.

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Losing a full year of development is the first and biggest problem. But it also hurts the front office and coaching staff because they can't properly evaluate players when they're not on the field. For example, if Kaufusi played well last year rather than missing the full season with an ankle injury, do the Ravens still have to use a third-round pick on defensive end Chris Wormley this year? If Taliaferro had stayed on the field and established himself rather than missing so much time, are the Ravens using fourth-round picks the next two years on Allen and Dixon? Every team deals with injuries, but that the Ravens have lost so many young players to so many season-ending injuries has figured prominently in the team's struggles.

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