We’ll get a better idea of the Ravens’ depth chart next week when the players take the field for the first session of organized team activities. However, it won’t be a surprise when veteran James Hurst is manning the right tackle spot with the first team and it also wouldn’t be surprising if he remains in that role when the team opens the regular season Sept. 9 against the Buffalo Bills.
The drafting of Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in the third round could ultimately be a steal for the Ravens. Brown’s play in college speaks louder than his disastrous performance at the NFL scouting combine, and he has all the physical tools to be a bookend tackle at the next level.
However, Brown acknowledged that he’d like to lose at least 15 pounds to get down to 325. He still needs to get stronger. Ravens offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris will surely go to work on Brown’s technique and footwork, too.
The Ravens aren’t going to hand any rookie a starting job, and that will be especially true of a player who enters the NFL with significant questions about his work ethic and discipline. They’ll want to constantly push Brown, keep him hungry and make sure he works for every snap he gets.
Don’t misunderstand: If Brown clearly proves he’s the better immediate option than Hurst by outplaying him throughout the various minicamps and training camp and in the preseason — and that’s certainly a possibility — then he should start. This is a crucial year for the organization and several of its top decision-makers, so the coaching staff will surely want the best players on the field regardless of their experience and status.
However, when handicapping the few starting position battles that there will be this summer, don’t dismiss the trust factor. Ravens officials have continually showed that they trust Hurst despite the avalanche of fan criticism that the veteran gets. They trusted Hurst enough to start him at left tackle as an undrafted rookie in two playoff games in 2014. They trusted him enough for him to be a 16-game starter last year. And they trusted him enough to essentially choose him over Austin Howard this offseason, signing Hurst to a four-year, $17.5 million deal and declining Howard’s 2018 option the next day.
Brown still needs to develop that trust before he’s anointed the starter.
Gillmore still available
Earlier this offseason, it appeared that the Ravens re-signing free agent tight end-turned-offensive lineman Crockett Gillmore was a little more than a formality. However, free agency is now two months old and Gillmore remains available.
It’s been hard to pinpoint the holdup, but Gillmore’s health probably has a significant role in it. Gillmore, who has dealt with several injuries over the past couple of years, had knee surgery in August to repair a torn MCL that knocked him out for the entire 2017 season. According to people familiar with his situation, Gillmore had to get another procedure done on his knee earlier this offseason.
The Ravens still seem inclined to give Gillmore a look along the offensive line, but his signing would hinge on his ability to pass a physical and prove he’s healthy again.
Ten quick thoughts
1) Rookies and veterans will be at the Ravens’ facility together for the first time during next week’s OTAs. Reporters are permitted to watch next Thursday’s practice. I’m guessing by then, the “How Joe Flacco greets Lamar Jackson storyline” will be chalked up as much ado about nothing.
2) Cornerback Tavon Young told BaltimoreRavens.com for a story Monday that he feels “back to normal” and is optimistic that he’ll have no restrictions going forward after he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. There’s been a lot of attention on the injury recoveries of right guard Marshal Yanda and cornerback Jimmy Smith and rightly so, but it will be significant if Young stays healthy and builds off his strong rookie season. The Ravens had to mix-and-match and rely largely on safety Lardarius Webb in the slot last year. Young would give the Ravens more speed in the middle of the field.
3) Running back Ameer Abdullah has been a disappointment since the Detroit Lions picked him out of Nebraska in the second round in 2015, but if he is indeed on the trading block and could be had for a future Day 3 draft pick, it would make sense for the Ravens to explore it. Abdullah would bring a different dimension than the team’s current backs with his big-play ability and receiving skills out of the backfield.
4) Between the way the Philadelphia Eagles structured Mike Wallace’s free-agent contract to how the Indianapolis Colts held off on adding Howard until after the deadline where signings factored into the compensatory formula, it’s clear that the Ravens are no longer men among boys when it comes to manipulating and working the comp pick formula to their full advantage.
5) With Monday's signing of former UMass defensive end Da’Sean Downey, the Ravens have an 18-man undrafted free-agent class along with a 12-member draft class. This is probably a good year for the team to have an extra week of training camp and five preseason games.
6) I’ve neglected on several occasions to mention quarterbacks coach James Urban as one of the Ravens’ additions this offseason and that’s a mistake on my part. Just by watching Urban with the quarterbacks on the one day of rookie minicamp that was open to reporters, it’s clear that he’s going to have a significant role with how things are done on the offensive side of the ball.
7) I also figured how the Ravens initially approached extending cornerback Jimmy Smith, signing him in April before he entered the final year of his rookie deal, would be a guide on how the negotiations with middle linebacker C.J. Mosley were handled. But the timeline is either different with Mosley or the two sides just haven’t been able to come to an agreement. When he spoke to the media about a month ago, Mosley made it sound as if negotiations hadn’t really begun. It would still surprise me if the Ravens let Mosley get close to the free-agent market.
8) Ravens wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo took to Twitter late Monday night to say that he’s having surgery Tuesday. He didn’t disclose the nature of the surgery. It goes without saying that anything that keeps him off the field for a while is going to make it extremely difficult for him to make the regular-season roster with how many other receivers the Ravens have added.
9) I’d imagine the Ravens will try to get their four unsigned draft picks (Hayden Hurst, Jackson, Brown and Mark Andrews) under contract before they take the field for next week’s OTAs.
10) Not only is there virtually no way the Ravens will be able to keep all 12 of their draft picks on the 53-man roster, the pending roster crunch will also likely force some difficult decisions on some recent high picks. Some players who could enter training camp on the proverbial roster bubble include Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, Bronson Kaufusi and Kamalei Correa. Williams, though, figures to stick because of his blocking ability, and Correa can play special teams and has some versatility.