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Five Key Questions Facing The Ravens Entering OTAs

May 16, 2019
With the Ravens rookies having received their first glimpse of life in the NFL during rookie minicamp last week, the Ravens' offseason moves into another phase next week when veterans return for OTA workouts.

The Ravens will hold the first OTA workout on Monday, May 20, and the 10 workouts will be spread throughout three weeks until June 7. Mandatory minicamp then will be held June 11-13 before the team scatters for a five-week break before training camp. 

Here are five key questions facing the Ravens as OTAs begin:

1. Does Lamar Jackson show improvement as a passer?

The Ravens have stressed they are rebuilding their offense "from the ground up," and while Jackson and the running game figure to once again be a central component in new coordinator Greg Roman's offense, nothing will determine the short-term future of the franchise more than Jackson's evolution as a passer.

Jackson showed flashes last year, such as a 68-yard touchdown throw to tight end Mark Andrews against the Los Angeles Chargers in December, but he was inconsistent with his mechanics and his delivery, a point he acknowledged earlier this spring. Jackson's completion percentage (58.2 percent) ranked 37th among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. 

He spent the offseason working with quarterbacks coach Joshua Harris, who had worked with Jackson before the draft last year as well, and his offseason throwing partners included current Ravens receivers Jordan Lasley and Jaylen Smith. 

"Just like any young guy, he's going to develop," Roman said. "So as far as him throwing the football, we feel great about it, and we saw a lot of improvement last year throughout the season. And really, he's only going to get better from here."

2. Which receivers stand out?

The Ravens won't get a look at first-round draft pick Marquise Brown until training camp, as he remains sidelined recovering from a Lisfranc foot injury. But that opens the door for several other receivers to begin building their case for a roster spot in what should be a heated competition all summer.

Third-round pick Miles Boykin (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) brings an element of size the Ravens were lacking last year. How will the Ravens work him into the offense? Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley didn't play a snap last year as rookies, and they have much to prove this spring and summer. 

The Ravens also want to see what they have in Seth Roberts, the five-year veteran signed earlier this offseason. The intriguing crop of undrafted rookies includes Smith, Jackson's former teammate at Louisville, and Joe Horn Jr., the son of the four-time Pro Bowl receiver who was signed by the Ravens out of their rookie minicamp.

3. Does Tyus Bowser or Tim Williams assert himself as a potential starter?

With Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith gone, the Ravens desperately need to find edge rushers ready to make an impact, and neither Bowser nor Williams has done that during his first two seasons in the league. Bowser totaled five tackles in limited duty last year, while Williams flashed in training camp but then faded. Slowed at times by a foot injury, Williams was a healthy inactive for the final four games. 

The Ravens continue to shop around on the open market for edge rushing help, though pickings are slim at this point, and rookie third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson could step in and contribute immediately. 

The Ravens were preparing for life after Suggs when they drafted Bowser and Williams in the second and third round, respectively, in 2017. Now life after Suggs is here, and the time for Bowser and Williams is now. 

4. Can the Ravens capably replace C.J. Mosley?

The Ravens lost the heart of their defense when Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley signed a massive five-year, $85 million free-agent deal with the New York Jets, and the onus falls on Patrick Onwuasor and second-year linebacker Kenny Young to fill those huge shoes.
 
Onwuasor said he's comfortable moving to the middle linebacker spot that Mosley had occupied, and since the Ravens did not address inside linebacker in the draft -- general manager Eric DeCosta said it was not a strong position overall -- Young figures to slot in as a starter as well. The Ravens could also look to bolster the position via the waiver wire. 

Onwuasor said he's comfortable wearing the defensive headset helmet usually manned by Mosley, but he also has a couple of veteran safeties behind him in Tony Jefferson and free-agent acquisition Earl Thomas.

5. Does the speed show up on the field? 

The Ravens' draft this year was all about getting faster. They drafted blazing receiver Brown, the fastest running back at the combine in Justice Hill and the fastest quarterback at the combine in Trace McSorley, who could show up in a variety of ways in this offense. And, of course, they have the dynamic Jackson leading the way. 

DeCosta said a lot of speed on offense "makes it tough as a defense. As good as our defense has been, it's a challenge for a team to face speed when you have multiple guys on the field at the same time who can run and make explosive plays."

Brown isn't going to be on the field in OTAs, and there won't be any contact this spring, so results will be inconclusive. But the Ravens should get an early read as to how the speed of Hill and others translate on the field, and whether they have the so-called home-run hitters head coach John Harbaugh has been seeking. 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox