The Baltimore Ravens released the team’s first depth chart for the 2018 season yesterday. Although it is preliminary, and the Ravens have yet to play in the first preseason game, the chart gives an insight into the overall standings of certain players on the team, and how certain position groups are unfolding. While most of the depth chart is unsurprising, there are some points worth noting. In this article, I will break down the Ravens’ depth chart into three segments, the offense, defense, and special teams. You can find the full Ravens depth chart on the Baltimore Ravens website, here.
On the offensive side of the ball, we see the first major divet from expectations. While Joe Flacco is the undisputed starting quarterback, we see Robert Griffin III, not Lamar Jackson, sitting in the second string quarterback slot. This is contrary to what was being forecasted by most, including me. It appears that the coaching staff believes that Lamar Jackson simply is not ready for NFL football, while Griffin gives the Ravens an experienced and capable backup. It is important to remember that this can change before the season, but it does require Jackson to grow as a quarterback.
Moving on to the wide receivers, it is obvious that the Ravens really like the top three wide receivers the organization added earlier this offseason. Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown are all listed as starters. This is no surprise, but the position gets much more interesting when looking at the second string receivers. One receiver on this list is Chris Moore, who is widely considered to be the 4th wide receiver on the depth chart. Somewhat surprisingly, Breshad Perriman is also listed as a second-string receiver, above the draft picks Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott. Perriman has disappointed the Ravens in his first three years with the organization, and it’s unclear whether he will survive the offseason on the roster.
Tim White is also listed here. He has impressed coaches since being picked up after the draft last year. He is also above the two draft picks who have impressed coaches as well. Listed in the third string slots are the previously mentioned Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, along with former Canadian player DeVier Posey. Posey is a long shot to make the roster, but both Lasley and Scott should be able to do so. Finally, the fourth string slots are Jaelon Acklin, Janarion Grant, and Andre Levrone. None of these players are expected to make the roster as receivers, but Grant has shown talent as a kick and punt returner.
The running back position is perhaps the most predictable of all the offensive positional groups. The starting running back is Alex Collins who burst onto the scene in 2017. The Irish dancer is followed up by Javorius “Buck” Allen, and behind him is Kenneth Dixon. The front three backs are unlikely to see change barring a major injury or suspension. Mark Thompson is also listed as third-string running back. The big runner has impressed coaches and is in a battle with Gus Edwards and De’Lance turner, the fourth-string running backs, to make the roster. Fullback/defensive lineman Patrick Ricard is listed as the starting fullback, and Christopher Ezeala is the second string. It is unlikely that Ricard would lose his position, and Ezeala is a longshot to make the final roster.
The tight end position also looks strange, but upon examination one can understand why the group is listed the way it is. The current starting tight end is Nick Boyle. Boyle has been a reliable tight end for Baltimore and has done very well in the blocking department. However, most expected first-round pick Hayden Hurst to top this list. Hurst is actually listed as a fourth-string tight end, along with Nick Keizer. At second string is Maxx Williams, the second round pick from 2015. Williams has disappointed since being drafted by the Ravens and is looking at his last shot this year to make an impact before the team cuts ties with him. behind him are Vince Mayle and Mark Andrews at third string.
Most would expect the tight end group to be listed in the following order, Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams. The reason this is not the case is that both Hurst and Andrews have been dealing with injuries. Hurst and Andrews have missed time in training camp, and this is reflected in the depth chart. By the time both players are healthy, both will likely be listed at first and second string accordingly.
Finally, the offensive line is seeing a battle at two positions, center and right tackle. Currently leading the charge at center is Matt Skura. Skura was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 by the Ravens and was placed on the practice squad. In 2017, Skura was promoted to the 53 man roster and started 12 games at right guard in place of Marshal Yanda. Skura did fairly well at the position and is now looking to lock down a long-term position with the Ravens at center. Behind him on the depth chart is sixth-round draft pick out of Alabama Bradley Bozeman, and Maurquice Shakir.
Meanwhile, at right tackle, I expected Orlando Brown Jr. to be the front-runner for the starting slot. However, it seems that James Hurst has currently outplayed him. Hurst has been a bit of a Swiss army knife for the Baltimore Ravens in the sense that he has filled in at many different positions along the offensive line during his time in Baltimore. Hurst went undrafted in 2014 but was signed by the Baltimore Ravens. Hurst became a full-time starter for the Ravens in 2017, playing as a tackle for one game and guard for 15. The Ravens re-signed him earlier this offseason. Of all positions on the offensive line, this battle between Hurst and Brown will be the most interesting to watch. Behind both Hurst and Brown on the depth chart is Andrew Donnal, not expected to make the roster.
At left tackle, Ronnie Stanley is listed as the starter. This is no surprise to anyone as Stanley has stood out as a left tackle since being selected in the first round by the Ravens in 2016. Behind him is Greg Senat, a sixth-round pick by the Ravens this year out of Wagner. At left guard, Alex Lewis is currently listed as the starter. Nico Siragusa is the backup. At right guard, the future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda is listed as the starter, with Jermaine Eluemunor behind him. The third string is Justin Evans and the fourth string is Cameron Lee.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are very few surprises on the depth chart. Brandon Williams is the starting defensive tackle, and for good reason. Williams has been a run stuffing machine for the Ravens, and Baltimore signed him to a mega-extension last offseason. Williams is the leader of that front line. Behind him is Willie Henry, who has done well in the limited time he has seen on the field. The Ravens are excited to see what he can bring to the table in this stacked group this year. Behind Henry is Zach Sieler, the Ravens’ seventh-round pick in this year’s draft.
At nose tackle is Michael Pierce. Pierce went undrafted in the 2016 draft but stood out in the Ravens preseason. Since then, he has grown his role along the defensive line, becoming one of the NFL’s emerging talents. Behind Pierce on the depth chart is Chris Wormley, a pick out of Michigan last year. Wormley disappointed in his first year with the Ravens, but the Ravens hope Wormley can improve this year and find a valuable role on the roster. Christian LaCouture is listed as the third-string nose tackle. The undrafted rookie does not have a great chance to make the roster but should fill in during the preseason.
At defensive end, Brent Urban is slated as the starter. This is another position unlikely to see a change in the starting spot. Urban, a former fourth-round pick by the Ravens in 2014, re-signed with the organization this past offseason. Urban signed a $1.1 million deal. The contract is essentially a one year prove it deal. For Urban, his caliber of play is not the issue the Ravens need reassurance on, it is his health. After dealing with injuries throughout his career, Urban sustained a Lisfranc foot sprain last year and missed most of the season. Behind Urban at defensive end is Carl Davis, who has developed decently for the Ravens. Davis will likely be a depth player while also seeing the field in special packages. Bronson Kaufusi sits at the third-string slot. Kaufusi is on the roster bubble this year, as he has failed to do much of anything during his time in Baltimore since being drafted by the Ravens in the third round in 2016. At fourth string is the roster longshot, Myles Humphrey. The undrafted will likely be cut.
The outside linebacker position is headed by Terrell Suggs on the Rush side. Suggs, a future Hall of Famer, is nearing the end of his career. Whether 2018 will be his last campaign or not is unknown, but what is known is that T-Sizzle wants to continue to dominate on the field. Behind him is Za’Darius Smith who has flashed, but has yet to consistently be on the field. As Suggs ages, it is likely that Smith will get find himself in the game more to relieve the longtime Raven. The final spot on this side of outside linebackers is Tim Williams, one of the Ravens’ third-round picks last year. Williams did not touch the field much of his rookie year, but the Ravens still have high hopes for the former Alabama linebacker. He will likely fill the roster as a depth and developmental player this year.
On the other side of the field is the Sam outside linebacker spot. This position is headed by Matthew Judon. The former Grand Valley State player was drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. Judon has developed extremely well for the Baltimore Ravens and has consistently improved on a game by game basis. In 2016, Judon played in 14 games, recording 27 combined tackles and four sacks. A year later, he became a full-time starter and recorded 60 combined tackles and 8 sacks. Now he has a chance to burst on to the national stage and prove himself. Behind him is last year’s second-round pick, Tyus Bowser. Bowser underwhelmed in his first year with the Ravens but has shown tremendous growth in his second year with the organization. The coaching staff believes Bowser can assume a larger role this year. Behind Bowser is Kamalaei Correa, another player on the roster bubble. Correa was drafted in 2016 in the second round and has disappointed in his two years with the Ravens.
The next position on the depth chart is middle linebacker. It’s no surprise that this position is headed by the three-time Pro Bowler, C.J. Mosley. Despite his contract situation, Mosley is the undisputed future of the Ravens defense. There is no chance he is deposed as the starter. Alongside Mosley is Patrick “Peanut” Onwuasor. Onwuasor burst on the scene last year after Zachary Orr was forced to retire. Onwuasor played well at times for the Ravens but needs to improve. He is being challenged for the starting spot by Albert McClellan (listed behind Mosley), and Kenny Young, listed as the second string WLB. Bam Bradley is also listed on the depth chart as the third string behind Albert McClellan, with Chris Board next to him. Finally, Alvin Jones is listed as the fourth string. Board and Jones are both longshots to make the team, while Bradley is on the bubble.
The cornerback position is headed by Jimmy Smith, who in recent years has transformed into a lockdown defensive back. Jimmy Smith was arguably the best cornerback in the National Football League last year until he injured his Achilles. The other starting cornerback is Brandon Carr. The veteran who has missed no games during his career performed well in his first year with Baltimore in 2017. Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young are listed as the second string corners. Humphrey played phenomenally well last year and is expected to improve on his skills this year. Young is an excellent slot cornerback who unfortunately could not play last year, as he was injured. This group of four is expected to dominate this year. Both Maurice Canady and Anthony Averett are listed as the third-string cornerbacks. Canady is on the bubble of making the roster, while Averett is expected to make it. The fourth string cornerbacks are all longshots to make the roster. They are Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Jackson Porter, Darious Williams, and Jaylen Hill. Hill made the roster as an undrafted rookie last year, but injuries kept him off the field.
The final positions on the defense are the safeties. Both Tony Jefferson (SS) and Eric Weddle (FS) are the undisputed starters at each of their respective positions. Chuck Clark, the second-year safety, is listed as the second string at free safety. Anthony Levine Sr. is listed as the second-string strong safety. Both players are expected to make the roster with no movement in the depth chart. Kai Nacua and Bennet Jackson are listed as third-stringers at strong safety and free safety respectively. Both are longshots to make the roster. Finally, DeShon Elliot is listed as the fourth-string strong safety. He will likely make the roster, as he was drafted out of Texas this year.
There is only one position on special teams that is up for grabs this year, and that is a kick and punt returner. The main competition for this position is between Tim White and Janarion Grant, while Jordan Lasley is also in the mix. The current leader is Tim White, who is also listed as a second-string wide receiver. Janarion Grant is listed as the second string return man and Lasley as the third.
The wolf pack is, of course, the same as last year. It consists of punter and holder Sam Koch, kicker Justin Tucker, and long snapper Morgan Cox. Behind Koch, this year is a rookie punter Kaare Vedvik who along with the long snapper Trent Sieg, is essentially auditioning for other teams.