This year’s Baltimore Ravens training camp is an interesting one in that there are several position battles taking place and some unknowns heading into the 2013 NFL season. Yesterday, the Ravens released their first official depth chart and there were a couple surprises.
Before we even dive into the highlights of the depth chart, let’s keep in mind that there are still four preseason games and five weeks before the Ravens put on the pads for real on September 5th against the Denver Broncos and the depth chart is certain to change in some form or fashion before then.
With the offseason signings of guys like Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, along with drafting Brandon Williams, it was thought heading into this season that Haloti Ngata would see more time inside and especially at nose guard. According to the newly released depth chart, Ngata is the Ravens starting nose guard. Having Ngata at nose guard does allow both Canty and Arthur Jones to flank him on the ends, thus allowing the Ravens to put their three best defensive lineman on the field at the same time. Do not be misled however, as Baltimore will have quite a rotation going on during games courtesy of their great depth and in order to keep guys fresh.
One of the bigger surprises, but also one of the likely depth chart situations to change before the start of the season is that James Ihedigbo is currently listed as the starting strong safety ahead of first round draft choice Matt Elam. This is likely because Head Coach John Harbaugh wants to send a message to rookies that jobs are not just going to be handed to them, they have to earn it. Elam has been very impressive thus far and if he continues to play the way he has, he will likely be the starter come week one.
Perhaps the best battle thus far in training camp has been the battle for the starting center position voided by the retirement of Matt Birk. Gino Gradkowski has the early edge and is listed as the starter over A.Q. Shipley, but this battle will last all training camp long.
Jacoby Jones is listed as the starting wide receiver across from Torrey Smith, but Deonte Thompson and Tandon Doss are on his heels and listed as the top backups currently. Odds are this position will be a carousel all season with different receivers rotating in and out.
Lastly, the middle linebacker position is a great battle and the early and most impressive of the bunch has been the veteran Daryl Smith. He has played fantastic thus far and is currently listed as the starting “Mike” middle linebacker. In a bit of a surprise, mostly because he is currently on the PUP list, Jameel McClain is listed as the other starting middle linebacker over top backups Josh Bynes and second round draft choice Arthur Brown.
Again, odds are most if not all of these could change throughout training camp, but it is a good glimpse at what the coaching staff is thinking as we are less than a week away from the first preseason game!
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