Ravens training camp notes: Has the left guard battle become a two-man race?

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is entering his eighth NFL season and feels the Baltimore Ravens are further along at this point of training camp than any year of his career. When he thinks about the offensive line, in particular, he believes the current group has the potential to be as good as the 2019 unit, which protected Lamar Jackson in his unanimous MVP season and paved the way for a record-setting running game.

However, there is one obvious question about the offensive line that needs to be answered in the coming weeks: Who will be starting at left guard?

If you read between the lines of head coach John Harbaugh’s post-practice news conference Wednesday, it sounds like the left guard competition is between two players: rookie sixth-round pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, who has gotten all the starting reps so far, and John Simpson, who has been lining up as the second-team left guard.

“He’s done well,” Harbaugh said of Aumavae-Laulu. “I haven’t seen any step back, nothing to make you think he’s been slowed down, or nothing to disappoint. He still continues to make steady progress. I’ll also say, John Simpson, you know, same thing. He’s had a great camp, and next week, we’ll flip it. He will go with the ones and ‘Sala’ will go with the twos. We’ll look at both guys with both groups of guys. So, that’s how we set it up.”

Perhaps, Harbaugh was just unwilling, at least publicly, to lay out the team’s plans at left guard beyond next week. But it still felt notable that he never revealed any plans Wednesday to get Ben Cleveland starting reps at left guard.

There’s obviously still a little time for that, but if Simpson absorbs the first-team reps all next week and through the Aug. 12 preseason opener, that won’t leave a whole lot of opportunity to get another competitor in the mix. In the past when it comes to starting competitions, Harbaugh has voiced a desire to have the position battle settled somewhere between the second and third preseason games.

The Ravens’ second preseason game is Aug. 21 against the Washington Commanders. Their third and final one is five days later versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“We’re going to try some of the guys at other positions just to see who’s the best,” said Ravens offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris. “The good news about our business: we get to see who rises up to earn that spot.”

The Ravens clearly are intrigued by Aumavae-Laulu’s size and potential, but he’s also struggled at times in practice while dealing with the likes of Michael Pierce and Justin Madubuike.

“He’s got a tremendous work ethic,” D’Alessandris said. “(He’s) really receptive to learning and takes the information, applies it. It’s been a pleasant surprise so far. The first two days in pads, and (Wednesday), he’s making nice progress. He’s a work in progress, and we’ll see how he continues to grow.”


Ravens camp notes: D-line setting the tone as pads come on and intensity picks up

Simpson is a bit more of a known commodity. A fourth-round pick by the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, Simpson has started 21 games over the past three seasons. The Raiders let him go last year and Baltimore added him to its practice squad, then re-signed him in the offseason.

Then, there’s Cleveland, who was taken in the third round in 2021 with the belief that he’d ultimately become a starting guard. He’s started five games for Baltimore over the past two seasons and mostly held his own. When Ben Powers signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency, Cleveland was immediately thought of as his successor. However, given where Cleveland has gotten his reps dating back to the offseason minicamp, there’s been no indication yet that the Ravens are seriously considering him for the starting left guard job.

“Ben just needs to continue to grow and get more consistent, and he’s working at that,” D’Alessandris said. “We’ll see how that plays out.”

A now-healthy Stanley will be at left tackle and veteran Morgan Moses will be manning right tackle. Second-year pro Tyler Linderbaum will be at center and Kevin Zeitler at right guard. That leaves just one spot unsettled on an offensive line that Harbaugh expects to be very good.

The Ravens still could give Patrick Mekari, who can play all five positions up front, a shot at left guard, but he’s so valuable as the sixth offensive lineman and a guy who can come in during a game, play any of the five spots and do it well. Harbaugh has talked about getting tackle Daniel Faalele a longer look inside at guard. But the clock is ticking and everything so far suggests this is a two-man competition.

Now, on to observations from Wednesday’s practice:

• With his team in a stretch of six consecutive days with practice, Harbaugh gave some veterans the day off Wednesday. Stanley, Moses and Zeitler all took part in individual drills but just watched the rest of practice. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Pierce also spent the majority of practice on the sideline.

• Outside linebacker David Ojabo, who didn’t finish Tuesday’s practice, and safety Geno Stone, who hurt his ankle Monday, also didn’t participate in the workout. Running back J.K. Dobbins remained on the physically unable to perform list, along with fullback Patrick Ricard (hip) and wide receiver Rashod Bateman (foot). Harbaugh said he met with Dobbins Tuesday night, but he’s still not sure when he’ll start practicing. “He wants to be out there and he needs to be out there, just like any player does,” Harbaugh said. “There’s nothing else I can really add. I don’t know when he’s going to come back, but I know I’m going to be really happy when he does.”



Ravens stock report: Who stood out and who didn’t during first week of training camp?

• The pads came off for Wednesday’s practice and the physicality was toned down, but that didn’t stop a few guys from getting banged up. The most concerning development came early in practice when projected starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin went down and grabbed his knee in a one-on-one matchup with wide receiver Shemar Bridges. Ya-Sin hobbled off the field, where he got immediate attention from a member of the athletic training staff. He eventually limped to the training room. Harbaugh said after practice that initial indications were that Ya-Sin’s injury wasn’t serious, but the team was waiting to learn more. Rookie draft picks Trenton Simpson and Kyu Blu Kelly also appeared to get banged up and didn’t finish practice.

• The Ravens had their first scuffle of training camp with Simpson and inside linebacker Patrick Queen getting into it in the end zone. A number of players quickly jumped into the mix and the situation was diffused relatively quickly.

• For the second straight day, first-round receiver Zay Flowers was the standout of the one-on-one matchups between pass catchers and defensive backs. Flowers took on Kevon Seymour and had three catches in three opportunities, although Seymour didn’t make it easy on him. On the first rep, Seymour stayed with Flowers on his first two fakes, but the receiver got free on his third. Flowers badly beat Seymour with an inside move in the second matchup. On the third, Flowers caught a deep pass against a well-positioned Seymour, who wanted an offensive pass interference call.

• Other highlights of the one-on-ones included Brandon Stephens making a strong play in the end zone to tip away a pass intended for Devin Duvernay; safety Kyle Hamilton and tight end Mark Andrews splitting their two reps; James Proche II catching the ball over Stephens in a battle of former college teammates; Arthur Maulet stepping in front of Tylan Wallace for an interception, although he probably got away with a hold; Tarik Black making two impressive catches as his strong camp showing continued; and Ar’Darius Washington forcing an incompletion against Andrews in a size mismatch.

• As fans chanted for a matchup between Flowers and Marlon Humphrey, they instead got Humphrey versus Nelson Agholor. The wide receiver ran past the Ravens cornerback to make a deep catch. Agholor also beat Washington decisively in their matchup.

• Humphrey and Agholor matched up several times throughout practice. Humphrey was the recipient of a Jackson pass deflecting off Agholor and winding up in the hands of the cornerback, who ran the other way with it until he was corralled by Linderbaum. Later in practice, Humphrey had a pass deflect off him and go into the arms of Agholor for a touchdown. That’s not the first time that’s happened to Humphrey this summer.

• Veteran inside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips has been a ball magnet this week. A day after registering an interception and two pass breakups, Phillips again picked off quarterback Josh Johnson. Phillips was considered on the proverbial roster bubble when camp started, but he’s certainly playing well.

• There’s definitely been progress with the passing game this week after it really struggled for much of last week. The big plays are still few and far between, but Jackson is getting the ball out quickly and decisively and hitting open receivers in the short and intermediate areas. In the first full-team segment, Jackson was 2-for-3 with completions to Andrews and Agholor. In his second round of reps, Jackson was 6-for-6, hitting Andrews three times and Gus Edwards, Ben Mason and Proche once each. Just about all of them were short passes, and the third completion to Andrews was nearly picked off by Roquan Smith. He broke on the route, but the ball got past him, prompting the middle linebacker to glance down at his hands and shake his head.

• In the second full-team session, Jackson was 5-for-5, completing two passes to Andrews and one each to Justice Hill, Duvernay and Keaton Mitchell. Jackson then went 2-for-4 in the ensuing seven-on-sevens, connecting with Flowers and Wallace. Another pass to Laquon Treadwell was dropped. Jackson cooled off as practice moved along, but he still had a pretty solid day, albeit one packed with mostly modest gains.

• Getting his longest look yet in the slot, Maulet blew up a wide receiver screen to Proche, tossing his blocker aside and making the play. He gets a little handsy at times, but Maulet plays with physicality and energy.



Ravens have ‘open competition’ for starting nickel cornerback role

• Every day is National Tight Ends Day for the Ravens. Andrews and Isaiah Likely have been the most consistent pass catchers so far in camp, and Charlie Kolar got into the mix Wednesday by hauling in a long pass from Johnson down the seam.

• Former Ravens special teams coordinator and Broncos interim coach Jerry Rosburg was on the field assisting Baltimore’s coaching staff. Rosburg will be at practices all week.

• The Ravens ended practice with a ball security drill that featured members of the team’s rookie class picking up a loose ball on a well-watered patch of grass as veteran players sprayed them with a hose.

(Photo: Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top