By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on July 11, 2014
Training camp is right around the corner for the Baltimore Ravens, an arguably underrated team entering the new season despite a Super Bowl title less than two years ago. Here are five storylines to follow in regards to John Harbaugh's club this summer.
All indications were that second-round pick Timmy Jernigan impressed during spring practices. With the versatility to play nose tackle or defensive end in the Ravens' 3-4 front, Jernigan should at least acquire a significant role in the rotation, but if he can steal the show in camp and the preseason, don't rule out the rookie breaking into the starting lineup at some point.
The Ravens' top two receivers, Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, are set in stone with good health. After that, expect some fierce competition this summer. Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown project to do battle for Baltimore's No. 3 receiver spot. It should be fun to monitor which pass catcher emerges, as Jones possesses more big-play potential, but Brown the better stat line in 2013.
The Ravens made the head-scratching decision to give Courtney Upshaw more snaps than Evlis Dumervil opposite Terrell Suggs last fall. Upshaw is more sound as an edge setter against the run, but Dumervil was one of the league's most efficient pass rushers in 2013. Unless Upshaw displays vast improvement in camp, there's no reason why Dumervil shouldn't become the essential starter.
First-round pick C.J. Mosley figures to start immediately at inside linebacker. But how quickly he can develop into the all-around defender who is equally adept at stuffing the run as he is dropping back into coverage, will depend on how quickly he can catch up to the speed of the NFL game. He's in very little danger of opening the season as a backup, but still needs to be consistent at camp to secure a starting spot.
Ray Rice's looming suspension has cast a cloud of uncertainty over Baltimore's stable of backs. Bernard Piece should assume the starting role once Roger Goodell hands down the presumed multi-game ban to Rice, but rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro may be the more talented runner. If Taliaferro is the superior back during the preseason, he'll likely accrue the bulk of the carries until Rice's return.
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