Wednesday July 27th, 2016

The Ravens entered last fall as trendy picks to win it all, only to limp to a 5–11 finish with name-brand stars Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith and Terrell Suggs all sidelined by season-ending injuries. That disappointing campaign was met with the same patient, calculating off-season approach that has made the franchise so consistently successful, but now that everyone has experienced Baltimore’s darkest timeline, the roster looks a little more mortal as training camp opens.

Smith’s recovery from the torn Achilles he suffered on Nov. 1 will hang over the first weeks of his second attempt at a farewell tour, and until he’s back to 100% all eyes will be on Flacco’s other targets, from the crowd of receivers aspiring to replicate Kamar Aiken’s breakout 2015 to the three-man logjam at tight end between veteran Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gilmore and Maxx Williams.

Projected Ravens 2016 depth chart from Fansided’s Ebony Bird

The Rookie: Ronnie Stanley’s path to the Week 1 starting left tackle job was cleared by the surprise release of Eugene Monroe, draining any drama from the polished No. 6 pick’s preseason. He may be blocking for fifth-round running back Kenneth Dixon sooner rather than later. Dixon finished second in the FBS in total touchdowns last season (behind only Ravens sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds) and is versatile enough to produce right away for a ground and short passing attack that dipped after Forsett broke his arm.

Position Battle Spoiler: Nobody has blown away the competition for the inside linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley, but the coachspeak seems to point toward 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown over Zachary Orr and rookie Kamalei Correa, a promising second-round pick himself who probably will ultimately end up on the outside. This one will likely come down to the wire unless an injury forces Baltimore’s hand.

The Stat: 38. the number of catches Aiken racked up over the final six games of the year after Flacco went down with a season-ending knee injury—just over half his full-season total of 75. Aiken staked his claim to a larger role going forward as the rest of the team headed to injured reserve, and Ravens fans and fantasy owners alike will monitor how well he separates himself at a full-strength training camp.

Preseason Watchability Guide: The opener against the Panthers on Aug. 11 gives Smith one last chance to burn his old team—if he is on the field by then, that is.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.