COMMENTARY | With a roster as revamped as that of the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, it may be hard to keep up with all of the new faces during training camp.
The front office favored a youth movement in Baltimore during the offseason, leading to the departures of several key veterans on both sides of the ball.
With 10 rookies, plenty of undrafted free agents and starters added via free agency, it will certainly be a new-look team in Baltimore this season. But, that shouldn't mean that the incumbents in Baltimore should be forgotten, particularly the backups who have established themselves as contributors for the team through favorable 2012 play.
Here are three role players on the Ravens who should be closely followed during training camp:
One of the pleasant surprises for the Baltimore Ravens during their playoff run was the emergence of Chykie Brown, a fifth-round pick in 2011 who played in all 20 games for the Ravens last season.
He played in just seven regular season games during his rookie season, and it appeared as if he may just be nothing more than a fringe active player each week, with special teams ultimately being where he would need to prove himself. However, Brown rose to the occasion as a staple in Baltimore's secondary en route to a Super Bowl title.
When Lardarius Webb suffered a season-ending injury in October, the Ravens turned to a cornerback-by-committee tactic for the remainder of the season, rotating the corners in and out frequently. While Brown may not develop into a starter for the Ravens this season, Cary Williams' departure opens the door for Brown as a top contributor yet again in Baltimore. After making a name for himself in 2012, this season may be Brown's chance to officially burst onto the scene.
Lost in the Ravens' battle for the second wide receiver spot opposite Torrey Smith is David Reed, a veteran receiver entering his fourth season in the NFL. Reed signed a two-year deal to rejoin the Ravens during the offseason, proving Baltimore's commitment to him long term.
He has failed to assert himself as a contributor in Baltimore's offense, and that doesn't seem to change anytime soon. Where Reed is valuable - and what will ultimately earn him a roster spot yet again- is on special teams, where he was arguably the team's top gunner last season. The Ravens have lacked a special teams ace in recent years, but Reed showed last season that he can be one.
Reed also provides value as a return man if he is needed, but coverage is where he will make his mark again this season. With the focus being special teams for Reed, he could be a long-term coverage stud in Baltimore.
Like the wide receiver battle, the competition for the starting positions at inside linebacker figures to be heated throughout training camp. Rookie Arthur Brown will compete with veterans Daryl Smith and Jameel McClain for the starting jobs, with Josh Bynes having an outside shot at being a starter when Baltimore travels to Denver for the season opener.
In 2012, Bynes was thrown into the fire on defense as a result of injuries to McClain, Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe. Bynes, a former standout at Auburn, played in just one game in 2011, but was called upon to play in 10 games during the 2012 regular season. He started the final three regular season games, and recorded 13 total tackles in a Week 15 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Bynes may have been the best defender on the field for the Ravens that day, and while the Ravens lost 34-17, it was a bit of a coming out party for Bynes, who finally earned his chance to prove his worth in Baltimore's defense. His play in the final three games led to him also being active for the four playoff games, and he tackled Ted Ginn Jr. on the final play of the Super Bowl to seal the win for Baltimore.
He figures to be able to earn a roster spot yet again, and with his value on special teams and as a backup linebacker, Bynes figures to have a rather large role this season. As the Ravens continue to figure out who the two primary inside linebackers will be this season, there will be no shortage of reps for Bynes during training camp.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He is the co-host of Ravens Central Radio and the editor of Cat Crave.
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