COMMENTARY | For a team like the Baltimore Ravens that had as many roster moves as any other NFL team this past offseason, the release of the initial depth chart was one of the most anticipated actions of the early portion of training camp.
On Thursday, the first depth chart of the year became public, and there was certainly no shortage of surprises. At the beginning of camp, veterans who likely won't be starters during the regular season took the first-team reps over some of the rookies, and that was apparent on the initial depth chart.
This depth chart shouldn't be taken as gospel, as the rookies have to "earn" their spots on the depth chart, whether it's obvious that they'll be starters/frequent contributors or not.
There were also some surprises regarding some non-rookies' spots on the depth chart.
Here are some thoughts about the depth chart:
1) What in the world happened to second-year wide receiver Tommy Streeter? After being placed on injured reserve last season, this year's training camp figured to be Streeter's chance to burst onto the scene, given his immense physical tools that figured to translate to success on the field eventually. However, that's not the case so far, and based on the depth chart, the Ravens may not have high expectations for him again this season. Streeter is way down on the depth chart, in the same area as rookie Aaron Mellette and even undrafted rookie Marlon Brown. There wouldn't be much to worry about for Streeter in the same category as veterans, but the fact that two rookies are on the same level as him already is a concern.
2) Jameel McClain being listed as the starting weakside linebacker is a bit of a surprise, given the fact that McClain has yet to step on the practice field so far during training camp. McClain is still on the PUP list as he recovers from a spinal cord injury that he suffered last season. Even when he is healthy and returns to the field, it's unlikely he will be a starting inside linebacker anyway, as veteran Daryl Smith and rookie Arthur Brown figure to win the two open jobs.
3) Speaking of Brown, he wasn't listed as a starter on the initial depth chart, instead placed third on the weak side behind McClain and Josh Bynes. That figures to change rather quickly, as Brown will almost certainly be a starting linebacker for the Ravens to begin the regular season.
4) Another rookie, first-round pick Matt Elam, was also surprisingly listed as a backup, although that won't last very long. Elam is listed behind James Ihedigbo at strong safety. While Ihedigbo started training camp as the starting strong safety, that was likely just due to the belief that Elam must win the job instead of just being handed it. NFL teams don't spend a first-round pick on a safety only to let him get beat out for the starting job by an average veteran. Elam will take over the starter designation on the depth chart rather soon.
5) Entering training camp, there appeared to be a legitimate competition for the starting center job between Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley. While that still may be the case, Gradkowski is currently listed as the starter with Shipley directly behind him. Shipley faces an uphill battle to become the starting center, but the possibility can't be ruled out just yet.
6) After much discussion throughout the offseason as to where Haloti Ngata will play along the defensive line this season, the Ravens offered an indication on Thursday, listing Ngata as the starting nose tackle. With a revamped defensive line with plenty of versatile players, there really was no telling how the initial depth chart would turn out. Ngata is followed on the depth chart by Terrence Cody, with third-round pick Brandon Williams being listed as a backup defensive tackle. However, if Baltimore runs primarily out of the 3-4 again this season, that'll just be nose tackle for him anyway.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and is the editor of Cat Crave.
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