Breaking down the Ravens' left guard and slot CB battles after preseason Week 1

2M7FDD7 Baltimore Ravens safety Ar'Darius Washington (29) defends during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Pittsburgh, PA. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

• Sala Aumavae-Laulu struggles in first NFL action: A sleeper pick to win the left guard job, the rookie faced an early learning curve on his 33 snaps.

• John Simpson appears to have a leg up: The veteran played 23 snaps at left guard and earned an 86.0 pass-blocking grade for the game.

• Uncertainty remains at slot cornerback: The Ravens will likely sign a veteran at the position before the 2023 season kicks off.

There aren’t many starting spots up for grabs on the Baltimore Ravens‘ depth chart heading into the 2023 NFL season, but Saturday’s Week 1 preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles gave us a glimpse at how the battles at left guard and slot cornerback are shaping up.

Using PFF data and grading from the game, let’s take a look at how the contenders at each spot performed.

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Left Guard

John Simpson played left guard on the Ravens’ opening two drives before seeing some time at right guard, then moving back to left guard to open the second half. He looked good in pass protection, earning an 86.0 PFF pass-blocking grade at both spots, but didn’t make a huge impact on a limited selection of run plays. 

Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu rotated in after the Ravens’ first two drives but struggled more than Simpson. He let up a quarterback hurry and had another two losses in pass protection, leading to a 66.1 PFF pass-blocking grade. He didn’t hold up well as a run blocker either. Undrafted free agent Jake Guidone saw the final nine snaps of the game at the position

After one game, it feels like Simpson has the advantage here.

Slot Cornerback

Ar’Darius Washington saw the first, and most, snaps in the slot for the Ravens in this game and did a pretty good job, earning a 71.2 PFF coverage grade. The real story might be Brandon Stephens‘ usage. Stephens played 55 snaps at left cornerback and earned an 84.0 PFF coverage grade after allowing three receptions and 38 yards from eight targets. He was in position to prevent a reception on two of those, too, so there’s still room for him to improve at the catch point.

If the Ravens don’t add a veteran slot cornerback and lose Damarion Williams, who missed the Week 1 affair due to injury, for an extended period of time, then Stephens being a fit as an outside cornerback would open up another option for the defense heading into the season.

There’s a world where the team's best cornerback trio is Stephens and Rock Ya-Sin on the outside, with Marlon Humphrey kicking inside to the slot. It becomes more of a concern against a team such as the Cincinnati Bengals, who boast two standout receivers, but Humphrey has been one of the NFL's best slot cornerbacks when aligned there. After Week 1, as things currently stand on the roster, that would be my pick for how the Ravens line up in Week 1 against the Houston Texans.


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