Mocking The 53: Roster Taking Shape Through 2 Preseason Games

August 24, 2010 | Glenn Clark

The Baltimore Ravens have wrapped up Training Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster and have now settled in at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills.

They’ve won their first two preseason games against the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, and have just two more preseason contests left (they host the New York Giants Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium and visit the St. Louis Rams a week from Thursday) before they open the regular season September 13th at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets on the national stage of Monday Night Football.

Before they get there, they’ll have to make some major roster decisions. After the game against the Giants, they’ll have to trim the roster slightly before the Tuesday (August 31) deadline to be down to 75 players. Following that, they’ll have just 4 days to make final decisions before the roster is cut to 53 on Saturday, September 4.

There are no changes to the physical roster (except where we expect Lardarius Webb to be when the season begins) since my 4th “Mocking the 53″ update, but there are some changes to the 53 itself. Before we get to that, a reminder of the explanation of the list I wrote before the initial version…

“Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and company will at least MOSTLY keep the 53 best players on the roster, I am going to try to identify the Top 53 players on the roster myself. It ISN’T a perfect science, and some of the players will have outside circumstances that will influence where they find themselves on the list. Similarly, the Ravens will make some decisions based on health, position needs, etc.

I’m putting “best overall players”, “most significant players”, and “position relevance” into my “Top 53″ rankings. This isn’t just a list of the 53 best players on the team. This is however a list-at this moment-of the 53 players I believe are most likely to make the roster.”

With that in mind, let’s look again at how the Top 53 shapes up…

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. RB Ray Rice
3. OT Michael Oher
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4. WR Anquan Boldin
5. DT Haloti Ngata
6. LB Ray Lewis
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
9. LB Jarret Johnson
10. G Ben Grubbs

Only one real change in the Top 10, and it comes from someone who hasn’t performed much at all. Ray Rice has played little at all through two preseason games, and it has shown you everything you need to know about the importance of the 3rd year back from Rutgers. His place in this Ravens offense is INCREDIBLY significant, and without him heavily involved, they are just not the same-no matter who is playing receiver.

Otherwise, everything about the Top 10 remains the same. I know Michael Oher has struggled a bit in the first two preseason games-but Oher is a very good player. He was a bit of a 2nd half guy a season ago (remember his struggles in the first half against Jared Allen when the Ravens visited the Minnesota Vikings but his stellar 2nd half in the same game), and might be a player who just needs some more rhythm to shine. I’m not concerned yet myself.

11. DE Trevor Pryce
12. DL Cory Redding
13. TE Todd Heap
14. DT Terrence Cody
15. CB Fabian Washington
16. FB Le’Ron McClain
17. OL Marshal Yanda
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18. C Matt Birk
19. S Dawan Landry
20. S Tom Zbikowski

Almost all of this group remains the same as well. Tom Zbikowski enters the Top 20, as he has played very well knowing he will be in the starting lineup with the Ravens visit East Rutherford Week 1 barring some sort of Ed Reed miracle. I also think it is worth pointing out that while John Harbaugh may have claimed that he ISN’T voting “McClain 4 RB”, Le’Ron McClain has been very good during the preseason-and it would be surprising if he didn’t make more of an impact in the offense this season.

21. CB Chris Carr
22. OT Jared Gaither
23. QB Marc Bulger
24. TE Ed Dickson
25. S Haruki Nakamura
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26. CB Lardarius Webb
27. K Shayne Graham
28. WR Mark Clayton
29. OL Chris Chester
30. LB Dannell Ellerbe

There are some subtle changes in this group-starting with Jared Gaither. Gaither falls out of the Top 20 because we just don’t know what to make of his health. The initial prognosis surrounding his back tear made us believe that he should be available before the Ravens head to New Jersey on Sept. 13. Of course, at this point we’re starting to reach a place where “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Dannell Ellerbe moves back into the Top 30 this week. After watching the other interior LB’s competing for the starting JACK spot against the Skins, I get the feeling that Ellerbe’s ability to play the pass will ultimately get him back into the starting lineup.

Lardarius Webb re-enters “The 53″ at #26. As we see more of what he’s capable of doing early on, we will see how quickly he can rise on the list. Shayne Graham drops a few spots as well despite the fact that I truly believe he’ll be the kicker of record come MNF on Sept. 13. I just somehow needed to reflect the fact that Billy Cundiff has kicked well recently, including 2 makes Saturday night at FedEx Field.

31. P Sam Koch
32. RB Willis McGahee
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33. WR Donte’ Stallworth
34. DT Kelly Gregg
35. TE Dennis Pitta
36. LB Jameel McClain
37. LB Tavares Gooden
38. CB Cary Williams
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. OT Oniel Cousins

There are a few significant risers in this group. One is Sam Koch, who was tremendous again Saturday night in DC. His contract situation is an uncomfortable spot for the team, as he is going to get paid SOMEWHERE-but the team has set a precedent in the past that they won’t give big money to a punter (see Kyle Richardson and Dave Zastudil).

Willis McGahee also rises on this list, despite the fact that a number of armchair GM’s in Charm City would have already dealt him for just about anyone with the letters “CB” next to their name. McGahee continues to prove himself as being very valuable, both as a reserve who can take a number of carries and as an impressive short yardage back.

The third riser in this group is Cary Williams-who was exceptional again Saturday night. It may have been preseason football, but the QB Williams picked off (Donovan McNabb) is still a future Hall of Famer. Williams’ size (he’s 6’1″) really DOES make a difference when it comes to how we look at his role moving forward. Should he continue to play similar to his size, Williams could develop into a legitimate NFL corner.

41. LB Antwan Barnes
42. S Ken Hamlin
43. QB Troy Smith
44. DT Kelly Talavou
45. DT Brandon McKinney
46. RB Jalen Parmele
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47. OL Tony Moll
48. LS Morgan Cox
49. CB Travis Fisher
50. OL David Hale
51. LB Jason Phillips
52. WR David Reed
53. S/CB KJ Gerard

Travis Fisher is hanging by a thread-and I would suggest that at this point he’s BARELY ahead of either KJ Gerard or Prince Miller. No matter how quick Anthony Armstrong is, there’s no way that Fisher should have been embarrassed by him the way he was Saturday night. I’ll leave him on the roster for now, if only because the Ravens have to have SOME healthy corners lining up against Santonio Holmes Braylon Edwards and company September 13. I’m also keeping Gerard ahead of Prince Miller, only because Gerard has more to offer on Special Teams right now than Miller does.

(Editor’s note: Thanks to all who pointed out Holmes will miss the first 4 games. Absolutely right. My mistake. I need a better editor. Or an editor.)

Two players who I moved back onto the roster thanks to their performance Saturday night are Jason Phillips and David Reed. Reed not only played well offensively, but also made a very key Special Teams tackle. Proving his value on Special Teams changes everything-which goes for Phillips as well. That being said, Edgar Jones is a very valuable AND versatile player who I currently have OFF the 53, so these standings remain tentative.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)
(LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-potential PUP or injury settlement until known otherwise)
(RB Matt Lawrence-potential PUP or injury settlement until known otherwise)

I’m taking both Ayanbadejo and Lawrence out of the equation for now. There are other players on this team battling injuries, but neither of them have even done significant work in practice. Until I see that, I’m going to work under the assumption that they won’t be part of the team Week 1. That can change rapidly. A week ago, we were working under the assumption that Lardarius Webb would start the season on PUP.

54. K Billy Cundiff
55. CB Prince Miller
56. LB Edgar Jones
57. WR Demetrius Williams
58. DT Arthur Jones
59. OT Ramon Harewood
60. DT Lamar Divens
divens
61. TE Davon Drew
62. LB Prescott Burgess
63. WR Marcus Smith
64. WR Justin Harper
65. FB Mike McLaughlin
66. WR Eron Riley
67. DE Albert McClellan
68. RB Curtis Steele
69. OT Joe Reitz
70. CB Marcus Paschal

The reality is that Miller, Edgar Jones and Williams are in direct competition at positions where there is probably room to keep another player. Arthur Jones and Divens are probably in positions where keeping another player just might not be a legitimate option. Of course, we didn’t all think the Ravens would keep both McKinney and Talavou a season ago, and what did we learn there?

Mike McLaughlin’s name will keep coming up, but keeping him on the 53 really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There isn’t MUCH risk in exposing an undrafted rookie FB who has just converted to LB. Giving him more time on the practice squad could really benefit him as a player.

71. CB Doug Dutch
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72. OL Bryan Mattison
73. OT Stefan Rodgers
74. CB Brad Jones
75. CB Chris Hawkins
76. OT Daniel Sanders
77. OT Devin Tyler

A good sign that you’re a longshot to make the roster? A simple Google image search doesn’t come up with a legitimate picture of you. Thank God for Facebook. Hopefully there’s some practice squad help in this group.

There you have it. Questions? Concerns? Comments? Thoughts in general? Song requests? Let me know.

-G

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