With the 2018 preseason in the books, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 9.
First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of Baltimore’s 53-man roster ahead of the regular season with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh making cuts by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the first 53-man squad as the Ravens will explore outside moves and additions over the next few days.
Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, arbitrarily keeping a specific number of receivers or linebackers or defensive linemen isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53-player combination with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that could potentially result in keeping an inferior player. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions. They must also consider recent injuries to players who won’t be available for the first few games of the season and make sure they’re covered from a depth standpoint.
The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that position.
IN: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
OUT: Robert Griffin III, Josh Woodrum
Skinny: Even with Griffin sitting against Washington, I’ll stick with two quarterbacks, especially with the growth shown by Jackson over the last two games. I don’t think Harbaugh saying Griffin “looks like a starter” was by accident as the Ravens will try to find a trade partner in hopes of acquiring a modest depth piece such as an offensive lineman or someone with return experience. Of course, I won’t be shocked if Griffin stays, but it’s strange that a team that was content with Ryan Mallett backing up an ailing Flacco last year would suddenly change its backup standard so much with its first-round pick.
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Patrick Ricard
OUT: Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner
PRACTICE SQUAD ROSTER EXEMPTION: Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: I’d be surprised not to see at least one of these rookie free agents on the practice squad as they all had their moments this preseason, but this group appears set. Ricard may also find himself with a bigger role in the defensive line rotation after the way he played this summer.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
IN: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley
OUT: Tim White, Janarion Grant, Breshad Perriman, Andre Levrone, DeVier Posey
INJURED RESERVE: Jaleel Scott
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: Neither White nor Grant did enough this summer to warrant a roster spot as a return specialist, but the Ravens should be able to get one of them to the practice squad while searching for an outside addition. Moore did a good job returning kickoffs last year, and Snead could serve as a conservative punt returner mostly calling fair catches. Lasley had a disappointing preseason, but he showed enough potential during training camp to justify not giving up on him so quickly.
TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams, Darren Waller
OUT: Vince Mayle, Nick Keizer
Skinny: With the young wide receiver competition never materializing and Hurst out for at least the first couple games, Waller surprisingly sneaks onto the roster primarily as a special-teams player, and his size and athleticism make him a potential option in the red zone and as a bigger slot receiver. Andrews’ performance in the preseason finale was encouraging as the Ravens need someone from this group to be at least a moderate factor in the passing game until Hurst returns from the foot injury.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Orlando Brown Jr., James Hurst, Bradley Bozeman, Jermaine Eluemunor
OUT: Nico Siragusa, Andrew Donnal, Maurquice Shakir, Randin Crecelius, Justin Evans, Cameron Lee
INJURED RESERVE: Greg Senat
Skinny: Brown’s development at right tackle was one of the biggest positives of the summer, but the center position remains a concern and no one beyond the top six has inspired confidence as a depth piece. Newsome will likely be working the phones trying to add some veteran help for this group. Given his status as a former fourth-round pick, Siragusa making the roster wouldn’t be surprising, but he just doesn’t look 100 percent after last summer’s serious knee injury.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
IN: Brandon Williams, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Brent Urban, Zach Sieler, Carl Davis
OUT: Bronson Kaufusi, Myles Humphrey, Christian LaCouture
Skinny: Before the news of Henry undergoing hernia surgery, I may have left Davis on the outside looking in, but his ability to play all three defensive line spots in the base defense makes him more attractive for the time being. Kaufusi had an excellent game against Washington, but he was way too quiet this summer and all last season to put too much stock into one performance.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Chris Board, Albert McClellan
OUT: Alvin Jones
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Bam Bradley
Skinny: The Kamalei Correa trade and a potential knee injury for Young have changed the makeup of this position group. Board looks like the near-annual long shot the Ravens could keep and develop while he contributes on special teams. I had been predicting McClellan wouldn’t make it, but Correa and veteran departure Steven Johnson combined to play over 600 special-teams snaps last year. I’m not convinced Jerry Rosburg is just going to hand over that much responsibility to inexperienced players, and not playing McClellan on Thursday would be a tough way to send out the longtime Raven.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser
Skinny: Tim Williams was the defensive star of the preseason and should receive more opportunities as a situational pass rusher, but Bowser missing so much of the summer with a groin injury has certainly tempered expectations of him taking a big leap in his second season.
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
OUT: Darious Williams, Jackson Porter, Robertson Daniel
SUSPENDED: Jimmy Smith
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Jaylen Hill
INJURED RESERVE: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Skinny: You have to feel for Jean-Baptiste, who looked like he was on his way to grabbing a roster spot before suffering what’s believed to be a broken arm in the preseason finale. Assuming Canady is ready to go for Week 1, the Ravens should be fine with only five cornerbacks since Anthony Levine is capable of playing some nickel in a game-day pinch. Regardless of the number of corners the Ravens keep, not having Smith for the first four games will be a challenge.
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
OUT: Kai Nacua, Bennett Jackson
INJURED RESERVE: DeShon Elliott
Skinny: With the long-term injuries suffered by Elliott and Jean-Baptiste in consecutive weeks, Nacua may have an outside shot to stick on the roster as a special-teams player, but four safeties should be fine.
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
OUT: Kaare Vedvik, Trent Sieg
Skinny: After watching him hit a 56-yard field goal to cap a very impressive summer, I get the feeling another team is going to be happy to have Vedvik in the not-too-distant future. A team with a lesser kicking battery would be thinking long and hard about making a change.