The preseason is finally over as the Ravens now turn their sights toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7.
But first, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome must trim their roster from 75 players to 53 by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Though many often label this the “final” roster after nearly six weeks of summer football, it’s merely the first 53-man roster with the Ravens looking to make adjustments and upgrades wherever and whenever possible.
Depth concerns are apparent in the secondary and along the defensive line, which have prompted general manager Ozzie Newsome to look for outside help — he signed veteran cornerback Derek Cox earlier this week — to enhance the roster between now and the start of the season. Meanwhile, the Ravens appear to have good depth at linebacker and wide receiver that could leave one or two incumbents on the outside looking in by Saturday afternoon.
Though Newsome, Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the number of players at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens will always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their specific positional group.
NFL teams must get down to the regular-season number of 53 by Saturday, but they will also be able to formulate 10-man practice squads — an increase from the previous number of eight — once players around the league clear waivers.
Take a look at last week’s roster projection to see whose stock is up and who might have landed on the wrong side of the bubble after the 22-13 win over New Orleans in which most starters didn’t play.
The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players projected to be retained at that given position. Players listed as injured or suspended will not count against the 53-man roster limit when final cuts are made.
IN: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
OUT: Keith Wenning
Skinny: Wenning played more than expected in thinking the Ravens wouldn’t want to put too much tape out there for other teams to see, but it’s still a good bet the sixth-round pick passes through waivers and lands on the practice squad. Baltimore hasn’t carried three quarterbacks on the roster since 2009, and that’s expected to continue.
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk
OUT: Fitz Toussaint
SUSPENDED: Ray Rice (will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season)
Skinny: Toussaint was the surprise of the night in New Orleans in rushing for 103 yards on 17 carries, but don’t read too much into the final preseason game when nearly all roster decisions have already been made. However, his performance improves his chances of being invited to join the practice squad or to be picked up elsewhere.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson
OUT: Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Butler
Skinny: Being a draft pick and having the potential to develop as a slot receiver, Campanaro is a notch above Thompson and Aiken, who are essentially a coin flip for one spot. Thompson gets the nod because of his lightning speed and improved performance as the summer progressed, but Aiken also grabbed four catches for 57 yards in the preseason finale. It’s very close.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Owen Daniels
OUT: Nathan Overbay, Phillip Supernaw
Skinny: Concerns remain over how much Daniels has left in the tank after a disappointing summer, but the Ravens are going to give him the benefit of the doubt and plenty of rest as we saw over the last couple weeks. It was encouraging seeing Daniels back on the practice field this week, but the rookie Gillmore might need to be a bigger factor than most anticipated.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley
OUT: James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, Reggie Stephens, Parker Graham
Skinny: If Reid’s concussion symptoms linger longer than Harbaugh indicated earlier in the week, Hurst could temporarily find himself on the 53-man roster as the third tackle. Otherwise, it appears Shipley and Urschel get the nod as backup interior linemen over Jensen, who had a disappointing summer and could be a practice squad candidate.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5)