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With mandatory minicamp behind them and training camp just a month away, the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens turn their attention toward the preseason and eventually trimming the off-season roster down to 53 by the start of the regular season.
Very little should be taken away from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — conducted without contact, mind you — but my early look at the roster suggests as many as 42 players would be considered locks if the deadline to trim the roster took place in late June despite the incredible turnover of key players experienced this offseason. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the roster — per the team’s official site — lists 28 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain positions lacking quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.
Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John 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 are always looking for players who can excel on special teams in addition to their designated position, so the Ravens will look carefully at players’ other abilities and overall athleticism in addition to what they bring to their specific positional group.
Of course, this breakdown could change as early as tomorrow and certainly by the first day of training camp if any individuals report to Owings Mills in poor physical condition or have not done the necessary mental preparation for the preseason.
The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as actual projections of who’s in and who’s out during the different stages of the summer.
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
BUBBLE: Caleb Hanie
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Hanie finds himself in the same position in which Curtis Painter was last year as he can force himself into the roster discussion with a strong preseason. However, the Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster since 2009, so he’ll need to impress. Expect a quarterback to be added by the early stages of training camp simply for the purpose of practice reps.
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (6)
LOCK: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Kyle Juszczyk, Anthony Allen
BUBBLE: Bobby Rainey
LONG SHOT: Damien Berry
Skinny: The competition is stiff for Rainey and Berry to make the 53-man roster, but the Ravens liked what they saw from Rainey during the 2012 preseason and Berry has stuck in the organization for the last two years, a surefire sign that he has attributes the Ravens like.
WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
LOCK: Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss
BUBBLE: Deonte Thompson, David Reed, Aaron Mellette, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter,
LONG SHOT: Marlon Brown, Rashaad Carter, Omarius Hines, Marcus Rivers, Gerrard Sheppard
Skinny: This will be the most intriguing position group at training camp as a few roster spots could be up for grabs among a talented but unproven group of young receivers. Many have gone a little overboard in singing the praises of Thompson, but it’s clear the former University of Florida product possesses a great work ethic and has tremendous speed potentially working out of the slot or as a vertical threat. Truthfully, Doss is the only member of the unproven tier of receivers I’d rubber-stamp being on the final 53-man roster with the wide-open competition and the potential for a veteran wideout to be added between now and the start of the regular season.
TIGHT ENDS (5)
LOCK: Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson
BUBBLE: Billy Bajema, Matt Furstenburg, Alex Silvestro
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The Ravens figure to carry three tight ends again and re-signed the veteran Bajema after cutting fullback Vonta Leach last week. Furstenburg had a nice college career at Maryland and received a nice $10,000 signing bonus, so he’s someone to watch during the preseason.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Jah Reid
BUBBLE: A.Q. Shipley, Ramon Harewood, Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Jack Cornell, Antoine McClain, Jordan Devey, Rogers Gaines, David Mims, Joe Unga, Reggie Stephens
Skinny: The Ravens added plenty of offensive line depth via the draft and the trade for the former Indianapolis center Shipley, so they should be in good shape up front. Of the four players listed to be on the bubble, Shipley and Harewood appear to be relatively safe, but Baltimore rarely likes cutting draft picks, meaning the Ravens will likely find a way to keep Wagner and Jensen if they don’t find their way to the 53-man roster as rookies.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (11)