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Mocking The 53: Roster Taking Shape Through 2 Preseason Games

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Mocking The 53: Roster Taking Shape Through 2 Preseason Games

Posted on 24 August 2010 by 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
oher
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
yanda
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
nakamura
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
mcgahee
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
parmele
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
dougdutch
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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Live From Owings Mills: Ravens Activate Lardarius Webb from PUP List

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With Training Camp in the books, the Baltimore Ravens returned to 1 Winning Drive Monday and were immediately greeted by good news.

CB Lardarius Webb was activated by the team after suffering a torn ACL that cut short his 2009 season and forced him to miss all practices in Westminster on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Webb was on the practice field Monday, moving with what appeared to be no pain in individual drills. No team drills were available for media viewing, so his level of participation there is unknown. Coach John Harbaugh confirmed Webb “looked good moving around” in individual drills, Webb added “it was fun.”

It is also still unknown whether or not Webb will participate in either of the team’s remaining preseason contests (vs. New York Giants Saturday, @St. Louis Rams one week from Thursday); or whether or not he will be ready for the season opener Sept. 13 at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets. Harbaugh said of Webb’s chances of playing in the preseason “we’re not going to push it.” Webb deferred questions about when he may be able to return to Harbaugh or Head Trainer Bill Tessendorf.

Fellow corner Fabian Washington; who returned from a torn ACL while the team practiced at McDaniel College, thought Sept. 13 was a fair target date for Webb’s return. “I think there’s always a chance” said Washington. “I know he’s close.”

With Domonique Foxworth out for the season (knee), Webb’s return marks good news for a Ravens secondary unit looking to improve on the 200+ yards per game they allowed via the air in 2009. Safety Haruki Nakamura said Webb’s return is “going to mean a lot. He’s a guy who at the end of (2009) who was starting to play really well.” He added “now that he can anticipate things and be more confident, it’s going to make a bigger difference.”

When he is ready to play, Webb will battle Chris Carr for the right to start opposite Washington at CB. His return makes the battle for roster spots behind him tougher; with Travis Fisher, Cary Williams, Prince Miller, KJ Gerard, Marcus Paschal, Doug Dutch, Brad Jones and Chris Hawkins all in the mix.

The second year corner out of Nicholls State is unlikely to return to the kick return role he held down in 2009 (that job currently belongs to Jalen Parmele), but he hasn’t ruled the return game out entirely. “I want to do everything I can possibly do when I get back to 100%.”

After being scratched from Saturday night’s game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, Gerard (hamstring) was back on the practice field Monday and appeared to practice fully. Paschal (leg) remained extremely limited during drills.

Outside of the secondary, WR Demetrius Williams was not present during the portion of practice open to the media Monday; he left Saturday night’s win in DC with an ankle injury. Other Ravens not present Monday included O-Linemen Jared Gaither (back), Oniel Cousins (concussion), David Hale (tailbone) and Daniel Sanders (arm/shoulder).

S Ed Reed (hip), LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (quad) and RB Matt Lawrence (knee) remain on the PUP list.

NOTES: For the first time since the implementation of new practice viewing rules earlier this year, the Ravens removed a member of the media from practice for talking on their cell phone…Ayanbadejo and Lawrence were both on field during Monday’s practice, Lawrence was in uniform…Harbaugh said he talked to Ed Reed Saturday night during the Skins game-Reed “feels good about his progress

-G

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Ravens Training Camp: The impressive and disappointing

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Another Westminster training camp has concluded with the Ravens now focusing their attention to the final three games of the preseason before the 2010 regular season gets underway against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.

Saturday night’s meeting with the Washington Redskins will be a key audition for  bubble players as coach John Harbaugh has already stated how important the second preseason game is for evaluating rookies and reserve veterans fighting for a roster spot.

Much will change before the initial cutdown to 75 players takes place on Aug. 31 and the final cut to 53 on Sept. 4, but here’s a breakdown of players—by position—who impressed and disappointed in Westminster.

QUARTERBACKS
Impressed: Joe Flacco is an easy choice after a strong camp with his new offensive weapons. The third-year quarterback still must prove he can read and throw to the middle of the field, but Anquan Boldin and a strong group of tight ends will certainly help.

Disappointed: Troy Smith knew his standing in the organization changed dramatically after the acquisition of Marc Bulger, and the former Heisman Trophy winner did nothing to push the veteran for the backup job. Smith lacks size and was too erratic in Westminster. He will stick as the No. 3 quarterback, but his performance made the Ravens look very wise for signing Bulger.

RUNNING BACKS
Impressed: Hard to go with anyone but Ray Rice at this spot despite Willis McGahee looking solid and healthy as well. Rice looked to be in mid-season form the first day veterans reported to Westminster. It will be another Pro Bowl season for the third-year back if he remains healthy.

Disappointed: Not his fault, but Matt Lawrence’s chance of making the 53-man roster continues to diminish as he remains on the physically unable to perform list. He is a capable special teams player when healthy, but this summer’s roster is too deep.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Impressed: Everyone assumed Mark Clayton would be cast aside in the offense when the Ravens acquired Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, but the former starter had a strong training camp, catching everything thrown his way. Stallworth was the logical choice as the No. 3 receiver, but Clayton received more reps in three-wide sets over the final two weeks of camp.

Disappointed: The Ravens loved what they saw out of David Reed during the OTA schedule, but the rookie failed to adjust to the quicker speed of training camp. Considered a sure-handed receiver coming out of Utah, Reed dropped countless passes and was not been given much of a look as a kick returner. Demetrius Williams is clearly ahead of Reed in the battle for the fifth receiver spot.

TIGHT ENDS
Impressed: Ed Dickson looked more like an established—not to mention explosive—veteran than a rookie on the upper fields at McDaniel College. The 6-foot-4 Dickson has tremendous size and great speed for a tight end. His versatility will be a welcome addition when the Ravens use him in two-tight end sets and at H-back on occasion. On a side note, Todd Heap had an excellent camp, showing he’s still capable of producing when healthy.

Disappointed: Already facing an uphill battle to make the roster after the drafting of Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Davon Drew was not able to stay on the field this summer. Drew showed more consistency than he did last season as a rookie, but it’s difficult to make the team when you’re never on the field. He’ll need to get healthy and make an impact in the remaining preseason games.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Impressed: Fellow guard Ben Grubbs earns more notoriety, but Marshal Yanda was ferocious in Westminster, proving he’s all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered two seasons ago. Yanda anchored and stood up Terrence Cody during a 1-on-1 drill in one of the highlights of the summer, just a couple plays after the 350-pounder had blown up the highly-regarded Grubbs.

Disappointed: Showing up 30 pounds lighter without the coaching staff’s approval and injuring his back on the first day of full-team workouts made Jared Gaither a slam-dunk choice. Not only are there concerns whether he’ll be ready by Week 1, but he’s missed valuable time to adjust to the right tackle position.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Impressed: He got off to a slow start while adjusting to playing with the 15 extra pounds he gained in the offseason, but Paul Kruger became a force on the defensive line, off the edge and even sliding to the inside in the nickel package. If Kruger can replicate what he showed in Westminster over the last two weeks, the Ravens will have another factor in the pass rush.

Disappointed: None. This is the deepest unit on the team. The only disappointment on the defensive line is the reality that the organization will have to cut a couple of talented players due to numbers.

LINEBACKERS
Impressed: His performance in the Carolina game aside, Jameel McClain was the biggest surprise of camp over the first three weeks, working at inside linebacker with the first defense. McClain played the run well and showed competence in pass coverage, but it did not carry over against the Panthers in the preseason opener. The competition for the starting job next to Ray Lewis is still wide open. Antwan Barnes earns an honorable mention.

Disappointed: The likely favorite to win the second inside linebacker spot prior to camp, Dannell Ellerbe came to Westminster out of shape and trailed McClain and Tavares Gooden for much of the way. Ellerbe improved his standing as the weeks progressed, but it was apparent how unhappy the coaching staff was as Ellerbe worked with the second defense in Westminster.

CORNERBACKS
Impressed: Expected to be brought back slowly, Fabian Washington provided a much-needed lift to the secondary when he returned to the field during the first week of camp. Washington appeared quick and made more plays as the weeks progressed. He will see his first game action against the Redskins on Saturday night and will be relied upon to be the team’s top corner, even if he’s nowhere near a true No. 1.

Disappointed: The injury to Domonique Foxworth is most appropriate here, but the brief eight-day stint of Walt Harris takes the cake in this department. He was unable to show he had anything left in the tank despite a solid career. And it’s tough labeling the likes of Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins as disappointments if you never had any expectations to begin with.

SAFETY
Impressed: While no one compares to Ed Reed, Tom Zbikowski eased concerns at the position with a very strong showing in Westminster. Zbikowski is faster and showed a strong nose for the football this summer after doing an adequate job in Reed’s place for four games last season. Despite not knowing the status of its future Hall of Famer, this unit of safeties looks very sound with Zbikowski and Dawan Landry anchoring the secondary.

Disappointed: Though labeling him a disappointment is bit strong, Ken Hamlin has done little to challenge Zbikowski for the free safety position, partly because the latter was excellent in practice. Hamlin was solid, but unspectacular, running with the second defense. The former Cowboy has great size (6-foot-2) but needs to show a stronger special teams presence to stick around when Reed returns to the field.

SPECIALISTS
Impressed: Yes, he’s younger, cheaper, and healthier, but the Ravens clearly loved what they saw from Morgan Cox to have jettisoned veteran Matt Katula two days after the preseason opener. Fans can only hope we won’t hear his name again all season.

Disappointed: Though he’s kicked reasonably well, the Ravens certainly wished Shayne Graham had seized early control of the competition with Billy Cundiff. Until the final two days of camp, Cundiff had outperformed the former Bengal by a slight margin. Graham struggled with field goals outside 45 yards in Westminster but kicked better during the practice at M&T Bank Stadium. The smart money is still on Graham to be the kicker, but the battle has been closer than most people thought.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens limping through final days of camp

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — With injuries continuing to hinder the training camp roster, John Harbaugh and the Ravens are probably thinking they cannot get away from McDaniel College fast enough and back to the cozy confines of 1 Winning Drive as the injury list continues to grow daily, particularly on the offensive line.

Right tackle Oniel Cousins was carted off the field after suffering from a headache on Wednesday morning. Cousins, already filling in for the injured Jared Gaither (back tear), appeared to be laboring earlier in practice and stood on the sidelines for a considerable time before leaving the field. The training staff will test Cousins for a possible concussion.

Tony Moll filled in on the right side in Cousins’ absence while Chris Chester continues to handle the center position in place of Matt Birk (neck). Other linemen missing practice included Stefan Rodgers (arm) and Daniel Sanders (arm).

It was an “over-30 club” day in Westminster, meaning the likes of Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason were given the day off. With veterans receiving a respite and so many others not practicing, fans could be forgiven if they didn’t recognize all players running with the starting units at times.

New absences from practice included fullback Le’Ron McClain (back/thigh) and linebackers Tavares Gooden (neck) and Prescott Burgess (undisclosed). McClain appeared to be dealing with an upper thigh issue over the last few days, even having the hip and thigh region wrapped during Saturday afternoon’s practice. The starting fullback was in street clothes, walking with a limp during the morning session, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

Gooden continues to deal with neck spasms after sustaining an awkward hit to the neck in the preseason opener. Despite practicing the last two days, the team will use caution the rest of the week in hopes that Gooden will be able to play against the Redskins on Saturday.

“[The neck] just keeps tightening back up on him,” Harbaugh said. “We need to just sit him down and settle him down.”

Gooden’s health clouds what has been an intriguing competition at inside linebacker after Jameel McClain lost his stronghold at the position with a poor performance in the preseason opener. McClain has received more work at the “Sam” outside linebacker with the second unit this week. Harbaugh hopes to get extended looks at all three with the starting defense over the final three preseason games.

“We’ll kind of move those guys around the next two weeks, and we’ll know where we’re at.”

In addition to the “over-30″ club—which includes Lewis, Mason, Birk, Todd Heap, Travis Fisher, Trevor Pryce, and Kelly Gregg (Ed Reed and Brendon Ayanbadejo are still on the PUP list)—defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), and defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg) joined the aforementioned players as non-participants in the morning practice.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh, rookie receiver David Reed, and safety Tom Zbikowski’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson following practice.

______________________________________________________________________

1:40 p.m. — Both Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham missed from 45 yards on Wednesday morning. Cundiff pulled his attempt wide left while Graham was wide right on his try.

Each kicker connected from 19, 40, and 51 yards as both continue to produce similar results day in and day out in Westminster.

12:45 p.m. — With Thursday being the last two-a-day of the summer, coaches and players are laboring through the final workouts in Westminster and toward the remainder of the preseason schedule. John Harbaugh has been pleased with the team’s work during camp, evidenced by his cancellation of three practices (one on Saturday and two on Sunday) over the last week.

“You get to this point and it’s time to [go],” Harbaugh said. “You’re looking into the next phase of camp. Going into this practice [on Tuesday morning], we wanted to make sure that we have five good practices before we leave here, to make the most of it, and we did a good job today.”

The Ravens will conduct a walk-through on Friday before breaking camp and continuing their preseason preparation at their practice complex in Owings Mills.

12:35 p.m. — As mentioned yesterday, rookie David Reed has struggled to catch the ball consistently after a strong beginning in Westminster. Reed, a fifth-round pick in April, was expected to battle for the fifth receiver job but has fallen out of contention with Demetrius Williams having such a strong—and injury-free—training camp.

With three preseason games remaining, Reed will need a strong showing at receiver and on special teams to avoid being cut or stashed away on the practice squad—or Injured Reserve with a mysterious injury.

“You want consistency,” Harbaugh said about the young receivers following Tuesday’s practice. “For whatever reason, we dropped a lot of balls out here today. I thought the quarterbacks were just a little more in rhythm with their throws [and] a little quicker versus the pressure, which is what we want, and maybe it caught the receivers a little bit off guard.”

Hale acknowledges he has struggled to catch the football in camp, something he has not experienced previously in his career.

“I don’t drop too many passes [typically],” Reed said. “That’s one thing I carry myself [with], I don’t drop passes. I’m getting it back.”

12:20 p.m. — Cornerback Chris Carr and receiver Mark Clayton suited up to practice but were limited participants throughout the morning session. Carr has taken part in individual drills the last two days but continues to sit out team portions of practice as he continues to recover from a left hamstring injury sustained on Aug. 7.

With Carr sitting out 11-on-11 drills and the 30-year-old Travis Fisher not practicing, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams were the cornerbacks with the first defense.

Clayton had his right ankle taped before walking out to practice, but the receiver stood on the sideline without a helmet and gloves for much of practice. Demetrius Williams and Donte’ Stallworth split reps at receiver opposite of Anquan Boldin with Clayton out and Mason receiving the day off.

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Mocking The 53: Checking Ravens Roster After Preseason Opener

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Mocking The 53: Checking Ravens Roster After Preseason Opener

Posted on 16 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

My 3rd Edition of “Mocking The 53″ hit WNST.net just 9 days ago, and much has changed since that time. The most notable difference is the departure of veteran LS Matt Katula, whose roster spot was taken by rookie CB Brad Jones (Cincinnati).

However, there is also some tinkering to the 53 based on how Baltimore Ravens players performed against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium; and how they continue to perform during Training Camp practices at McDaniel College in Westminster.

For the record, I’ve never been more convinced that any of 60 guys could end up making the final roster. There might not be 70 NFL players on the roster like there were before Camp, but there are still PLENTY of players who have every opportunity to end up amongst the 53.

Here’s a reminder of how I explained these rankings the first time I put them together…

“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 take a look at how the 53 shapes up…

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. OT Michael Oher
3. WR Anquan Boldin
4. DT Haloti Ngata
5. RB Ray Rice
rice

6. LB Ray Lewis
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
9. LB Jarret Johnson
10. G Ben Grubbs

I think we were reminded of just how much the Ravens value Ray Rice when he was all but held out of the preseason opener. It’s very clear who the Top 6 players are on the team-just not quite as clear what order the Top 6 are in. Ben Grubbs cracks the Top 10 for the first time, and with the way O-Linemen have been getting banged up for this team during Camp, he might still be rising.

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

While Fabian Washington and Terrence Cody continue to climb, Jared Gaither is absolutely falling. John Harbaugh said he expected Gaither to miss 2-3 weeks; but didn’t appear to rule out the possibility that his back tear could keep him out longer. With that in mind, his value falls a bit.

On the flip side, after a rough start to Camp-Cody came on big time against the Panthers. He showed quite a bit of the promise the Ravens had hoped he would when they selected him in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft out of Alabama. Kelly Gregg may still be the starter in the middle of the D-Line, but Cody has significantly greater upside.

Washington is going to have to be ready to be a Top 15 guy on this team whether he’s…well…ready or not. It’s hard to move him so high without him having played against the Panthers, but his importance to the overall makeup of the roster cannot be understated.

21. S Tom Zbikowski
tomz
22. CB Chris Carr
23. LB Jameel McClain
24. K Shayne Graham
25. TE Ed Dickson
26. QB Marc Bulger
27. S Haruki Nakamura
28. WR Mark Clayton
29. DT Kelly Gregg
30. WR Donte’ Stallworth

A couple of movers in this group-including Jameel McClain, who appeared to have the starting ILB job nailed down next to Ray Lewis but has since been splitting time. He’s still very much in the mix and likely ahead of Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden, but we’ll need to see what the team does Saturday night against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

Chris Carr and Tom Zbikowski are risers, as their spots as starters have been solidified in recent weeks. Zbikowski may also end up winning the punt return job (I have him slightly ahead of Clayton and Stallworth right now), which could be enough to get him in the Top 20.

As far as Clayton and Stallworth are concerned-Clayton moves ahead of Stallworth for the first time as it appears he’ll be the team’s 3rd receiver. Expect both to get plenty of snaps throughout the season however.

Don’t be surprised if Ed Dickson is this team’s top Tight End sometime between now and the start of the 2011 season. He’ll be in the Top 20 on this list soon.

31. OL Chris Chester
32. LB Dannell Ellerbe
33. TE Dennis Pitta
34. P Sam Koch
35. LB Tavares Gooden
36. RB Willis McGahee
37. LB Antwan Barnes
abarnes
38. QB Troy Smith
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. CB Travis Fisher

Nothing drastically different about this group as of right now. Should Ellerbe or Gooden end up beating Jameel McClain out for the other ILB job, they would clearly move ahead of him on the roster. A good showing against the Panthers lifts Paul Kruger a bit, and the team continues to tell me they’re pleased with what they’ve seen from the 2nd year DE out of Utah since he reported to Westminster.

There have been rumblings that the team could keep just Flacco and Bulger and allow Troy Smith to walk-but I doubt that. Flacco and Bulger are similar QB’s, while Troy Smith is particularly different. After seeing what happened two years ago when Smith got sick and Kyle Boller got hurt, I don’t think the organization is ready to trim the number of QB’s on the Week 1 roster.

41. OT Oniel Cousins
42. S Ken Hamlin
43. DT Kelly Talavou
talavou
44. DT Brandon McKinney
45. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
46. RB Jalen Parmele
47. CB Cary Williams
48. OL David Hale
49. OL Tony Moll
50. LS Morgan Cox
51. LB Edgar Jones
52. S KJ Gerard
53. WR Demetrius Williams

A few things worth mentioning in this final group:

-David Hale was injured during practice Monday. Until we know more about the nature of the injury we have to assume he’s safely on the roster when the Ravens visit the New York Jets September 13th.

-I have Talavou and McKinney ahead of Arthur Jones and Lamar Divens right now, but Divens has had a solid camp and Jones is a player the Ravens might not want to risk exposing. All 4 remain very much in the mix to be on the team when they get to East Rutherford.

-Despite his suspension, Cary Williams basically has to be a safe bet to be on the team as he’s the 4th corner right now. That being said, the team could still make roster moves between now and their Week 1 appearance on Monday Night Football. Should they do that, Williams could be in trouble. If Williams DOES make the roster, the team will almost be forced to keep an additional corner. I’m keeping KJ Gerard ahead of Prince Miller for now, but if Gerard doesn’t get healthy soon he’ll forfeit that spot right back to Miller.

-Brendon Ayanbadejo is sliding. While he still appears upbeat about his spot on this team, I’m not sure how much longer it can be assumed. He hasn’t really been noticed doing much work on the side, and team sources have told me they’re disappointed in how long Ayanbadejo has remained out. Should he return, he has every chance to make an impact in the nickel package and on special teams; but he has to return to do that.

-I moved Demetrius Williams back to the safe side of the roster and David Reed off. Reed was expected to make a more significant impact in the return game-but that hasn’t necessarily been seen just yet. He could still win the kick return job-which would get him back on the good side of the roster bubble. In the meantime, Williams’ size continues to somehow separate him from the rest of the receivers on this team-which is enough to get him back on the good side of the bubble.

-Morgan Cox takes a spot in the 53. As the team’s only long snapper, that’s a bit of a no-brainer.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(CB Lardarius Webb-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)

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

Plenty of things worth discussing about this group:

-Mike McLaughlin COULD make the roster at FB with the team apparently more willing to give Le’Ron McClain carries; but I don’t expect it just yet. McLaughlin isn’t the type of guy the team would HAVE to keep to avoid exposing him, so I imagine he’ll end up on the practice squad.

-Billy Cundiff is MUCH closer in the kicking competition than he might appear; but the team has made it clear that Shayne Graham will be their guy. If he’s not going to make the roster, I can’t have Cundiff ahead of 54th.

-Jason Phillips is a guy the team likes a great deal, but may be a victim of a numbers game. He doesn’t have a natural role right now that makes him a guarantee to earn a spot. Prescott Burgess is in a similar position.

-Don’t be stunned if the team ends up keeping Davon Drew and has 4 tight ends on the roster. I just don’t see the room to do it right now myself.

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

Of this group, Rodgers may have the only realistic path to being part of the team when they hit the field at the Meadowlands. Should Jared Gaither remain out and the team choose to protect Ramon Harewood by placing him on IR; he would have a realistic chance of getting active behind Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll. But that’s a major (and frightening) IF.

-G

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GAMEDAY: Five compelling Ravens to watch tonight

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With the pregame buzz of a nationally-televised game inevitably wearing off shortly after the actual game begins (the first preseason game always provides that letdown, doesn’t it?), fans must channel their focus on individual standouts among many with no chance of making the 53-man roster in early September.

Stars such as Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and Ray Rice will only be making cameo appearances, but the stakes are much higher for lesser-known players yet to make their name popular in the Charm City. A few are battling for starting positions while others are simply contending for a spot on the 53-man roster, with the Ravens or one of the other 31 teams in the National Football League.

Below is a list of five players to watch in tonight’s game against the Carolina Panthers. A couple of familiar names are trying to enhance their stature while the others have stood out in training camp and can improve their position for making the squad—in Baltimore or elsewhere—with strong performances in the preseason.

1. LB Jameel McClain

We all expected a battle between Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe for the inside linebacker spot next to Lewis, but McClain has emerged as the biggest surprise of training camp. The third-year linebacker was a special teams standout in his first two seasons with the Ravens, but he’s taken an overwhelming majority of the reps with the starting defense while Gooden and Ellerbe have worked with the second team.

McClain is beginning to draw comparisons to former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott in that both went undrafted, played multiple positions in college, and earned their money via special teams in the infancy of their respective careers. McClain can play all four linebacker positions in the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme, but he credits being able to focus on the inside spot as a major factor for his new-found status as a defensive starter.

Of course, being a starter in training camp doesn’t mean he’ll start in September, but it’s apparent how far McClain has progressed from the summer of 2008 when he was a nondescript linebacker-defensive end trying to make the team. His steady play in all aspects of the game makes him a valuable asset to the defense.

“That’s what [McClain] is, he’s consistent,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s physical between the tackles. He’s solid in pass coverage.”

2. OT Oniel Cousins

The 2008 third-round draft choice has drawn the ire of many in his brief opportunities to play in his first two seasons, but this is a critical preseason—and season—for Cousins. With Jared Gaither’s status up in the air, physically and contractually, tonight will be a valuable first step for Cousins to alleviate concerns at the right tackle position and convince the coaching staff he can eventually be an NFL starter.

Cousins began training camp on the non-football illness list after having a procedure to remove a cyst in his throat earlier in the summer, but one wouldn’t know he only returned to the practice field a week ago by the way he’s played.

“I think what [Cousins] has done has been pretty amazing,” Harbaugh said. “He’s just made up so much ground in the last week that he’s practiced. He looks good, so he should play quite a bit [on Thursday].”

With Gaither still sidelined with back spasms and other tackles (Tony Moll, Ramon Harewood, and Stefan Rodgers) banged up, Cousins will receive extensive playing time against the Panthers.

3. CB Prince Miller

At 5-foot-8, the diminutive cornerback has listened to doubters throughout his football career. It didn’t stop Miller from making 31 career starts at Georgia and matching up against the best receivers the highly-competitive SEC had to offer.

Miller has struggled in camp against taller receivers such as Anquan Boldin and Demetrius Williams, but shows good athleticism and an impressive skill-set in special teams, a critical factor for any player on the roster bubble.

The rookie was away from camp for two days to witness the birth of his first child but has played the nickel and dime positions with the first-team defense, largely because of the team’s health issues in the secondary.

With Chris Carr likely out and Fabian Washington a game-time decision, Miller will likely man the nickel with the starting defense in the first quarter and play extensively when the starters are removed.

“We gave him a couple days off [to be in Georgia for his child's birth], and he did have fresh legs [Tuesday],” Harbaugh said. “I think it helped him. He kind of had the little bounce in his step, but he’ll play a lot on Thursday night along with those other young guys.”

4. LB Albert McClellan

The Ravens scouting department manages to find an impressive “hybrid” on the rookie free agent list seemingly every year, and McClellan fits that description this summer. The defensive end-linebacker has performed admirably in Westminster, even picking off Troy Smith and returning it for a touchdown in a red zone drill.

It’s no secret McClellan faces an uphill battle to make the team with such a deep linebacker unit already in place, but the same was said about McClain in 2008 before the Syracuse rookie won a roster spot with big performances in the preseason.

McClellan was a three-time captain at Marshall and accumulated 19.5 sacks in his collegiate career as a defensive end, earning second team All-Conference USA honors as a senior and first-team honors as a junior. Even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, McClellan figures to have a good chance to catch on elsewhere or make the developmental squad.

5. DT Lamar Divens

With the Ravens drafting defensive linemen Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones in April, the 343-pound Divens has become a forgotten man in a very deep group of defensive linemen. Durability is an issue with the third-year tackle, finishing the season on Injured Reserve in 2008 (shoulder) and spending the entire 2009 campaign on IR (shoulder).

Divens has impressed during training camp, constantly getting to the offensive backfield while playing on the second and third defensive units. With so many defensive tackles on the roster, he is a long-shot to stick with the Ravens, but a strong preseason improves his chances to catch on elsewhere.

He will receive extensive playing time in the second half.

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Mocking The 53: Two Weeks In, Much Has Changed

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Mocking The 53: Two Weeks In, Much Has Changed

Posted on 06 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

It’s been just 11 days since I posted my Pre-Training Camp edition of “Mocking The 53″ here at WNST.net. In the short (almost) two weeks since the Baltimore Ravens originally reported to Westminster, there has already been some significant flux in the way the team’s roster shapes up.

Obviously the loss of Domonique Foxworth is the most significant shakeup to the team’s roster. However, he’s not the only player who has faced injury-related issues at McDaniel College (or elsewhere) thus far. For this week’s edition; I am going to take not only Foxworth out of the 53, but also the players that we believe will begin the season on PUP (if not IR).

That means that Ed Reed, Lardarius Webb and Sergio Kindle will get the asterisk treatment outside the 53. They’re clearly amongst the top 53 players on the roster, but we just don’t know if they’ll be there when the Ravens line up to face the New York Jets on Monday Night Football come September 13.

Additionally, the roster reflects the subtractions of John Beck and Walt Harris and the additions of Doug Dutch, Chris Hawkins, Daniel Sanders and Devin Tyler.

Here’s a reminder of how I explained these rankings the first time I put them together…

“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 take a look at how the roster shapes up…

(Edit from GMC: This keeps shaking. The Ravens apparently DIDN’T release Walt Harris, but instead placed him on IR. Okay…)

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

Jarret Johnson rises a few spots in the Top 10 and looks more and more important to this team every day. Some of that has to do with Sergio Kindle‘s injury, but even more of that has to do with Jarret himself. His position is such a delicate combination of up and back, the only player I can think of who has played even similarly to him is Adalius Thomas. Jared Gaither also drops a few spots as his weight has to be considered an issue, but he’s still very important to this football team.

11. DE Trevor Pryce
12. G Ben Grubbs
13. DL Cory Redding
14. TE Todd Heap
15. OL Marshal Yanda
16. LB Jameel McClain
jmcclain
17. CB Fabian Washington
18. DT Terrence Cody
19. FB Le’Ron McClain
20. QB Marc Bulger

A couple of the guys in this group have been quick risers. Jameel McClain was never REALLY on the bubble to make the roster, but he wasn’t terribly far away from it. Within weeks, Jameel has joined the first team defense. He’s been taking the majority of snaps next to Ray Lewis inside, and the team hopes that he can be helpful in pressuring the quarterback with Sergio Kindle down.

Also rising is Fabian Washington-as Domonique Foxworth‘s injury leaves him the team’s top corner. Fabian joined Thyrl Nelson Tuesday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST to discuss the pressure of being the top corner. Check it out in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net if you missed it.

21. C Matt Birk
22. K Shayne Graham
23. S Dawan Landry
24. DT Kelly Gregg
kellygregg
25. WR Donte’ Stallworth
26. CB Chris Carr
27. S Tom Zbikowski
28. LB Tavares Gooden
29. OL Chris Chester
30. S Haruki Nakamura

There are a couple of folks in this group worth pointing out. Had Terrence Cody come into Camp and looked like a guy who would be ready to go immediately, Kelly Gregg may have ended up being someone who had to fight to preserve his roster spot. That no longer appears to be an issue.

Chris Carr just became a much more significant part of this roster, as it appears he will be a starting CB for at least the first 6 weeks of the season. That was never the plan for Chris. Hopefully it won’t hurt Greg Mattison‘s defense.

31. TE Ed Dickson
dickson
32. WR Mark Clayton
33. TE Dennis Pitta
34. P Sam Koch
35. LB Dannell Ellerbe
36. RB Willis McGahee
37. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
38. QB Troy Smith
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. S Ken Hamlin

I don’t know how much longer I can keep Dickson and Pitta outside the Top 30. It might just be Training Camp, but both have looked very good early on. Also looking good is Clayton, who may have been at risk of finding the bubble before Camp started.

On the flip side, Dannell Ellerbe as of right now looks to be 4th amongst the team’s inside LB’s, after vaulting into a job as a starter just a season ago. Troy Smith also appears to have solidified himself a bit with John Beck gone.

41. LB Antwan Barnes
42. OT Oniel Cousins
43. LS Matt Katula
44. DT Brandon McKinney
45. DT Kelly Talavou
46. RB Jalen Parmele
47. WR David Reed
48. OL David Hale
49. CB Travis Fisher
50. DT Arthur Jones
51. CB Cary Williams
52. OL Tony Moll
53. LB Edgar Jones
jones

A few things worth mentioning in this group. I’ll move Edgar Jones (who of course now wears #48 and plays OLB after having played roughly every other position on the field) back onto the good side of the bubble, as the injury to Sergio Kindle leaves the team thin at OLB. A couple of the other guys in this group (namely David Reed and Arthur Jones) are getting the benefit of the doubt as draft picks, but probably still have something to prove to make the final 53.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(CB Walt Harris-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(CB Lardarius Webb-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)

54. K Billy Cundiff
55. WR Demetrius Williams
56. OT Ramon Harewood
57. LB Prescott Burgess
58. RB Matt Lawrence
59. S KJ Gerard
gerard
60. LB Jason Phillips
61. TE Davon Drew
62. DT Lamar Divens
63. WR Marcus Smith
64. WR Justin Harper
65. DE Albert McClellan
66. FB Mike McLaughlin
67. WR Eron Riley
68. CB Prince Miller
69. CB Marcus Paschal
70. RB Curtis Steele

There’s a few things about my current 53 that I don’t like. As of right now, I have just 4 true corners on the roster right now (Washington, Carr, Williams, Fisher). This could be a place where Gerard could squeeze his way back onto the roster. Also, Ramon Harewood could be in direct competition with Tony Moll for an O-Line spot.

I said before Camp that there were 70 legitimate NFL players (either guys who had been on the active roster or guys who were NFL Draft picks) fighting for 53 roster spots. That number has dwindled, but there are still some 65 legitimate players fighting for spots-and 5 current or former UFA’s also hoping to get on the team.

71. OT Joe Reitz
joereitz
72. CB Doug Dutch
73. OL Bryan Mattison
74. OT Stefan Rodgers
75. LS Morgan Cox
76. CB Chris Hawkins
77. OT Daniel Sanders
78. OT Devin Tyler

The team certainly believes there will be some practice squad guys in the final group.

There you have it. We’ll update again after the Ravens play the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

-G

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Live from Westminster: Ravens welcome Goodell, Madden to camp

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Live from Westminster: Ravens welcome Goodell, Madden to camp

Posted on 04 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — It lacked the hoopla of last season’s surprise visit from Snoop Dogg, but the Ravens rolled out the purple carpet for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster John Madden this morning at McDaniel College.

The two arrived shortly after 9:00 a.m. in the large Madden Cruiser—or whatever they’re calling it these days.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

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Goodell and Madden visited with general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh before the commissioner stepped to the podium to answer questions from the Baltimore media. Goodell also met with Ravens season ticket holders at McDaniel as well as an encounter with the Ravens in a players-only meeting at noon.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

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“It’s exciting; it’s different,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something that you’re kind of used to. You feel like you want to do a good job and show him that we know what we’re doing. Players are kind of excited.”

As for the action on the field Wednesday morning, Derrick Mason sat out the session as he recovers from a right ankle injury. He was walking around on the field—with the ankle taped—during practice and doesn’t appear to be feeling too many ill effects.

Cornerback K.J Gerard (hamstring) and offensive tackle Tony Moll (concussion) did not participate in the morning practice, but cornerbacks Chris Carr (back) and Fabian Washington (knee – sat out Tuesday afternoon) participated fully.

Harbaugh also said Matt Birk (elbow – PUP list) is close to returning, and Birk confirmed that he would see the team doctor today to get an update on his status.

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Mocking The 53: A Training Camp Eve Look at Ravens Roster

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Mocking The 53: A Training Camp Eve Look at Ravens Roster

Posted on 25 July 2010 by Glenn Clark

Back in early June, I put together my first “Mocking the 53” entry; breaking down how the Baltimore Ravens roster appeared following the end of mini-camps. Since that time, there have been some roster additions (welcome Marc Bulger, Ken Hamlin, Walt Harris); subtractions (we’ll never forget William VanDeSteeg, Brad Jones, Chris Hannon, Maurice Price, John Fletcher, Daniel Sanders, Courtney Smith, Ashton Hall and Digger Bujnoch); and “Ed Reed Month” has captured the attention of Charm City.

With coaches, quarterbacks, rookies and players coming off injuries scheduled to report to McDaniel College Monday, I thought today would be a good time to take another look at where the roster stands. There aren’t MANY changes; but it’s worth taking another look at.

Here’s how I explained these rankings the first time I posted them…

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.

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. OT Michael Oher
3. WR Anquan Boldin
4. DT Haloti Ngata
5. LB Ray Lewis
6. RB Ray Rice
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
suggs

9. OT Jared Gaither
10. LB Jarret Johnson

I only made a few adjustments to the Top 10 this time around. After talking to some NFL personnel folks, I came to the conclusion that I slightly overvalued Ray Rice and slightly undervalued Ray Lewis. The fact is-the Ravens have great depth at RB behind Rice. While the team wouldn’t be as dynamic offensively without him; they could survive for at least a period of time should he get hurt. The team does NOT have the same type of depth at ILB, as they have SOLID players-just not guys who can step in for someone like #52. The other change I made in the Top 10 was at #10; as Jarret Johnson replaces Ed Reed. With the acquisition of Ken Hamlin and the very realistic possibility that Reed will miss the first six weeks of the season; it’s hard to leave even a future Hall of Fame safety in the Top 10.

11. S Ed Reed
12. DT Terrence Cody
13. OG Ben Grubbs
14. DE Trevor Pryce
15. DL Cory Redding
16. TE Todd Heap
17. CB Domonique Foxworth
domfox
18. C Matt Birk
19. OL Marshal Yanda
20. QB Marc Bulger

Welcome to the list Marc Bulger. The fact is, the team doesn’t give a player nearly $4 million (with the chance to make over $5 million) if he’s not an important part of the roster. No matter what Ed Reed or Joe Flacco says to the media, the team is obviously very happy to have the former St. Louis Rams QB on the roster. Otherwise, the next 10 stays about the same as my first post. One of the most interesting things to watch this week in Westminster will be the weight Terrence Cody reports at. If it is around the 350 the team wants from him, he’ll solidify his Top 12 standing on this roster. If it is more than that, his stock could drop.

21. FB Le’Ron McClain
22. S Dawan Landry
23. CB Lardarius Webb
webb
24. LB Sergio Kindle
25. LB Dannell Ellerbe
26. CB Fabian Washington
27. WR Donte’ Stallworth
28. K Shayne Graham
29. LB Tavares Gooden
30. DT Kelly Gregg

The biggest riser in this group is Shayne Graham, who was 41st on my initial list. In talking to folks both in Owings Mills and around the league; it has become clear that the team is working under the assumption that Graham will win the “competition” with Billy Cundiff. Should he struggle in the preseason, clearly his place on the list could fluctuate. Lardarius Webb dropped just a bit due to the acquisition of Walt Harris; as the team has a bit more depth at CB should Webb not return as healthy as hoped. Also dropping a few spots is rookie LB Sergio Kindle as we await more details surrounding his head injury that will force him to miss the start of Training Camp.

31. TE Ed Dickson
32. P Sam Koch
33. OL Chris Chester
34. CB Chris Carr
chriscarr
35. RB Willis McGahee
36. S Ken Hamlin
37. S Haruki Nakamura
38. S Tom Zbikowski
39. LB Jameel McClain
40. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo

Ken Hamlin debuts at #36, and could rise from there depending on how he looks in the preseason. As of right now, there is a common assumption that Hamlin could very well be the guy to start alongside Dawan Landry Week 1 in East Rutherford; as Ed Reed looks like he may well end up on the PUP list. Should Hamlin show the form that made him a Pro Bowl selection with the Dallas Cowboys, he should hold off Tom Zbikowski easily at the “centerfield” safety spot.

41. TE Dennis Pitta
42. CB Walt Harris
43. WR Mark Clayton
44. DE Paul Kruger
45. QB Troy Smith
troysmith
46. LS Matt Katula
47. OT Oniel Cousins
48. LB Antwan Barnes
49. RB Jalen Parmele
50. DT Brandon McKinney
51. WR David Reed
52. DT Kelly Talavou
53. OL David Hale

The guy that drops the most in this list is Troy Smith, as the acquisition of Marc Bulger leaves him 3rd on the QB Depth Chart. Should he be traded to a team that suffers a QB injury during the preseason; Cam Cameron favorite John Beck would take his roster spot right back. David Hale gets the last spot on the 53 due to the need for interior OL depth behind Chris Chester-although the team could well decide to keep Tony Moll for that role. They could also keep Ramon Harewood (who looks like a Practice Squad guy to me) if he was capable of moving in and playing guard.

54. QB John Beck
55. K Billy Cundiff
56. DT Arthur Jones
57. OT Ramon Harewood
58. WR Demetrius Williams
dwill
59. CB Travis Fisher
60. OL Tony Moll
61. LB Prescott Burgess
62. RB Matt Lawrence
63. LB Edgar Jones
64. LB Jason Phillips
65. CB Cary Williams
66. DT Lamar Divens
67. TE Davon Drew
68. WR Marcus Smith
69. WR Justin Harper
70. S KJ Gerard

This is really incredible. Players 54-70 on this list ALL appear to be legitimate NFL players; just guys who face VERY uphill battles when it comes to trying to make this crowded roster.

John Beck will have to beat Troy Smith or hope he’s traded. Billy Cundiff will have to beat Shayne Graham. Arthur Jones and Lamar Divens are battling Brandon McKinney and Kelly Talavou; with an outside chance that Kelly Gregg could be let go to pave the way for one of them to make the team.

Ramon Harewood and Tony Moll are battling Oniel Cousins and David Hale; but are also hoping to convince the team they’re valuable enough to just keep another O-Lineman altogether. Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith and Justin Harper are all hoping to prove that their size makes them more valuable than David Reed or Mark Clayton; or that they’re valuable enough for John Harbaugh to go with a 6th receiver.

Travis Fisher, Cary Williams and KJ Gerard are battling the likes of Walt Harris to try to steal a spot in the secondary. One of them will likely benefit from Ed Reed‘s injury to get onto the roster. Prescott Burgess is hoping to avoid being a roster casualty for a 2nd straight year; as he, Jason Phillips and Edgar Jones know that Brendon Ayanbadejo, Antwan Barnes, Jameel McClain and Paul Kruger are their competition for making the roster.

Matt Lawrence has to prove he’s back from his knee injury a season ago and his value at RB and on Special Teams makes him worthwhile amongst a group that includes Jalen Parmele. Davon Drew is trying to find some room at TE behind Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

The fact is, these are all winnable jobs for the players farther down on the roster; and they’re not just competing with each other. A strong preseason from Demetrius Williams could earn him a spot but prove costly for a player like Brandon McKinney with the team deep at DT. A strong preseason from Matt Lawrence could leave Antwan Barnes an afterthought.

Jerry Rosburg will ultimately have a big say in who gets the final spots, as a player’s value to the Special Teams unit could outweigh his value at his own position. Lawrence, Smith, Burgess, E. Jones and Gerard could all use that to their advantage in trying to make the roster.

71. FB Mike McLaughlin
72. CB Prince Miller
73. CB Marcus Paschal
74.  OT Joe Reitz
75. WR Eron Riley
eron
76. RB Curtis Steele
77. OL Bryan Mattison
78. OT Stefan Rodgers
79. LS Morgan Cox
80. WR Rodelin Anthony
81. DE Albert McClellan

There are guys who have a chance at making the roster in this final group, but they have to be considered longshots. Eron Riley was popular amongst the members of the team’s coaching staff while on the practice squad last year. Unfortunately, the logjam of taller receivers fighting for roster spots ahead of him makes it likely he will end up heading right back to the practice squad this year.

Mike McLaughlin, Prince Miller and Curtis Steele are all UFA’s who have legitimate chances of lighting the world on fire in the preseason and winning jobs; but all appear more likely to be practice squad bound. Should Matt Katula show lingering signs of the elbow troubles that bothered him last year, Morgan Cox could have a chance to win the LS job outright.

That’s the roster as it stands right now. We all know injuries and other potential roster moves will change things before the Ravens head to the Meadowlands for Monday Night Football on Sept. 13. I’ll try to update this after each preseason game; with September 4 looming as “cutdown” day.

Remember, updates from Luke Jones and myself at Training Camp begin Monday; and can be heard at the bottom of the hour EVERY hour throughout the day.

-G

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10 Things I’d Like To See This Summer

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10 Things I’d Like To See This Summer

Posted on 23 June 2010 by Glenn Clark

With “The Morning Reaction” wrapping early this morning so Drew Forrester and I can go root for Team USA to top Algeria at Looney’s in Canton; I won’t have enough time to post a full Crabs & Beer update.

Instead, I figured I’d go “simple column” this morning. We’re on Day 3 of summer today, although it’s been hot enough to feel like each day lasts for 3 days this summer. Between now and September 22 when summer officially ends, there are some things I’d like to see…

10. 1 more game from Team USA in the World Cup

soccer

This is Number 10 because it’s the event closest to now. An appearance in the Round of 16 won’t really be all that historic for the Americans, as they’ve reached at least the round of 16 in 2 of their last 4 trips to the World Cup. BUT-here in town, having the Americans play significant games has been really nice in this area. We had a packed house in Bel Air last Friday for the Slovenia match, and Patriot Plaza in Towson was packed for the England match before that.

During matches, Facebook and Twitter have been wild with Team USA discussion. This area has really been galvanized by having a team that we root for play significant games. I don’t need to even begin to explain that it doesn’t happen in baseball anymore.

Selfishly, I’d like to see the Americans play two or even THREE more games before the World Cup ended. As close as we could get to the start of Training Camp would be really nice. That being said, I’ll be realistic. Just one more game would be particularly nice to keep folks in this area excited about…well…anything.

9. Robert Randolph in Baltimore

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkDH1wON7UU[/youtube]

If you didn’t go to Artscape last year, you might not understand. The most electric night of the year in Charm City last summer was the night Robert Randolph rocked Artscape (see above). I guess you could argue that Bruce Springsteen playing 1st Mariner Arena in the fall was more electric because it was in front of a bigger crowd, but there was just something so unbelievably special about that night at Artscape.

It was the type of night that was unbelievably Baltimore. The crowd was as diverse a group of people as you could imagine seeing on a street corner. The show was as good as you would expect from Robert Randolph (and the Family Band), but it was BETTER because it was free, it was in Baltimore, and it was at an event that is attended by folks from all walks of life in town.

I have no doubt that Wale will play a great set at Artscape this year, as acts like Citizen Cope and The Roots have done in the past. There’s a chance that I might go see Robert Randolph in Philadelphia or Dewey Beach this summer as well. But it won’t quite be the same. What happened last summer was SPECIAL. I’d love to see a way that it could happen again in Baltimore this summer.

8. A tall receiver makes the Ravens roster

harper

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure that Demetrius Williams, Justin Harper or Eron Riley (or even Rodelin Anthony for that matter) are any good. Williams and Harper have had their chances on the active roster, and have little to show for it. Harper has played in just two games (both last season), and Williams caught just 4 TD’s in his 4 year career.

That being said, in past years-the team has had no option but to let them on the roster. That’s not the case this season. The Ravens HAVE receivers. Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Donte’ Stallworth are ALL going to make the team. Mark Clayton, Marcus Smith, David Reed and the receivers listed above are all in the mix to make the team as well. If one of the tall receivers makes the team, it’s NOT going to happen just because the team has no other choice. All of these guys are going to have to go to Westminster and make an impact at Training Camp.

The Ravens offense appears to be primed for their best season in team history. Joe Flacco, Michael Oher, Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin are enough pieces to have some pundits (like Bill Matt Williamson at ESPN.com) say that the team has the best offense in the AFC North. The only thing missing is a legitimate threat from a tall receiver. Hopefully one of these guys will separate themseves at McDaniel College and prove that they can be counted on.

7. Brock Lesnar beats Shane Carwin

brock

I consider myself a UFC fan. Heck, I consider myself a fan of all Mixed Martial Arts in general. That being said, on a scale of 1-10, I’m probably a 6 when it comes to my MMA fandom. I attend John Rallo’s “Shogun Fights” events, I went to the UFC Pay-Per-View in Philly last summer, I watch “The Ultimate Fighter” on SpikeTV, and I even occassionally wander over to Hooters or somewhere that shows the fights for free.

That being said, the only time in MY LIFE when I have plunked down 50 bucks of my own money to watch a fight was last July when Brock Lesnar faught Frank Mir. I wasn’t the only one. In fact, the fight did 1.6 million PPV buys, making it the most purchased PPV event of the year. It was the biggest event in UFC history, and gave the sport some absolute juice.

What made the event better was the fact that despite it being headlined by a former WWE champion, it had real legitimacy to it. The fight was an honest-to-God fight for the UFC Heavyweight title between two deserving fighters. It wasn’t Kimbo Slice. It wasn’t Herschel Walker. The best thing for the UFC is to have more events like that in the future.

For that to happen, Brock Lesnar needs to beat Shane Carwin. I hope he does.

6. Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne get real chances to make NBA rosters

tersp

Greivis Vasquez is going to hear his name called Thursday night during the NBA Draft, and there’s no question in my mind that he will be on a NBA roster when the season tips off. (When does the season tip off, by the way?)

But the other two Maryland seniors aren’t nearly that type of sure thing. Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne have each spent the last month or so traveling the country and trying to prove themselves capable of playing in the NBA. Teams like the Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers have given them looks, but it’s unlikely that either of them will hear their name called Thursday night.

That being said, I firmly believe both guys will end up in Las Vegas this summer playing in the NBA Summer League. I hope that after that, they each end up on a Training Camp roster with a REAL shot at making a team. Something tells me they’ll both end up in Europe eventually (I happen to think that Milbourne’s game is particularly well-suited for Europe), but I hope they both get a real chance to make it in the NBA first. Eric Hayes is NOT Steve Blake, but there’s a chance he could be Tim Legler.

These are both guys who were great competitors in College Park and made Terrapins alumni proud. They’re easy to root for, and I will absolutely be hoping for the best for both of them.

5. Maryland-Navy sold out on Labor Day, Inter Milan-Manchester City sold out in July

marylandnavy

Despite the fact that some folks think I should change my middle name to Testudo, I’m not excited about Terps football this season. I have a bad feeling that there isn’t enough talent to win the close games that Ralph Friedgen’s team lost a season ago.

That being said, having attended the last “Crab Bowl Classic” at M&T Bank Stadium, there are few football games in the world that I would be as excited to attend this season as I am about the Terrapins and Midshipmen on a day that just so happens to also be my birthday. The atmosphere when these teams met in 2005 was unbelievably electric. It was quite possibly the best atmosphere for any college football game I’ve ever attended, with MAYBE the exception of the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

Inter Milan-Man City this summer clearly doesn’t have the juice of last summer’s AC Milan-Chelsea matchup, despite Inter winning the UEFA Champions League this season. But the event is still a world class soccer match, and it will provide a gauge for how Baltimore is viewed as a viable location for future major soccer events in town.

I like having big, exciting sporting events in town. With only 8 regular season NFL games (the two exhibition games aren’t really big or exciting) and Opening Day for the Orioles providing real juice, it helps to have one-off events that generate a spark in the area. To continue getting those events, the events that do come here must be well attended. I don’t really think both of these events will sell out (heck, I’m not sure either of them will), but it would go a long way for getting more events like these in the area.

4. Someone…making SOME sort of progress on the arena situation in Baltimore

arena

A lot of great things have happened in this state since Terry Hasseltine has been hired to get big events. Hasseltine has helped to bring the IndyCar Series to town, make strides in college football and soccer events, and make sure to keep the Preakness here in town.

That being said, there’s one area where NOTHING has happened that is unbelievably frustrating for sports fans in town.

24 months ago, the Baltimore Development Corporation reported that a new arena would be built downtown where the current 1st Mariner Arena sits. Since that time…ummm….well…have you heard anything new?

I’m not stupid. I don’t expect ground to be broken on an arena this summer. But it would be really nice to hear SOMETHING from Stephanie Rawlings-Blake or the leadership of the city about progress being made in the area. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

3. Andy Roddick playing on the 4th of July

roddick

This of course has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that I’m an obsessed A-Rod fan myself, but it is more than that as well. Tennis had a real chance for a resurgence in this country last summer when Andy Roddick took Roger Federer to the 5th set in the longest (game-wise) final in Wimbledon history. Roddick eventually fell short as Federer surpassed Pete Sampras to become the greatest grand slam champion in the history of the sport, but a Roddick win could have done wonders for the sport of tennis in America.

Andy Roddick has always played his best tennis in London. Despite having won his only grand slam at Flushing Meadows, he’s reached the finals three times at Wimbledon-having lost all three to Federer. The way he lost last year has to make you feel that if he REACHES the final again, he’d have a real chance to get over the hump.

He’s not a better player than Federer or Rafael Nadal. But if he can win at Wimbledon, it would lead to a much better American atmosphere surrounding the U.S. Open.

2. An acceptance that “The Plan” was a joke to begin with

macphail

I’m not going as far as to say the Birds should consider parting ways with Andy MacPhail. I just don’t want to hear any more about “The Plan.” “The Plan” has gone 19-51 this season, and there is just no reason to believe that the O’s will be any better next season despite the “young core” assembled.

I want to know what the team is going to do to WIN. And I want to know what they’re going to do to win in 2011. That was the promise all along, right?

I just don’t want to hear about “The Plan” ever again. Unless “The Plan” is no more than a plan to WIN.

1. A Ravens win Sept. 13 in East Rutherford

jets

As I’ve told to anyone who would listen, I really believe the Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl contenders. That being said, I also think the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers are Super Bowl contenders.

For the positive vibes to keep flowing, a win at the Meadowlands would go a long way.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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