Following a convincing win over the New York Giants Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens have just one more preseason contest to solve the final spots on their 53 man roster.
They’ll play the St. Louis Rams Thursday night at Edward Jones Dome, and a number of players will be hoping it isn’t the final time they don the purple & black. The team will be forced to trim the roster to 53 players this Saturday.
There have been a few changes to the roster since my last “Mocking the 53″ update; with CB Doug Dutch cut and both OL Daniel Sanders and CB Marcus Paschal placed on IR. I am also going to move Cary Williams OFF the 53 (he will receive an asterisk following the 53) since he will be roster exempt during the two weeks he’s suspended. He’s on the roster, but the cuts Saturday won’t reflect that. Finally, Donte’ Stallworth moves back to the 53rd spot on the roster. He’s not the 53rd best player on the team, but since he can’t participate I won’t continue to lift him.
As a reminder of my overall philosophy in selecting these players, here is the explanation I posted before my initial mock roster…
“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, here’s how I see the Top 53 shaping up…
(Thanks to The Sun and BaltimoreRavens.com for photos.)
1. QB Joe Flacco
2. RB Ray Rice
3. WR Anquan Boldin
4. DT Haloti Ngata
5. LB Ray Lewis
6. OT Michael Oher
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
9. LB Jarret Johnson
10. G Ben Grubbs
Only a few small changes to the Top 10, as I dropped Michael Oher a couple of spots. The 2nd year tackle from Ole Miss is still VERY important to this football team, and I wouldn’t be stunned at all if his 2nd season ended in a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. But he HAS struggled during the preseason, and this is simply a reflection of that. Otherwise, the top players on the team remain exactly the same.
11. TE Todd Heap
12. DE Trevor Pryce
13. DL Cory Redding
14. CB Fabian Washington
15. FB Le’Ron McClain
16. OL Marshal Yanda
17. C Matt Birk
18. S Dawan Landry
19. DT Terrence Cody
20. S Tom Zbikowski
Just a couple of tweeks in this group as well. Todd Heap moves up a couple spots after his sensational performance Saturday night against the G-Men. On the flip side, Terrence Cody falls a few spots due to the knee injury that forced him to miss Saturday night and has forced him to miss about a week’s worth of practice. I still think “Mount Cody” is going to end up being VERY good, but he hasn’t been very good recently.
21. CB Chris Carr
22. P Sam Koch
23. QB Marc Bulger
24. DT Kelly Gregg
25. S Haruki Nakamura
26. CB Lardarius Webb
27. TE Ed Dickson
28. WR Mark Clayton
29. OL Chris Chester
30. OT Jared Gaither
A few movers in this group as well, including a significant move from Sam Koch. He’s looking like a real weapon for this team. His performance against the Washington Redskins would have garnered him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors if it had happened during the regular season, and he was exceptional again Saturday night against the Giants. He’s been very impressive to watch both during Training Camp practices at McDaniel College in Westminster and in practices since then at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills.
Jared Gaither falls a few spots as he continues to battle a back injury. At this point, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be on the field when the Ravens play the New York Jets Sept. 13 in East Rutherford to open the season. Kelly Gregg moves up a few spots, as his value to the team is heightened with Terrence Cody hurt.
31. RB Willis McGahee
32. LB Jameel McClain
33. LB Dannell Ellerbe
34. LB Tavares Gooden
35. LB Antwan Barnes
36. OL Tony Moll
37. RB Jalen Parmele
38. TE Dennis Pitta
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. DT Brandon McKinney
And after the first 30 players on the roster, EVERYTHING IS TOUGH TO FIGURE OUT! Players 31-40 on this list will all make the roster, but they’ll likely fluctuate position as the season goes on.
In the never-ending saga of “As the JACK LB Turns”, the JACK LB position is turning. Sorta. Harbs said Monday that analysts shouldn’t look too much into the fact that Jameel McClain has started all three preseason games, as all three backers are likely to play roughly the same number of snaps. To some extent, I believe him. In three linebackers, the Ravens have about one complete linebacker. If only they could figure out a way to mold the three together. McClain stays ahead of the others due to the fact that he HAS been starting, but the separation he found from the others early in camp is pretty much non-existent at this point.
Tony Moll and Jalen Parmele are also risers in this group. Parmele because his job as kick returner solidifies his level of importance to the team. Moll because with Gaither and Cousins sidelined, he’s stepped in and held down the RT position admirably. In fact, he’s likely moved ahead of Cousins on the depth chart regardless of health. Should Gaither not be able to go on Monday Night Football to open the season, I would expect Moll to start regardless of health.
41. LS Morgan Cox
42. DT Kelly Talavou
43. OT Oniel Cousins
44. QB Troy Smith
45. CB Travis Fisher
46. S Ken Hamlin
47. K Shayne Graham
48. OL David Hale
49. WR Demetrius Williams
50. WR Marcus Smith
51. LB Jason Phillips
52. CB Prince Miller
53. WR Donte’ Stallworth*
Somewhere in this group my confidence level starts to decline a bit. I’m just not exactly sure where it is. Here’s what we know from 41-53.
At 41, Morgan Cox is the Long Snapper, he’s on the team.
At 42, Kelly Talavou appears to be ahead of Arthur Jones and Lamar Divens and comfortably on the roster. He made the roster last year, and the team has maintained faith in him.
At 43, Oniel Cousins is absolutely making the roster as long as he’s healthy. It seems as though he will be-but that’s no guarantee.
At 44, Troy Smith is the team’s 3rd quarterback. The only way he’d not be part of the 53 is if the team were to suddenly find a trade partner or decide for some reason that they don’t need to keep a 3rd quarterback. I find both to be unlikely.
At 45, Travis Fisher is on the team for now. I get the feeling that might not be the case when Cary Williams comes back.
At 46, Ken Hamlin looks like he’s safe until Ed Reed comes back. Of course, there’s a chance that will happen sooner than we thought.
At 47, I still believe Shayne Graham will win the kicking competition. However, I’ve moved him back significantly because there’s almost no difference between he and Billy Cundiff right now. If Cundiff wins, I can’t be surprised anymore. The organization had privately given the job to Graham weeks ago, but there are some factors that might have that job slipping from his grasp.
At 48, David Hale seems safe as long as he’s healthy. That’s a real question mark right now as he battles a tailbone injury. Hale had played well in Camp, and it looked like his improvement had been significant over 12 months.
At 49, Demetrius Williams moves back on the roster. The Ravens will likely want to keep a 4th receiver active with Stallworth hurt, and Williams has more experience than the others on the roster. His size also separates him from the others.
At 50, Marcus Smith is an outstanding Special Teams player. Given some of the players Jerry Rosburg’s unit is missing (including Brendon Ayanbadejo), his inclusion in the Final 53 would make almost too much sense.
At 51, I’m keeping Jason Phillips on the roster for now. Some would argue Prescott Burgess should have his spot, and he’ll have the chance to move ahead.
At 52, Donte’ Stallworth’s injury helps Prince Miller a lot. With Tom Zbikowski starting and Mark Clayton now a slot receiver (who is hurt), it is fair to expect Miller get the bulk of action at punt return this week. That could be enough to lock down a job.
At 53, Donte’ Stallworth holds a roster spot.
54. CB Cary Williams*
(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(CB Marcus Paschal-IR)
(OL Daniel Sanders-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Potential PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Expected PUP)
(LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-Starting season on Reserve PUP)
(RB Matt Lawrence-Starting season on Reserve PUP)
With Ed Reed now hanging around the facility in Owings Mills, those rumblings that he’ll avoid the PUP list will get louder. With Ed, it’s hard to ever really know. Otherwise, we can be sure Brendon Ayanbadejo will start the season on PUP-and it’s safe to assume that Matt Lawrence will be PUP at best.
55. K Billy Cundiff
56. LB Prescott Burgess
57. WR David Reed
58. LB Edgar Jones
59. DT Arthur Jones
60. DT Lamar Divens
61. OT Ramon Harewood
62. S/CB KJ Gerard
63. TE Davon Drew
64. OT Joe Reitz
Everyone between 55-64 has at least a CHANCE to make the final 53.
At 55, Billy Cundiff is neck and neck with Shayne Graham in the kicking competition. One of them will win.
At 56, Prescott Burgess can win a spot on the roster over the next week. His abilities on Special Teams will help him.
At 57, David Reed has played well recently-but hasn’t been outstanding for all of Camp. He’s not far from the roster, but the next week will be crucial for him.
At 58, Edgar Jones has plenty of versatility-but he hasn’t shown himself to be an exceptional OLB. Despite Sergio Kindle’s injury, he doesn’t look like he’s quite made the team yet.
At 59, Arthur Jones has a ton of upside. He also finds himself the victim of a numbers game. The Ravens might be concerned about exposing him, but it seems like he’s better suited for the practice squad.
At 60, Lamar Divens is in a very similar situation as Arthur Jones. The Ravens would hate to give up on a player that “looks like a Raven” the way Divens does, but he might not fit on the roster right now.
At 61, Ramon Harewood still looks like a very qualified candidate for IR given his knee issue just after the NFL Draft. Injuries to Gaither and Cousins could make him a roster option.
At 62, KJ Gerard has REALLY been hurt by not being on the field for stretches this preseason. The Ravens need secondary help, and he could provide it if he could stay healthy. This is a big week for him.
At 63, Davon Drew has played really well this summer. Unfortunately, there just doesn’t appear to be room for a 4th Tight End on the roster.
At 64, Joe Reitz could end up making the roster given the same injuries to Gaither and Cousins. But if I was a betting man, my money wouldn’t be on him.
65. WR Justin Harper
66. FB Mike McLaughlin
67. WR Eron Riley
68. DE Albert McClellan
69. RB Curtis Steele
70. OL Bryan Mattison
71. OT Stefan Rodgers
72. CB Brad Jones
73. CB Chris Hawkins
74. OT Devin Tyler
Harper and Riley really offer something to a practice squad given their size. When the Ravens are forced to go up against taller receivers, it will help to have taller receivers to match up against in practice. Others on this list look like solid practice squad options as well-of which Curtis Steele could be one of them.
Questions? Concerns? Song requests? Let me know. I’ll post my final Mocking The 53 Friday.