It’s all about the roster bubble on Thursday night as the Ravens conclude the 2015 preseason with a trip to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons.
Head coach John Harbaugh has already confirmed that he does not intend to play his starters in the fourth preseason contest with the opener in Denver less than two weeks away. However, Thursday will mark a final opportunity for fringe players to leave a positive impression as they jockey for the final few roster spots that may still be up for grabs.
“I think there’s a pretty clear picture of who’s going to be here and who’s not,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday. “Of course, the last couple spots are still up in the air, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. The other thing is guys are battling for practice-squad spots, and they’re not just battling with each other. They’re battling all around the league for some of those spots. It’s a very competitive thing to make an NFL team or an NFL practice squad.”
Harbaugh said the Ravens are prepared to play 43 of the 75 players remaining on the active roster against the Falcons.
Thursday marks the 11th time that Baltimore will play Atlanta in the preseason. The teams are playing each other for the sixth time in the preseason in the Harbaugh era.
The Ravens are 7-3 against the Falcons in the all-time preseason series and are 3-2 against them in their regular-season history. They will not meet again in the regular season until 2018, a game that will take place in Atlanta.
Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report
The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.
Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will come into question. This list, of course, does not take into account the many veterans who will be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.
Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:
OUT: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (knee), DE Brent Urban (biceps)
DOUBTFUL: OL Ryan Jensen (concussion), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), DE DeAngelo Tyson (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Rashaan Melvin (undisclosed), CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring), G Kelechi Osemele (Achilles), OT Eugene Monroe (forearm), WR Michael Campanaro (soft tissue injury), TE Maxx Williams (upper body)
PROBABLE: DE Lawrence Guy (knee), OT James Hurst (concussion)
Five bubble players to watch Thursday night
LB Arthur Brown
Considered a player on the bubble by most pundits, the 2013 second-round pick appeared to receive an endorsement from Harbaugh this week when the Baltimore coach said he anticipated Brown playing even faster in the regular season after coming on strong this summer. However, you never want to make too much out of a coach’s comments about players who are presently on the roster and Harbaugh would not specify when asked if Brown’s roster spot was safe. The fact is that the 240-pound inside linebacker is stuck behind starters Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley on defense and reserves Albert McClellan and Zach Orr on special teams. That sounds like a player needing to cross his fingers with the numbers game and to hope there aren’t too many other positional needs elsewhere that could push him off the roster.
G Robert Myers
A concussion early in camp cost the rookie quite a bit of practice time and Myers has struggled to catch up, receiving negative grades from Pro Football Focus for his performances in the Philadelphia and Washington games. The Ravens like the 6-foot-5, 335-pound lineman’s upside, but they knew he would be a raw prospect to develop out of Tennessee State. There are more experienced reserves such as John Urschel and Ryan Jensen already in the mix on the interior line and rookie free agents Kaleb Johnson and Nick Easton have also played well this summer, so Myers would help his cause with a good showing against the Falcons. Recent history says the Ravens wouldn’t part with a fifth-round pick in his rookie year, but there are some other decent linemen in this mix with only so many spots to go around.
DL Kapron Lewis-Moore
A recent run of injuries on the defensive line have improved the former Notre Dame product’s chances and the 2013 sixth-rounder turned in his best performance of the preseason against the Redskins on Saturday. Lewis-Moore missed two whole years due to injuries, but the Ravens were attracted to the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman for his strong play as a collegiate player. If injuries to Timmy Jernigan and DeAngelo Tyson linger into the start of the regular season, it would be challenging for the Ravens to not carry an extra defensive lineman. It’s also fair to wonder if the Ravens want to give up on a player in which they invested two years of rehabilitation as he’s finally starting to show some of the promise they envisioned when drafting him.
RB Fitz Toussaint
The MCL injury suffered by Lorenzo Taliaferro has left the Ravens vulnerable at the running back position behind starter Justin Forsett as rookie Buck Allen hasn’t been overly impressive between the tackles this preseason. Baltimore is likely to keep an additional running back until Taliaferro is able to return, so it will come down to Toussaint or rookie free agent Terrence Magee unless general manager Ozzie Newsome goes outside the organization. Magee has received nearly twice as many carries in the preseason, but don’t forget that the Ravens trusted Toussaint enough to give him two carries in the playoff loss in Foxborough last January. Even if it’s not in Baltimore, Toussaint would like to put some good tape out there for other teams to see after Thursday’s game.
S Brynden Trawick
The third-year safety has been a special-teams mainstay, but the Ravens may desire to keep an extra cornerback with Lardarius Webb and Rashaan Melvin ailing in recent weeks, which could hurt Trawick’s standing as the fifth safety behind starters Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis and top reserves Terrence Brooks and Anthony Levine. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound safety has the kind of size that makes him an attractive option in the dime package, but Trawick struggled a great deal when receiving extensive time on defense in the preseason opener. Considering he received just 55 defensive snaps a year ago for a team that had major concerns at safety, Trawick better hope that the Ravens haven’t found others to match what he can do on special teams.