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Trade deadline passes without any action from Ravens

Posted on 01 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The NFL trade deadline passed without the Ravens — or any other team — making a deal of significance on Tuesday.

After Monday’s surprising trade of New England linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland, the final hours leading up to the 4 p.m. deadline were unsurprisingly quiet. With just under $3 million in salary cap room, Baltimore wasn’t in a great position to make a significant move.

Former Raven Torrey Smith was rumored to be on the trading block in recent days, but the San Francisco wide receiver and University of Maryland product is staying put with the 49ers, who are off to a 1-6 start.

All attention now moves to the practice field with the Ravens welcoming Pittsburgh to town for a critical AFC North tilt on Sunday. Baltimore hopes to welcome several injured players back to game action this week, a list including linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring), wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ronnie Stanley (foot).

The first injury report of the week will be released on Wednesday.

The big story for the Steelers is the status of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee on Oct. 17. The 34-year-old practiced on a limited basis on Monday and did some light on-field work during Pittsburgh’s bye week.

“I thought it was generally positive,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “We hadn’t spent a lot of time analyzing it or talking about it at this juncture. Really, it’s been giving him the work and him taking the work. And he’s done a really good job with it.”

Should Roethlisberger not play, backup Landry Jones would make his second straight start. Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the Ravens would prepare this week as though the starter would play and added that the Steelers offensive system doesn’t change dramatically with Jones under center anyway.

On Tuesday, the Ravens released running back Stephen Houston from their practice squad. With Lorenzo Taliaferro being activated in Week 7, Baltimore has four running backs on its 53-man roster, diminishing the need to keep Houston in the organization.

After placing star running back Jamaal Charles on injured reserve, Kansas City worked out former Ravens running back Trent Richardson on Tuesday, according to ESPN. The former first-round pick of the Browns was released by Baltimore early in training camp after struggling to stay healthy this spring and undergoing knee surgery.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts entering Week 8 bye

Posted on 27 October 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens having dropped four straight games going into a much-needed bye week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It’s admirable that Ozzie Newsome stays out of the spotlight when the Ravens are thriving, but is it fair that John Harbaugh faces all of the heat from media when there are so many questions about this roster? As it stands, we won’t hear from the general manager until January.

2. The comparison made between Timmy Jernigan’s fumble with C.J. Mosley’s in the Washington game is off-base. Mosley was inches away from scoring, whereas a defensive lineman was trying to imitate Ed Reed on his own goal line. They were both costly mistakes, but Jernigan’s was worse.

3. There was excitement about the return of Kenneth Dixon, but he’s received just nine touches for 16 yards in his first three games. You hope the bye allows his knee to get stronger, because he hasn’t shown the explosiveness he had in the preseason and the Ravens need that spark.

4. Count me in as wanting to see both Terrell Suggs and Ben Roethlisberger return for the Ravens’ critical Week 9 meeting with Pittsburgh. There aren’t many players left from the prime of the bitter AFC North rivalry that isn’t what it used to be.

5. Few things have gone well offensively, but Mike Wallace has been everything the Ravens could have reasonably hoped for. His 490 receiving yards lead the team, and he’s served as a productive deep threat. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, but he’s been more dependable than any other Baltimore wideout.

6. Harbaugh said in June that Elvis Dumervil underwent a “preventative procedure” to the foot area in the offseason. The pass rusher has been vague about specifics, but it would be interesting to know exactly what he’s been dealing with and how much the coach may have undersold the surgery.

7. I’m glad to see Breshad Perriman healthy enough to play, but he’s done little to quell pre-draft concerns about his route-running ability and inconsistent hands. He’s essentially still a rookie just seven games into his career, but catching just 41 percent of his 34 targets isn’t nearly good enough.

8. They’ve both taken their lumps in recent games, but Tavon Young and Alex Lewis have done a commendable job living up to the hype surrounding the fourth-round haul in this year’s draft. Despite both being forced to play out of position, they look like legitimate NFL players.

9. It isn’t a good look for offensive line coach Juan Castillo that his group has been a substantial problem in three of his four seasons with Baltimore. The lone exception was 2014 when Gary Kubiak served as the offensive coordinator and implemented his effective zone-blocking scheme.

10. The Ravens were excited to move Lardarius Webb to safety, but he’s appeared slow to react and hasn’t taken good angles as a tackler. The decision to carry his $9.5 million cap figure — second highest on the team — looks no less questionable now than it did in February.

11. It was a moot point in Week 7 since the offense never reached the red zone, but I’d like to see Crockett Gillmore and Darren Waller more involved in that area of the field. The Ravens need to use more size and physicality inside the 20.

12. I’d be fascinated to know what Steve Bisciotti is thinking as the Ravens take the weekend off. Does he see more failure from the coaching staff or the effects of an undermanned roster as the primary reason for Baltimore’s struggles?

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Good health alone won’t save season for struggling Ravens

Posted on 24 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens can indeed get better.

Fans don’t want to hear it in the midst of a frustrating four-game losing streak, but winning is tough without your two best pass rushers, your top wide receiver, your best offensive lineman, your starting left tackle, and your starting inside linebacker. However, that reality lets no one — not Ozzie Newsome, not John Harbaugh, not Joe Flacco — off the hook in a season suddenly unraveling before Halloween.

Teams with sufficient talent and good coaching are able to overcome injuries against mediocre competition like the Ravens faced in the last three games. Expecting to beat elite teams with such an extensive infirmary report is unrealistic, but dropping three straight to Washington, the New York Giants, and the New York Jets is unacceptable. You have to win one or two of those if you fancy yourself to be a real playoff contender.

For a little bit of context, the Ravens went 4-2 without Ed Reed to begin the 2010 season. A year later, they won four straight games despite the incomparable Ray Lewis being sidelined with a toe injury. Yes, those future Hall of Fame talents were past their primes at that point, but the same can be said for Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Steve Smith, and even Marshal Yanda, especially if less than 100 percent healthy.

In other words, their returns alone won’t magically transform a bad team — which is what the Ravens were in a winless October — into a great one. Keep in mind that their potential presence will also be accompanied by a tougher schedule in November and December.

“It’s always way better to be healthy,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no question about that — and have your best players on the field. But we always have confidence in the guys we’re putting out there that they’ll get the job done.”

It was apparent before the season that the Ravens needed young players to take major steps forward to lessen the dependency on older talent, and that hasn’t happened so far. Though it’s only a snapshot of the current state of affairs, the Ravens had just one post-Super Bowl XLVII first-round pick — struggling wide receiver Breshad Perriman — on the field for the last two games.

Of the nine Baltimore picks made in the first three rounds of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 drafts, only three — Mosley, Brandon Williams, and Timmy Jernigan — have established themselves as meaningful contributors. That catches up with a team sooner or later.

Underwhelming drafts and several bad contracts make it fair to question Newsome, the front office, and the scouting department, no matter how good their reputation had been over the years. The Ravens are in clear need of young play-makers to make the difference in the many close games they’ve played since the start of last season.

At the same time, it’s difficult to look at Harbaugh and his coaching staff and not question whether players are consistently being put in the best position to succeed. After Sunday’s loss to the Jets, the ninth-year head coach said his team is practicing “exceptionally well” and should have won each of the last four games.

Such a statement then makes outsiders ask why the crisp preparation isn’t carrying over to Sundays and whether the coaches are teaching the right methods to begin with. Of course, head-scratching in-game decisions and the constant penalties don’t reflect well on the coaching, either.

“You’ve got to make it happen on game day,” Harbaugh said on Sunday. “For our team, where we’re at right now, we’re not going to be a margin-for-error team. It’s not going to be like that. We need to be a sound, tough-minded, fundamentally-smart-playing football team.”

Harbaugh has admirably guided his teams through trying times before, but this represents his greatest challenge with his future quite possibly hanging in the balance.

Beyond just getting healthy, the Ravens need to do whatever it takes to get Flacco back on track. Many of the problems — the offensive line, the up-and-down running game, and inconsistent play at wide receiver — are largely out of his control, but that can’t forgive him for playing his worst football at critical times over the four-game losing streak. Of course, a sore right shoulder didn’t help matters against the Jets.

In the first half on Sunday, Flacco completed 15 of 22 passes for 200 yards to help the Ravens carry a 16-14 lead into halftime. Over the final 30 minutes, however, he was just 10-for-22 for a meager 42 yards and two interceptions leading to the deciding 10 points for the Jets.

One of Flacco’s best traits earlier in his career was an ability to do more with less around him — to a certain degree — but that just hasn’t been the case this season. Even with the other problems at work, the 31-year-old’s play hasn’t offered much of a solution in these winnable games.

A week off could go a long way in helping the Ravens get healthy, both physically and mentally after a brutal month.

But it’s not the end-all, be-all for a team with too many problems to count.

And barring other internal improvements, good health alone won’t save a season rapidly moving in the wrong direction.

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Ravens just can’t seem to escape malaise of mediocrity

Posted on 17 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens just couldn’t shake it in a 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, another winnable game that wasn’t won.

Yes, the injuries are piling up and the rest of the AFC North is conveniently a mess, but those factors only deflect from the reality that’s becoming more apparent every week, especially after three straight losses to cancel out a 3-0 start.

The Ravens are stuck in a malaise of mediocrity that’s rapidly becoming their identity. Truthfully, it’s what they’ve mostly experienced since Super Bowl XLVII, going just 26-28 with one playoff appearance over that time. Their 2014 campaign that included a postseason win and a trip to the divisional round used to be the norm, but it’s been Baltimore’s ceiling since raising the Lombardi Trophy four years ago.

Look no further than Sunday being the Ravens’ 20th game decided by a single possession since the start of 2015. They’re not terrible, but they’re not particularly good, either. Especially after last season’s 1-6 start, the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” routine is starting to fall on deaf ears with close games becoming the norm in the NFL.

The Ravens are what their record says they are.

“We’re a .500 team. We’re 3-3 in tight games,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’ve won some, we’ve lost some. You could easily say we could be 5-1, 6-0 or we could be 0-6 or 1-5.”

Everyone deserves blame, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office.

The Ravens entered Week 6 tied for 22nd in the NFL in penalties before adding 15 more for 111 yards against the Giants, several of those short-circuiting offensive drives like we’ve seen all too often this season. Coaches and the players themselves need to be accountable for the weekly routine of shooting themselves in the foot.

Baltimore entered Sunday ranked fifth in pass defense and held the Giants to just seven points and 133 yards in the first half, but the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith led to Eli Manning throwing for 296 yards after halftime, most of that going to Odell Beckham Jr. Losing Smith obviously hurt, but allowing passing plays of 75, 43, and 66 yards in one half is inexcusable.

Of course, a pass rush that continues to be nonexistent beyond the occasional flash from the now-injured Terrell Suggs hasn’t helped one bit. With Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both sidelined, the Ravens continue to wait for their young pass rushers to step up.

With three starters missing on Sunday, the offensive line played about how you’d expect, but opposing defenses aren’t going to feel sorry for the Ravens. They’ve got to figure out a way to make it work in the meantime.

On Sunday, John Harbaugh received too much criticism for going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to begin the fourth quarter — that was the correct decision in a game in which his pass defense was rapidly falling apart — but he’s deserved plenty of blame for bizarre choices in recent weeks. During a losing streak, a head coach needs to find solutions and not be part of the problem as has been the case over the current three-game slide.

The coaching issues go beyond simply firing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman last week.

Even Joe Flacco — who generally receives too much blame during tough times — played his worst on the final drive of Sunday’s game when the Ravens still had a chance to win, missing a wide-open Mike Wallace and making some questionable decisions with the football. The franchise quarterback isn’t high on the list of current problems, but he’s only been OK and not much better than that this season, which isn’t good enough from the highest-paid player on the roster.

It’s certainly not helping Flacco that we’re again asking who the play-makers are on this roster, something that’s become an annual question for longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office. Steve Smith still being the Ravens’ best receiver is both a compliment to the 37-year-old and a clear indictment of the front office.

The Ravens received much praise for the Weddle signing this offseason, but even that came after wasting early draft picks and making bad free-agent signings at the safety position over the last few years.

The Odell Beckhams of the league don’t grow on trees, but when are the Ravens going to find a special player or two — on either side of the ball — to make the difference in these one-score games? Ed Reed had a Hall of Fame career of doing exactly that, allowing Baltimore to snatch numerous victories from the jaws of defeat.

The Ravens’ current list of injured players includes five over the age of 30. This is an aging roster short on high-impact young players, which is why the Ravens find themselves stuck in neutral.

They’re springing too many leaks to inspire much confidence, especially with a difficult second-half schedule looming. Even when they begin fixing an issue such as the special teams playing better in Week 6, another pops up elsewhere with the defense collapsing in the second half of a winnable game.

Yes, there’s plenty of football to play and the AFC North is wide open with Cincinnati two games below .500 and 4-2 Pittsburgh losing Ben Roethlisberger to a knee injury for the time being, but that doesn’t change the truth about the Ravens.

From top to bottom, it just feels too mediocre.

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Ravens part ways with veteran running back Justin Forsett

Posted on 04 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are parting ways with veteran running back Justin Forsett, and it’s for real this time.

With Forsett being deactivated for Sunday’s loss to Oakland and injured rookie Kenneth Dixon moving closer to a return, Baltimore is electing to go younger at the position. Terrance West ran for a career-high 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against the Raiders while second-year back Buck Allen served as his backup.

The 30-year-old Forsett confirmed the news via his official Twitter account after his release was first reported by The Sun. He told the team website that he spoke with general manager Ozzie Newsome about his desire to be released in order to catch on elsewhere.

Forsett rushed for just 98 yards on 31 carries through the first three games of the season. Despite a slow start for the running game as a whole, he appeared to lack the explosiveness and the ability to break tackles that he had shown in his surprising 2014 Pro Bowl season in which he rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per carry.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not provide a clear answer Monday when asked whether Forsett would still have a place on the roster moving forward with Dixon nearing a return and West performing so well in Week 4.

“Of course,” Harbaugh said. “Justin Forsett is a highly-respected, highly-valued guy in my eyes and the eyes of all of us. It is a competitive world that we are in. It is a competitive league; it is a competitive sport. He knows that as well as anybody. It doesn’t diminish him in any way. It just enhances him, in my mind, in terms of how he handles it. We will just have to see. All those personnel things are all to be determined. You can’t say anything about where anything is going to go because you just don’t know. None of us have the ability to see in the future, so we will see how it plays out.”

Forsett’s departure comes just a month after the Ravens released him as a paper move to temporarily create roster flexibility when final cuts were made. After being cut on Sept. 3, he was re-signed two days later to the same terms that remained on the three-year, $9 million contract he inked in 2015.

His production dipped last year as he averaged just 4.2 yards per carry before his season was cut short due to a broken arm suffered in late November.

Originally signed to a one-year, $730,000 deal just weeks after Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his future wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator in 2014, Forsett proved to be a very important contributor both on the field and in the community as the organization endured one of the ugliest periods in its history. Not only serving as a key performer in the backfield, Forsett became one of the positive faces for a franchise that needed to rebuild its image after the Rice saga.

The Ravens are lucky he passed their way.

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Ravens re-sign Forsett to complete strange 48-hour saga

Posted on 05 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The plot thickens indeed.

Speculation began immediately after the Ravens released running back Justin Forsett on Saturday that the veteran would still return. However, the organization did not wait until after Week 1 when the salaries of newly-signed vested veteran players are no longer guaranteed for the entire season.

The Ravens re-signed the 2014 Pro Bowl running back on Monday afternoon, roughly 48 hours after his contract was terminated. Players were off on Sunday and Monday, which means Forsett will not have missed any team activities by the time the team reconvenes for practice on Tuesday.

It’s become obvious that Forsett’s release was just a strange way for general manager Ozzie Newsome to manipulate his initial 53-man roster. Baltimore also announced Monday that safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Carl Davis were going to injured reserve, creating roster spots for the returning Forsett and newly-signed return specialist Devin Hester.

In order for any players on IR to be eligible for the designation to return later in the season, a team is required to keep them on the initial 53-man roster through final cuts, explaining why Elam and Davis were on the original roster. Players already placed on IR such as rookie defensive end Bronson Kaufusi are not eligible for the designation to return later in the season.

Unlike past seasons, teams do not have to designate the one player to return from IR ahead of time and can instead weigh their options as the season progresses and other significant injuries potentially occur.

Head coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with the media on Tuesday afternoon, so it will be interesting to hear how he and the organization try to spin this odd roster manipulation. It’s fair to wonder why the Ravens would ask Forsett to do this and why the 2014 Pro Bowl running back would agree unless he’s receiving something in return such as a bonus.

Less significant veterans on the 53-man roster such as linebacker Chris Carter just as easily could have been cut with a similar unspoken agreement to re-sign a few days later and also would not have been required to pass through waivers. Of course, trust can be a significant obstacle with something as delicate as this, and the organization and Forsett have clearly been on good terms, which made Saturday’s news so surprising in the first place.

Of course, Forsett couldn’t resist announcing his return in dramatic fashion using Twitter.

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with veteran returner Hester

Posted on 04 September 2016 by Luke Jones

After failing to find an in-house return specialist to their liking this summer, the Ravens will now see if one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history has another good season left.

According to multiple outlets, general manager Ozzie Newsome has agreed to a one-year deal with four-time Pro Bowl return man Devin Hester, who worked out twice and took a physical for the team in recent days. The 33-year-old holds the league records for career return touchdowns (kickoffs and punts) and career punt return touchdowns.

Wide receivers Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds, and Kaelin Clay entered the summer as the top candidates vying for the returner job, but Clay suffered a broken foot in mid-August and neither Campanaro nor Reynolds emerged as a reliable option. On Saturday, Campanaro was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury while Reynolds was waived.

Hester’s impressive résumé speaks for itself, but he is trying to come back from offseason toe injury and played in just five games with Atlanta last year, averaging 26.1 yards per kick return and 4.3 yards per punt return. Released by the Falcons in late July, Hester had missed just one game over his previous five seasons combined before 2015.

Hester, a second-round pick in the 2006 draft, spent the first eight seasons of his professional career with Chicago before spending the last two with Atlanta. He last made the Pro Bowl in 2014 when he averaged 25.1 yards per kick return and 13.3 yards per punt return — including one for a touchdown — while catching 38 passes for 504 yards and two touchdowns.

The Ravens hope Hester will finally bring some stability to a return specialist job that’s been a headache since Jacoby Jones’ disappointing 2014 season and subsequent release the following offseason. Last season, five different players registered punt returns while four different players returned multiple kickoffs.

 

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Plenty of questions stemming from Ravens cutting Forsett

Posted on 04 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With several hours to process the surprise of the Ravens cutting running back Justin Forsett, below are a plethora of questions related to the decision:

1. The possibility of this outcome crossed my mind at a few points during Forsett’s underwhelming summer, but did the Ravens really cut their starting running back who made the Pro Bowl two years ago?

2. Will Baltimore bring him back after Week 1 when vested veteran salaries are no longer guaranteed for the whole season?

3. Would Forsett even want to return under such an arrangement?

4. After holding him out of two preseason games entirely and giving him a total of seven carries this summer, did the Ravens give the 30-year-old a fair chance to keep his job?

5. Given Forsett’s past success in Gary Kubiak’s offensive system, will the Denver Broncos come calling for his services?

6. With just two healthy tailbacks entering the season opener next Sunday, do the Ravens have enough depth at the position?

7. Terrance West shed weight and clearly impressed this summer, but can the Ravens really trust him as their starter with a history that resulted in two bad teams dumping him over the last calendar year?

8. Has Buck Allen shown enough to be a reliable No. 2 running back after his own unimpressive preseason that prompted many to question his job security?

9. Are the Ravens too confident that exciting rookie Kenneth Dixon will come back from a torn MCL in his left knee to pick up where he left off this summer?

10. Why didn’t general manager Ozzie Newsome or head coach John Harbaugh issue statements recognizing Forsett’s important contributions on and off the field in the same way they have for virtually any notable veteran to be released over the years?

11. Am I the only one who thought it was strange that Ravens players weren’t tweeting farewells or their support to Forsett, who has been a popular teammate over the last two years?

12. Was there any cryptic meaning in the tweet Forsett posted shortly after the news broke on Saturday afternoon?

13. Given the veteran’s reputation for having good field vision, are the Ravens really that comfortable with a revamped offensive line and a running game that averaged 3.6 yards per carry this preseason?

14. The Ravens are saving $3 million by cutting Forsett, but will the salary cap space be worth it?

15. Are the young backs ready to pick up the slack in pass protection, an area where Forsett excelled?

16. Will fullback Kyle Juszczyk have a more meaningful role in the offense this year?

17. How much will the backfield miss Forsett’s leadership on the field and in the classroom?

18. Will a trio of tailbacks totaling only 152 more career rushing yards than Forsett had in his 2014 Pro Bowl season alone make Ravens fans forget all about the veteran?

19. Did the Ravens get too wrapped up in summer performance from younger players that can frequently turn out to be a mirage?

20. Will this long-winded list of questions look silly in the next couple days, weeks, or months, or did the Ravens just make a big mistake?

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Predicting the Ravens’ 53-man roster at the end of 2016 preseason

Posted on 02 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the 2016 preseason now history, the Ravens can turn their full attention toward the season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 11.

But first, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season as head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome will make their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the first regular-season roster as the Ravens can explore the possibility of adding other players who will be made available over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that given position.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
OUT:  Josh Johnson
Skinny: Johnson has played well enough this preseason to earn a job somewhere, but the Ravens appear content with Mallett backing up Flacco this season.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (5)
IN: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Terrance West, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Lorenzo Taliaferro
OUT: Stephen Houston
Skinny: It would have been interesting to see whether Allen’s job was truly in danger before the knee injury suffered by Dixon, but the Ravens appeared to be protecting the former’s health on Thursday.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7)
IN: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler
OUT: Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
Skinny: Keeping seven receivers isn’t ideal from a roster construction standpoint, but the number of injury risks in this group makes it easier to justify carrying Butler for the present and future.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller
OUT: Daniel Brown
Skinny: If Williams and Pitta are bigger question marks for the opener than Harbaugh indicated this week, Brown could find his way onto the 53-man roster temporarily.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen, De’Ondre Wesley
OUT: Vlad Ducasse, James Hurst, Matt Skura, Blaine Clausell
Skinny: Lewis’ ability to play left tackle and left guard will push Hurst off the roster while Ducasse is an unfortunate victim of the numbers game despite a good summer.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
IN: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce
OUT: Kapron Lewis-Moore
Skinny: Pierce was already in the roster discussion before his exceptional performance on Thursday and is an interesting talent to retain since Williams is scheduled to become a free agent next offseason.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (3)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
OUT: Arthur Brown, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: Brown’s status as a former second-round pick will no longer save his roster spot, and Albert McClellan or Anthony Levine can play inside linebacker if game-day injuries were to pile up.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon
OUT: Chris Carter, Victor Ochi, Brennen Beyer
Skinny: The veteran Carter should find a job elsewhere with ease while Ochi is a raw and talented prospect the Ravens will hope to sneak onto the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (5)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young, Will Davis
OUT: Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Julian Wilson, Carrington Byndom
Skinny: The Ravens will gamble that Price or Canady — or both — will make it to the practice squad, but depth is a clear concern at this position with the play of Wright and Powers in the preseason.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine, Kendrick Lewis
OUT: Matt Elam
Skinny: Kendrick Lewis missed the final three preseason games, but his veteran experience should count for something as a backup to Weddle and Webb.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: None
Skinny: This trio stays together for the fifth consecutive season, a rarity in this day and age in the NFL.

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Sizing up the 2016 Ravens roster before the third preseason game

Posted on 26 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason now upon us, it’s time for our newest look at the Ravens’ 53-man roster with the last projection taking place after the first preseason game.

My current look at the roster suggests 46 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 19 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying extensive talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of keeping a balanced number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their respective offensive or defensive positions.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Aug. 30 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 3.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 26.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco
BUBBLE: Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson
LONG SHOT: Jerrod Johnson
Skinny: If the backup competition were based solely on summer performance, Josh Johnson would likely be in the lead despite Mallett’s skill set more closely resembling Flacco’s. Harbaugh said Mallett hasn’t yet locked up the job, but I’m still not convinced that his roster spot is in real jeopardy, either.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Stephen Houston
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Lorenzo Taliaferro
Skinny: Keeping four tailbacks is unusual, but Forsett’s experience is too valuable and the upside of the three young backs is too enticing to pass up. It remains to be seen how the carries will be distributed, but the rookie Dixon flashes the look of a potential home-run hitter out of the backfield.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Chuck Jacobs, Dobson Collins, Darius White
Skinny: Trying to find roster room for Butler is likely one of Baltimore’s biggest headaches now, but what does the preseason standout offer that’s truly unique from the other six on the projected roster? Reynolds is improving, but it still looks like too tall of an order to keep him on the 53-man roster.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Daniel Brown
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller
Skinny: Health is a concern here as only the 35-year-old Watson has avoided missing extensive practice time this summer. Pitta is more of an unknown than you’d like, but Harbaugh did not indicate that his roster spot was in danger while bemoaning his long-term absence due to a broken finger.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis
BUBBLE: Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse, De’Ondre Wesley, James Hurst
LONG SHOT: Anthony Fabiano, Matt Skura, Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Stephane Nembot
Skinny: This eight-man group would leave the Ravens light at offensive tackle, but Lewis can play there and Yanda can certainly move out to right tackle in a game-day pinch. Wesley would appear to be a good candidate to land on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Willie Henry, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce
LONG SHOT: Trevon Coley
INJURED RESERVE: Bronson Kaufusi
Skinny: It’s been an underwhelming summer for Henry, but it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens cutting a fourth-round pick in his rookie season. Lewis-Moore has improved from last season, but keeping more than six defensive linemen is difficult with so many needs elsewhere.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Kavell Conner, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: Brown hasn’t done much to distinguish himself as worthy of making the team this summer, making it the potential end of the road for the disappointing 2013 second-round pick. The versatility of this overall linebacker group is a strength with a few players like Correa able to play inside or outside.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon
BUBBLE: Chris Carter
LONG SHOT: Victor Ochi, Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
Skinny: With McClellan and Orr now playing bigger defensive roles, Carter might be a good fit as a veteran easing some of their workload on special teams. Ochi is an intriguing prospect who has barely played in the preseason, making you think the Ravens are trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young
BUBBLE: Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Kyle Arrington
LONG SHOT: Julian Wilson, Carrington Byndom
Skinny: The Ravens would probably like to find room for Price or Canady, but they have safeties who can play the nickel and dime spots. Arrington’s extended absence due to a concussion has really hurt his chances of making the team after his salary was already cut this offseason.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Kendrick Lewis
LONG SHOT: None
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: Elam seems like a logical candidate to land on injured reserve where the Ravens could potentially activate him after Week 6 if there’s a need at safety. Coaches like Lewis, but he has missed a lot of time this summer, making you wonder if he’s losing his grip on a roster spot.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Wil Lutz
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here with Lutz occasionally easing the workload of Tucker and Koch during practices.

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