With mandatory minicamp behind them and training camp several weeks away, the Ravens turn their attention toward the preseason and eventually trimming the current offseason roster down to 53 by the start of the regular season.
Little should be taken away from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — conducted without live contact — but my still-too-early look at the roster suggests as many as 43 players would be considered locks if the deadline to trim the roster took place in late June. My rough assessment of the 89 players currently on the roster lists 26 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some positions lacking quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.
Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office pay attention to the numbers at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or cornerbacks or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens are looking for reserves who can excel on special teams in addition to their designated position, so they will look carefully at players’ other abilities and overall athleticism in addition to what they bring to their specific position when filling out the bottom of the roster.
Of course, this breakdown could change at any point and certainly by the first day of training camp if any individuals report to Owings Mills in poor physical condition or have not done the necessary mental preparation for the summer.
The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out during the different stages of the summer.
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
LONG SHOT: Josh Johnson, Jerrod Johnson
Skinny: Mallett has his moments impressing you with his strong throwing arm, but he also made too many ill-advised plays this spring. Needless to say, the Ravens have to be happy that Flacco is on track to be on the field for the first day of training camp.
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon
BUBBLE: Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro
LONG SHOT: Trent Richardson
Skinny: There is plenty of NFL-caliber talent in this group of tailbacks, but the question is whether there is a legitimate No. 1 option to stand out from the rest. Richardson is a nice comeback story, but hamstring and knee injuries clearly have him lagging behind the rest of the group.
WIDE RECEIVERS (10)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews, Kaelin Clay
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: This group lacks clarity with the current status of Smith and Perriman, but the competition for what figures to be one or two spots among these bubble receivers will be fascinating. Reynolds has plenty of fans in his corner, but don’t sleep on Clay as a return specialist after a good spring.
TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams
BUBBLE: Dennis Pitta, Darren Waller
LONG SHOT: Daniel Brown
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle
Skinny: Pitta being listed on the bubble player has more to do with his health and how he’ll respond to live contact this summer than his playing ability. Waller winning a roster spot won’t be easy, but his versatility to also play receiver and his special-teams ability shouldn’t count him out.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen
BUBBLE: James Hurst, De’Ondre Wesley, Vladimir Ducasse
LONG SHOT: Anthony Fabiano, Matt Skura, Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Stephane Newbot
Skinny: The early reviews for Stanley have been positive, but it’s fair to be concerned about the tackle depth following Eugene Monroe’s release. Lewis primarily worked at guard this spring, but he could unseat Hurst as the team’s swing tackle or the Ravens could add a veteran to the mix.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Bronson Kaufusi, Willie Henry
BUBBLE: Brent Urban, Kapron Lewis-Moore
LONG SHOT: Trevon Coley, Michael Pierce
Skinny: The Ravens are loaded along the defensive line, so it will be interesting to see how many of these young players they will ultimately keep. Urban is more than likely on the good side of the bubble, but he needs to stay healthy and show more than he did in his first NFL action late last season.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Albert McClellan
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Cavellis Luckett, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: There may not be a more interesting competition in camp than this one as the Ravens have chosen to this point not to add a veteran to replace Daryl Smith. Orr appears to be the favorite to start next to Mosley, but Baltimore has experimented with moving second-rounder Kamalei Correa inside.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa
BUBBLE: Matt Judon, Victor Ochi, Chris Carter
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
Skinny: The Ravens have numbers here, but what can they really expect from Suggs, who is still working his way back from last September’s Achilles tendon injury? Judon and Ochi are green players, but they provide upside as potential situational pass-rushing options.
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young
BUBBLE: Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Kyle Arrington
LONG SHOT: Julian Wilson
INJURED RESERVE: Jumal Rolle
Skinny: New secondary coach Leslie Frazier has several slot cornerbacks, but outside depth is thin behind Smith and Wright with Davis coming back from a serious knee injury and Sheldon Price lacking experience. The veteran Arrington took a pay cut this offseason and is firmly on the bubble.
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb
BUBBLE: Kendrick Lewis, Terrence Brooks, Matt Elam, Anthony Levine
LONG SHOT: Sam Brown
Skinny: The Ravens are committed to Weddle and Webb as their starting safeties, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess. It’s possible that all four of these “bubble” safeties could make the roster, but there isn’t much separation among them at this point.
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
LONG SHOT: Wil Lutz
Skinny: With Koch and Cox signing long-term deals in the last calendar year and Tucker receiving the franchise tag this offseason, the Ravens are set at these spots with Lutz expected to merely share some practice reps this summer.