Tag Archive | "Tyrod Taylor"

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Two days later — Flacco had no business playing the 4th quarter on Sunday

Posted on 27 September 2011 by Drew Forrester

I’ll start this by reiterating something I say a lot during the NFL season.

I like John Harbaugh.  I think he’s a very good football coach.  And I’m happy we have him in Baltimore.

That opening statement hopefully clears the path for the words you’re about to read.  It’s become commonplace in our city for people to say “stop being a hater” anytime you criticize a player or a coach or an owner.  A lot of that traces back to the baseball team, with their fan base bloodied and scarred after 14 years of losing and a growing trend of intolerance towards anyone who offers a harsh word or a “reality check” about the dismal state of the franchise.

And while the football team has piled up wins and playoff victories in John Harbaugh’s 3+ year-tenure, some folks continue to be skeptical of the team’s level of success.

Not me.

I like John Harbaugh.  I think he’s a very good football coach.  And I’m glad we have him in Baltimore.

But if Joe Flacco tears his ACL or separates his shoulder or breaks a bone in his foot because he’s playing the final three minutes of a 30-3 blowout of (insert team here) in week number (insert here), I won’t be so nice to the Coach.

Sunday in St. Louis, Harbaugh again rolled the dice with the ONE player on his team that the Ravens can least afford to lose…their quarterback.  And it wasn’t a roll of the dice at the $5 table.  It’s a $50-table-kind-of-gamble when you have your quarterback running around with three minutes left and the game already in hand and 13 weeks of the season plus playoffs still in the windshield ahead of you.

That kind of gamble isn’t worth taking.

To review the scenario from Sunday’s game, Flacco started THREE offensive series’ in the 4th quarter.  He played the series that started with 11:22 remaining in the game and the Ravens ahead 30-7.  He returned to the field with 8:16 left and the Ravens still ahead 30-7.  And, finally, he was behind center with the score 37-7 and 3:10 left on the clock.  There were runs and throws and sacks and plays where Flacco was under duress during all three of those series’.  In other words, it was still “real football”.  Except for one important thing:  the game was over for all intents and purposes.

Harbaugh tried to wordsmith his way around it in Sunday’s post-game press conference in St. Louis and again on Monday in Baltimore during his weekly gathering with the media at Owings Mills.

He tried to explain his thinking.

None of it held up.

These are a few of the defense-remarks Harbaugh made on Sunday and Monday.

“Joe needs all the reps he can get with his wide receivers”, the Coach said.  (You’re correct, Coach, he does.  But that “need for reps” does not outweigh the importance of having your star quarterback upright and healthy for the last 4 months of the football season.)

“There was no sense in bringing Tyrod Taylor in there to just have him hand the ball off three times and take a knee.” (Huh? That’s not what you did with Flacco in those three series’.  You made him play real football.  You could have had Taylor do the same thing.  No one would have offered a second thought had you employed the rookie QB for a series or two – or three – and said to him, “Now kid, go in there and show us what you can do…”)

“We weren’t trying to run up the score leaving Joe in there.” (I don’t disagree with that.  The whole running up the score thing is a delicate issue to start with – although some would say challenging an apparent fumble with 4 minutes remaining and the score 37-7 could be “run up” worthy – so let’s not go there.  It wasn’t about whether or not the Ravens were trying to run up the score, it was about leaving your star quarterback in the game to run around and risk injury when the game was in control.)

“I’d like to see the stats on how many quarterbacks get hurt playing in late game situations like that.” (I looked it up, Coach.  In the history of the NFL, no quarterback standing on the sidelines with the score 37-7 has ever been injured.  As for the stat surrounding quarterbacks who WERE playing?  I’m not sure.  But how many Presidents were shot while riding in a convertible in downtown Dallas?  Oh, right…just one.)

“We can’t just sit all the starters in that situation.” (That’s correct, you can’t.  No one is saying you SHOULD do that.  What is being suggested, however, is that you have to quickly do some sort of internal ranking of the roster and say, “Well, let’s get some of the starters out of there and alleviate the injury risk and give them a bit of a breather…and I guess I should start with my most IMPORTANT player and go from there.”  That, then, would mean Joe Flacco comes out of the game, for he is, without question, the team’s most important player.  He might not be the BEST player, but he’s the most IMPORTANT, for sure.  The step down from Flacco to Tyrod Taylor would be gigantic.  Taylor’s not ready to lead an NFL team…not even close. And how do I know this?  Simple…he wasn’t even ready-enough to mop up in a 37-7 game, according to the coaching staff.)

I completely understand you can’t “coach in fear” and I’m well aware of the fact that games are never over until their over and all that jazz.  I saw the Lions come back from 20-0 down at halftime and I saw the Bills fall behind 21-0 in the first half before rebounding to win.

Being down 21-0 in the 2nd quarter and being behind 30-7 with 7 minutes left in the game are two completely different animals.  They’re not even remotely similar in comparison.

And for anyone who says, “I want to see the Ravens develop a killer’s mentality.  I want to see them step on team’s throats. Let’s pile on late in the game and put that thing away.”  Have you seen the team’s two wins this year?  They crushed the Steelers and they completely suffocated the Rams.  Both of those games were over at the 35 minute mark.  They didn’t need to do any throat-stepping in the 4th quarter…they did it in the first half.

Playing your quarterback in the final 10 minutes of a 28-point blowout of the Steelers and a 30-point romp in St. Louis has nothing at all to do with “stepping on their throat”.  It has everything to do with not having a sense for the reality of the situation.  The reality in those two instances?  Having your star quarterback in the game at those points was a gamble not worth taking.

If Joe Flacco gets injured and can’t play for 4, 6 or 10 weeks, the Ravens season gets incredibly altered.  If he gets injured in the first quarter this Sunday night, we shrug our shoulders and say, “that’s football.”  If the Ravens are ahead 27-7 with 4 minutes to play on Sunday night and Flacco gets hurt and misses time, all hell will break loose.

I like John Harbaugh.  I think he’s a very good coach.  And I’m glad we have him in Baltimore.

But part of his job as the team’s Head Coach is thinking about NEXT week’s game once THIS week’s game is under control and essentially in the books.

It’s called “protecting your assets”.

Just ask the Indianapolis Colts what happens when your starting QB goes down with an injury.

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens make final preparations for Pittsburgh

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Conducting a final workout on Friday before welcoming the Pittsburgh Steelers to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Ravens practiced in shells and shorts in typical Friday fashion.

With the Ravens working on the field farthest away from the media’s viewing area during the open portion of practice, it was difficult to account for every player on the 53-man roster, but receiver Lee Evans (foot), center Matt Birk (knee), cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring), and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor were all practicing, as they have all week in preparation for the Steelers.

Linebacker Jason Phillips appeared to be dressed to practice from a long-distance vantage point after being listed as a non-participant with a concussion on Thursday’s injury report.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb was taking all repetitions returning punts during the special teams period of practice and is still listed as the No. 1 punt returner on the team’s official depth chart. Speculation has persisted that rookie LaQuan Williams will be involved in the return game, but it remains to be seen.

The Ravens will wear their white jerseys in the regular-season opener, forcing Pittsburgh to wear their black jerseys despite a forecast calling for a 30 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms with temperatures in the low 80s for Sunday afternoon.

And, in a move that will surely disappoint many of the 71,000 in attendance for Sunday, the Ravens will introduce the offense prior to the start of the game. Even if they’re trying to provide a psychological boost to quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense, there’s no disputing the crowd’s response not being as electric as one witnessing Ray Lewis doing his dance.

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens only missing Phillips on Thursday

Posted on 08 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day closer to their season-opening meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens failed to have perfect attendance for a second straight day as linebacker Jason Phillips was missing from the open portion of practice.

However, all players were dressed in helmets, shells, and shorts and working. Center Matt Birk (knee), wide receiver Lee Evans (foot), cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring), and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (left shoulder) were all practicing for the second straight day after none of them were listed on Wednesday’s official injury report.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe wore a wrap on his left hand but did not appear to be limited during special teams drills.

Lardarius Webb, Chris Carr, and Ed Reed all received work fielding punts during the special teams portion of practice, though speculation persists that rookie LaQuan Williams will factor in the punt return game on Sunday.

Prior to the start of practice, several players visited with Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer Lenny Moore, including running back Ray Rice and free safety Ed Reed.

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Ravens injury report empty for Wednesday

Posted on 07 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Center Matt Birk has been cautiously optimistic in discussing his status for the season opener on Sunday.

Wednesday’s official injury report supports that thinking, and then some, with the Ravens reporting no injuries.

Birk (knee), receiver Lee Evans (foot), cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring), and quarterback Tyrod Taylor practiced fully and appear to all be set to play against the Steelers.

Pittsburgh’s outlook wasn’t quite as favorable, but listed only three players on their official injury report.

BALTIMORE
NO INJURIES TO REPORT

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE – LB Chris Carter (hamstring)
LIMITED – WR Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring), T Marcus Gilbert (concussion)

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens gearing up for Steelers with full squad practicing

Posted on 07 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens move closer to taking on their hated rivals from Pittsburgh to begin the season on Sunday afternoon, they appear to be getting healthier just in time for the occasion.

All 53 players on the active roster were present and working during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice, including center Matt Birk (knee), wide receiver Lee Evans (foot), and cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring). All three were dressed in full pads and did not appear to be limited in the early stages of the workout.

With primary kick returner David Reed suspended in the regular-season opener for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, cornerback Lardarius Webb appeared to be the primary returner during the special teams portion of practice. Rookie receiver Torrey Smith also fielded kicks.

For anyone trying to find some clarity in what the Ravens plan to do at the center position, Birk was snapping to starter Joe Flacco while newcomer Andre Gurode snapped to rookie backup Tyrod Taylor during individual drills.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, Andre Gurode, Lee Evans, Jarret Johnson, and Bernard Pollard prior to Wednesday’s practice in Owings Mills.

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Ravens take practice field for last time before final cuts

Posted on 02 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens closed the book on their 3-1 preseason in Atlanta on Thursday night, many on the current 80-man roster took the field in Owings Mills on Friday afternoon for the last time.

Facing a deadline to trim the team down to 53 players by 6 p.m. on Saturday, coach John Harbaugh shifts his attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a final look at the 27 players — or more, depending on other potential moves — who won’t be deemed good enough to take the turf at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 11.

“You are excited to finalize your roster,” Harbaugh said. “You are excited to say this is going to be our team. This is how we’re going to move forward, but that’s going to not include some guys, and that’s the toughest thing.”

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Among those decisions will be a number of players with promising upside, but may prove too raw to take up a 53-man roster spot. Second-year offensive tackle Ramon Harewood is the quintessential example after being drafted in the sixth round from Morehouse in 2010. Spending last season on injured reserve, Harewood’s return to the practice field was delayed this summer as he continued to work his way back from surgeries on both knees, and the 340-pounder struggled when given opportunities during preseason games.

For players such as Harewood and newcomer Michael McAdoo (who went unselected in the supplemental draft before being signed last week), the Baltimore front office must weigh the risk of potentially losing them to other teams against the value of a green player using a spot on the regular roster.

“You try to figure out who’s got a chance to maybe get picked up by somebody and who has less chance of doing that,” Harbaugh said. “But the whole league’s the same. [Teams] need people who are ready to play. You can’t just be bringing guys in and putting them on as developmental projects. You only get 53 guys.”

Once the Ravens have established their regular-season roster on Saturday, all attention shifts to the regular season, with only nine days remaining until the Steelers visit to kick off the regular season. And with that, the intensity level grows and the stakes become much higher for a team expecting to play well into January — and maybe even later.

The fact that Baltimore’s biggest rival stands at the beginning of that journey only adds spice to an exciting time of the year.

“The fact that it’s Pittsburgh adds to it, but it would be that way no matter what,” Harbaugh said. “It’s the regular season. It’s for real now; they count. The tenured guys, this is the week that these guys wait for and that they look forward to.”

NOTES: Harbaugh offered no new information regarding the status of rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor after sharing the belief that the injury isn’t considered serious following the Atlanta game. “It doesn’t seem to be a real serious thing. I’m sure he’s got some soreness in there. I think he’s going to be OK.” … Players will be off on Saturday and Sunday before being made available to the media on Monday evening.

To hear more from John Harbaugh, visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens without Birk, Evans for Friday's practice

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens without Birk, Evans for Friday’s practice

Posted on 02 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After arriving back in Baltimore early Friday morning, the Ravens returned to the practice field several hours later for a shells-and-shorts workout following their 21-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason finale.

Center Matt Birk (knee) and receiver Lee Evans (foot) were not present for the portion of practice open to the media, as concern grows whether the two veterans will be 100 percent for the opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11. With Birk not practicing, Bryan Mattison was once again filling in at center as he has throughout the preseason.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor (left shoulder) and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (undisclosed) were also absent from practice. Taylor left Thursday’s game in the first quarter after his left shoulder was driven to the Georgia Dome turf. The Ravens labeled it a contusion after initial tests, and Taylor was seen with his left arm in a sling on the sideline during the second half.

Cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring) and offensive lineman Mark LeVoir (undisclosed) returned to practice after missing workouts earlier this week. Carr missed the final three preseason games after injuring his left hamstring while covering Evans during practice on Aug. 15.

As for the impending deadline of needing to get down to 53 players by 6 p.m. on Saturday, the Ravens are not expected to make any cuts today and have traditionally waited to make moves on the day of the deadline.

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With preseason complete, Ravens still filled with unknowns entering Steelers week

Posted on 01 September 2011 by Luke Jones

Any answers we hoped to uncover on Thursday night were history when coach John Harbaugh elected to rest most of his starters on both sides of the ball in a 21-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason finale.

With the coaching staff not wanting to risk any injuries on the fast turf at the Georgia Dome, left tackle Bryant McKinnie and the new-look offensive line didn’t even receive as much as a cameo appearance against Atlanta despite suggestions otherwise. The decision means the first time we’ll get a look at McKinnie and veteran center Matt Birk in live-game action will be against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11.

It’s a scary proposition, but the Ravens will hope practice reps against the vaunted Baltimore defense as well as veteran moxie will be enough to prepare McKinnie, Ben Grubbs, Birk, Marshal Yanda, and Michael Oher for the likes of James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and the brutal Pittsburgh defense. As offensive coordinator Cam Cameron put it earlier this week, the Ravens have no other choice but to be ready in a critical battle in Week 1.

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The preseason finale managed to create even more doubt at the backup quarterback position after rookie Tyrod Taylor left the game with a left shoulder contusion in the first quarter, leaving Hunter Cantwell to struggle through an ugly offensive performance. Aside from it being painfully clear Cantwell might not even be an option as a third-string quarterback, the Ravens will be forced to bring in another quarterback with Taylor’s status not being known for next weekend.

The Ravens also received little clarity in decided who would be the No. 3 receiver, in large part due to Cantwell being forced into action. However, David Reed didn’t do himself any favors in dropping two passes and being flagged for a questionable offensive pass interference call in the end zone late in the first half. Torrey Smith made two catches for 12 yards before leaving the game early in the second half with apparent leg cramps.

Despite the ugly nature of Thursday’s encounter, the Ravens can also take a few positives away from the win over Atlanta. Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith turned in his steadiest performance of the preseason, making five tackles and deflecting a pass that was intercepted by linebacker Jason Phillips to set up the Ravens’ first score of the game. Smith was flagged for a horse-collar tackle, but continues to show the impressive combination of speed and toughness that made him the 27th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee continued an outstanding preseason by continuing to create pressure in the backfield, making it a near certainty that he factors into defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s plans as a rotational pass rusher earlier than expected. He and Paul Kruger (one sack) will be relied upon to help boost an underwhelming pass rush from a year ago that recorded a franchise-low 27 sacks.

And rookie receiver LaQuan Williams made a final bid to earn a spot on the 53-man roster with a 33-yard punt return against the Falcons and showed improved effort in special teams, something Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg mentioned earlier this week. Whether he makes the final cut or the Ravens try to stash him away on the practice squad, the former Maryland and Poly product has been one of the biggest surprises of the summer and has taken advantage of every opportunity awarded to him.

All that aside, the Ravens now put the preseason behind them, shifting their focus to their biggest rival while still trying to find the answers to a number of key questions.

Will the offensive line be able to gel quickly enough to hold up against the Pittsburgh pressure? Is McKinnie “football” ready? Will Birk’s knee hold up without any live-game action after surgery?

With Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr less than 100 percent, are Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams ready to be starting cornerbacks in the NFL?

Are the Ravens ready to play — and beat — a Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers squad for the first time since 2006?

All interesting questions, with the answers coming sooner rather than later.

The preseason is finally behind us.

And real football is about to begin.

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A Bit of Doubt Good for Flacco...Ravens

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A Bit of Doubt Good for Flacco…Ravens

Posted on 01 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

You can’t blame Baltimore for being sensitive about their quarterbacks. While the team itself has worked a minor miracle in establishing such a strong history and identity in such a short period of time, their experiences with the guys under center have left as much of a “legacy” with the fans as their penchant for stifling defense. That said, during his brief tenure at the helm of the Baltimore offense Joe Flacco has probably earned a lot more leeway, respect and benefit of the doubt than he’s seemingly gotten from the Baltimore fans (at least a vocal minority), opponents or the media at large.

At the end of the day, that could serve the Ravens and their team goals well. The greatest of champions seem to emerge from improbable challenges. Flacco’s road has been wrought with them. Maybe it’s finally time for him to respond to those challenges (and critics) in a big way, and put all of the arguments to bed.

 

Whether or not however, Flacco is able to silence his critics and reveal the mythical “it” factor that those offering doubts fail to see is debatable, and maybe not what’s best for the Ravens anyway. As the world quickly buys into Aaron Rodgers, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford, their reluctance to embrace Flacco may lead to at least a modest savings for the Ravens when the time comes to extend Joe’s contract. Something tells me though that enough of the league buys into Flacco that those savings won’t be too substantial.

 

For better or for worse, our inability to truly believe in a quarterback, as Baltimore fans, will be Flacco’s cross to bear until he erases all doubts with his achievements. Until then, the criticisms and doubts will continue, as will the magnification of the shortcomings in his game, as will the calls for the backup.

 

Speaking of the backup quarterback…it seems the Ravens may be realistically entertaining the notion of carrying Tyrod Taylor as the #2 quarterback into the 2011 season. As everyone comes up with their own 53-man roster projections, there are already some tough choices to be made. Adding a third (veteran) QB to the mix in front of Taylor would make for another tough decision over those final few spots. If the Ravens can get away with it I’ll bet they’ll keep Taylor on as the #2 at least until after week 2 and then might think about bringing in a veteran without having to guarantee his contract.

 

While Taylor is an interesting option and exciting piece for the future, positioned as the #2 quarterback it would seem that the Ravens have conceded that they’ll go as far as Flacco can take them this year and in the event Flacco goes down their prospects would be bleak anyway. That said, the same scenario might be true were it Marc Bulger or some other veteran of note behind Flacco if called on for a long stretch.

 

As Taylor’s athleticism continues to enamor fans however, and as the Michael Vick comparisons begin to flow more readily, the question might become how could they use Taylor to their benefit right now.

 

The “Suggs Package” wildcat looks that were Troy Smith’s calling card a few seasons ago would surely be much more dangerous and unsettling with an athlete the caliber of Taylor behind center. But if Taylor were the #2 QB, using him in that capacity (much like pinch hitting your backup catcher in baseball) could leave your without a net at the most important position on the field.

 

The other side of that argument of course is that teams like the Colts and Saints and Packers don’t run wildcat sets because taking their quarterbacks off the field doesn’t make those teams better. When Flacco becomes elite in the eyes of those deploying him, even an all world athlete like Tyrod Taylor won’t make the Ravens better by replacing Flacco behind center. The rank and deployment of Taylor this year should give us a pretty healthy read on how the Ravens coaches feel about Flacco’s development, ability and value as a playmaker.

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Mocking The 53: A Look At Roster Ahead of Preseason Finale

Posted on 30 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens travel to the Georgia Dome to meet the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, the final opportunity for players on the roster “bubble” to impress Head Coach John Harbaugh and coordinators Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano and Jerry Rosburg.

As I am no longer the Ravens beat reporter here at WNST I have deferred to Luke Jones for most of our coverage during Training Camp. I have had the chance to get out to 1 Winning Drive this week, so I decided I would bring back “Mocking The 53” to get a look at how the team may trim the roster from 80 players to 53.

As I’ve explained before, the team does not have a certain number of players they keep at each position, so I have never done this breakdown by position. Instead, I offer what is more like a “power ranking” of players from 1-80.

Keep in mind, GM Ozzie Newsome is likely to make an addition or two (a veteran backup quarterback-perhaps still Marc Bulger namely) before either Saturday’s cut day or the team’s opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

1. DT Haloti Ngata
2. QB Joe Flacco
3. LB Terrell Suggs
4. RB Ray Rice
5. WR Anquan Boldin
6. S Ed Reed
7. LB Ray Lewis
8. G Ben Grubbs
9. G Marshal Yanda
10. CB Jimmy Smith

Whether or not Smith is a starter on September 11 is the only issue in this group. All of these guys are clearly on the team and significant contributors.

11. OT Michael Oher
12. WR Lee Evans
13. FB Vonta Leach
14. DE Cory Redding
15. P Sam Koch
16. TE Ed Dickson
17. S Bernard Pollard
18. K Billy Cundiff
19. DT Terrence Cody
20. LB Jarret Johnson

Like the first group, the players in the group above are all safely on the roster and are expected to be significant contributors.

21. CB Cary Williams
22. S Tom Zbikowski
23. C Matt Birk
24. OT Bryant McKinnie
25. CB Chris Carr
26. S Haruki Nakamura
27. TE Dennis Pitta
28. RB Ricky Williams
29. LB Jameel McClain
30. WR Torrey Smith

There’s no drama in this group either. McClain still appears to be the frontrunner for the other starting ILB job, while the team has remained steadfast in their support of Torrey Smith despite struggles. There’s a chance he’s not the third receiver on September 11, but he’s absolutely safe on the roster.

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