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Predicting Ravens’ initial 53-man roster at end of 2017 preseason

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the 2017 preseason now over, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season with head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome making their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the initial 53-man squad as the Ravens will look to add other players who could be made available over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53 players with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that results in keeping an inferior player. 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 Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: The fate of the 2017 campaign lies on the health of Flacco’s back, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Woodrum land on the practice squad as a No. 3 option.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (3)
IN: Terrance West, Buck Allen, Danny Woodhead
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
OUT: Taquan Mizzell, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ricky Ortiz, Bobby Rainey
Skinny: Mizzell looks like a prime practice-squad candidate, and the Ravens could still seek an outside option for the fullback position in the coming days.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
OUT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
Skinny: Moore and Matthews make the roster because of their special-teams contributions, but neither did much to solidify a role in the passing game this preseason.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
OUT: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell, Ryan Malleck
Skinny: The depth here is shaky at best, but it’s reasonable to think Mayle or Donnell could be re-signed in the not-too-distant future when other roster questions are addressed.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, Austin Howard, James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
OUT: De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, David Nelson, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir
Skinny: This is not an impressive group on paper, so you’d hope Newsome can add another viable piece to the mix between now and the start of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Patrick Ricard
OUT: None
Skinny: Keeping eight defensive lineman is unusual and likely not tenable, but there’s too much talent here to let someone go in favor of an inferior player at another position.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
INJURED RESERVE: Albert McClellan
OUT: Donald Payne, Brennen Beyer
Skinny: Bradley has a chance to help fill the special-teams void left by McClellan, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a veteran inside linebacker added in the near future.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
OUT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: Smith answered the challenge this summer to solidify his standing on the 53-man roster, but this talented young group behind Suggs must now show up when the lights come on for real.

CORNERBACKS (6)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Tavon Young
OUT: Robertson Daniel, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Reggie Porter
Skinny: The injured Canady needs to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible for the designation to return from injured reserve, but the outside corner depth is as good as it’s been in a long time.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
OUT: Otha Foster
Skinny: With Webb and Levine both filling meaningful roles in the dime package to begin the season, Clark becomes more of a necessity for depth and will fill a large special-teams role.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: Kenny Allen, Taybor Pepper
Skinny: This trio of specialists stays together for the sixth consecutive season, which is quite a rarity in today’s NFL.

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Ravens still trying to get healthy with start of preseason looming

Posted on 06 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are counting down to Thursday’s preseason opener knowing franchise quarterback Joe Flacco will not play against the Washington Redskins.

Head coach John Harbaugh says he’s still not sure when the 10th-year veteran will even take the practice field after missing the first nine full-team workouts of training camp with a back injury. His absence has left backup Ryan Mallett to run the first-team offense while the discussion has persisted about free agent Colin Kaepernick.

“We just do not know the time frame. They have not given us a time frame yet,” Harbaugh said in Annapolis Saturday night. “We know he is getting better every single day. Obviously, we have a plan for him, football-wise, when he gets back, but we haven’t been told when yet.”

The Ravens had hoped that Flacco might only miss one week of practice, but that was always the best-case scenario as they’re being cautious with the start of the season still five weeks away. If he doesn’t return to the field this week, it would be difficult envisioning him playing in the second preseason game at Miami on Aug. 17.

Flacco isn’t the only notable starter currently sidelined, however, as cornerback Jimmy Smith missed his third consecutive practice on Saturday. First-round rookie Marlon Humphrey has also missed three straight workouts with an undisclosed ailment, but he was seen doing some agility work on the sideline at the Naval Academy, leaving one to believe he isn’t far away from a return.

Smith’s return to practice is apparently imminent, which is good news for a player with a frustrating history of injuries.

“Jimmy just [has] a little tweak in there,” said Harbaugh, refraining from specifying the location. “I decided to keep him off the turf today, and I actually held him out [Friday], too. He should be back Monday.”

Harbaugh also appeared to take a conservative approach with veterans Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, and Jeremy Maclin, who all sat out the practice at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium after practicing without incident on Friday. Cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz was also a new absentee on Saturday.

Newly-signed right tackle Austin Howard was not with the team for Saturday’s practice, but he is likely to be on the field when the team reconvenes Monday morning in Owings Mills. The 30-year-old spent part of the 2011 season on Baltimore’s practice squad before being signed by the New York Jets, an interesting footnote as he was inked to a three-year, $16 million deal on Friday

“We were disappointed to lose him; I remember it well when we lost him,” Harbaugh said. “We wanted to keep him at the time, too, and that is how it works in this league. He did a great job, but a lot of times guys like to come back to Baltimore. They get out and see that this was a pretty good place.”

Others remaining sidelined Saturday included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (hamstring), Kenny Bell (hamstring), and Chris Matthews (undisclosed), guard Alex Lewis (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Sheldon Price (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee).

Tight end Larry Donnell returned to practice after hurting his hand on Thursday.

As expected, tight end Crockett Gillmore (knee) cleared waivers Saturday and reverted to injured reserve. He will no longer count against the 90-man roster limit and is in the final season of his four-year rookie contract signed in 2014.

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Ravens wide receiver Perriman still sidelined with hamstring injury

Posted on 03 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman left the field earlier this week with a hamstring issue originally not believed to be serious, but he missed his second straight practice Thursday.

When he’ll return remains unclear with head coach John Harbaugh not exactly painting a picture suggesting an imminent return. The 2015 first-round pick earned strong reviews in offseason workouts and is aiming to break out after catching 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and missed most of training camp last year with a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that did not require surgery. He returned to play in all 16 games in 2016 and is expected to serve as Baltimore’s No. 3 receiver behind veterans Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace this season.

“Things happen for a reason, and maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll continue to work on all the things he needs to work on, in terms of his body, catching, things like that. He’ll get the mental work in the [walk-through] practices. I would say he’s had a plus camp, and hopefully it’ll lead to a really good season.

“I’ll also follow with [saying] I wish we had him out there practicing the rest of the time, obviously, but that’s what we have right now.”

Wide receivers coach Bobby Engram described Perriman’s development as “night and day” compared to last year as he’s shown more consistent hands and improved route-running ability. Quarterback Joe Flacco also praised the strides the young receiver had made this spring, making this latest ailment a disappointing development for an offense in need of youthful upside.

Of course, the Ravens are wise to be cautious with the start of the regular season still five weeks away.

“I think he’ll be fine,” said Engram about Perriman’s mindset after another physical challenge. “Obviously, it is a part of our profession, which none of us like to deal with. But mentally, he is in a really good place. He has a great group of guys in this room that are supporting him. He knows this organization is behind him. He just has to get healthy, come back, and let’s roll.”

Flacco missed his seventh consecutive practice with a back issue as the Ravens continue to roll with Ryan Mallett leading the starting offense. Center Ryan Jensen was also absent with an undisclosed issue while former practice-squad member Matt Skura served as the first-team center during Thursday’s practice.

Others missing from Thursday’s workout included first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey (undisclosed), wide receiver Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow (undisclosed), and defensive backs Maurice Canady (knee) and Sheldon Price (undisclosed). Humphrey did not take part in a large portion of Wednesday’s practice.

Harbaugh also gave a lengthy list of veterans the day off as wide receiver Mike Wallace, running back Danny Woodhead, tight end Benjamin Watson, cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr, safety Lardarius Webb, and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Albert McClellan were not present during the morning session.

Recently-signed tight end Larry Donnell left practice after hurting his hand and did not return, but Harbaugh wasn’t aware of the severity at the conclusion of practice. The Ravens can hardly afford to lose another player at the position with Dennis Pitta, Darren Waller, and Crockett Gillmore already gone for the season.

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Hurting at tight end, Ravens add former New York Giant Larry Donnell

Posted on 30 July 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens arguably had more inventory at tight end than any other position on the roster, but that’s changed substantially in less than two months.

A right knee injury to Crockett Gillmore prompted general manager Ozzie Newsome to sign former New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell on Sunday. It remains unclear just how long Gillmore will be sidelined after he left the field in the final minutes of Friday’s practice and didn’t participate on Saturday. The Ravens lost Dennis Pitta to a career-ending hip injury on June 2 and Darren Waller to a yearlong suspension announced on June 30.

Donnell, a former rookie free agent from Grambling, had a four-year run with the New York Giants in which he caught 110 passes for 969 yards and nine touchdowns in 54 games. His 2014 campaign was his best as the 6-foot-6, 265-pound target caught 63 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns.

His 2016 season in New York was a quiet one as Donnell caught 15 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown in 14 games, six of them starts.

He joins a group of healthy tight ends that includes Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Ryan Malleck, and wide receiver hybrid Vince Mayle. The 36-year-old Watson is coming back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last August while Williams, a 2015 second-round pick, is returning from a rare knee cartilage surgery that had apparently never been performed on an NFL player.

To make room for Donnell on the 90-man preseason roster, the Ravens waived undrafted rookie wide receiver Tim Patrick.

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