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Sizing up the 2019 Ravens roster after mandatory minicamp

Posted on 19 June 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens won’t trim their roster to 53 players until the end of the preseason, but the conclusion of mandatory minicamp offer a much better idea of what the coaching staff has to work with in 2019.

This exercise will carry more meaning as we advance to the preseason, but my all-too-early look at the roster is still based more on track record, contract status, draft standing, and positional need than observations from a handful of non-contact practices this spring. For now, I estimate 44 players to be safely on the roster, leaving nine spots up for grabs. We’ll get a much better idea of where players stand starting with the snap distribution when training camp begins next month.

In other words, don’t read too much into who is deemed a bubble player now as much will change between now and even the start of preseason action. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain position groups lacking quality depth and others enjoying so much talent that could fall victim to the numbers game.

Though general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to arbitrarily pinpoint a certain number of tight ends or inside linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. You always look for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their individual position groups when filling out the back of the roster.

The numbers in parentheses indicate how many players are currently on the roster at that position. As we move deeper into the summer, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the preseason.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
IN: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
BUBBLE: Trace McSorley
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: McSorley showed growth over the course of the spring and should feel much better about his chances, but I’m not quite ready to say he’ll definitely be on the roster when you look at the logjam at some other positions. I’d still expect a fourth quarterback to be added to share the summer reps.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
IN: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
BUBBLE: Kenneth Dixon, De’Lance Turner
LONG SHOT: Tyler Ervin, Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: Little has changed with this position group, but Ervin’s return ability at least puts him on the radar to potentially steal a spot. Dixon took issue with how his absences from voluntary workouts were perceived, but he needs a strong and healthy preseason to stick in the final year of his rookie deal.

WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
IN: Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Seth Roberts, Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley, Michael Floyd
LONG SHOT: Sean Modster, Antoine Wesley, Quincy Adeboyejo, Jaylen Smith, Joe Horn Jr.
Skinny: Scott, Modster, and Wesley flashed during workouts, but this group looked very ordinary overall, which wasn’t a big surprise as Brown and Boykin were sidelined. The numbers game will be interesting as you wonder how many receivers the run-heavy Ravens will even feel compelled to keep.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst
BUBBLE: Charles Scarff
LONG SHOT: Cole Herdman
Skinny: Knowing how much offensive coordinator Greg Roman values this position, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth tight end with blocking ability stick with the 249-pound Scarff having the current edge. However, the Ravens could also use the versatile Patrick Ricard in that role.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Matt Skura, Ben Powers, James Hurst, Bradley Bozeman
BUBBLE: Jermaine Eluemunor, Alex Lewis, Greg Senat
LONG SHOT: Randin Crecelius, R.J. Prince, Patrick Mekari, Marcus Applefield, Darrell Williams, Patrick Vahe
Skinny: Eluemunor lining up as the starting left guard this spring was surprising, but Harbaugh saying his conditioning needs to improve keeps me from moving him to the “in” line just yet. Lewis missing the spring program while rehabbing his shoulder on his own leaves him with much to prove.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Daylon Mack
BUBBLE: Zach Sieler, Gerald Willis, Patrick Ricard
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: Sieler is probably safe because of the shortage of 5-technique options on the roster, but Willis is an interesting name to watch as a rookie free agent. Ricard’s ability to play on both sides of the ball always improves his roster chances, but he was a healthy scratch for the final six games last season.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
IN: Patrick Onwuasor, Chris Board, Kenny Young
BUBBLE: Matthew Thomas, Otaro Alaka
LONG SHOT: Alvin Jones, E.J. Ejiya, Silas Stewart
Skinny: There is very little clarity in this group beyond the top three, but you would think the Ravens prefer keeping at least one more inside linebacker. Any lingering doubt about Board’s status was erased this spring as he arguably moved ahead of Young in the competition to start next to Onwuasor.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
IN: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser
BUBBLE: Pernell McPhee, Shane Ray, Tim Williams
LONG SHOT: Aaron Adeoye, Markus Jones, Michael Onuoha
Skinny: Bowser’s ability to drop into pass coverage gives him an edge over the other outside linebackers vying for a roster spot, but McPhee being able to slide inside in sub packages really helps his chances. Ray flashed during the spring, but the proof will be when the pads come on.

CORNERBACKS (11)
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Justin Bethel, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall
BUBBLE: Cyrus Jones, Maurice Canady
LONG SHOT: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Terrell Bonds
Skinny: Barring injuries, Baltimore is almost guaranteed to lose a quality player or two from this group. However, I’m not buying Bethel being on the bubble after the Ravens gave him a $1 million bonus and took a compensatory pick formula hit to sign him despite their established depth here.

SAFETIES (6)
IN: Earl Thomas, Tony Jefferson, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Bennett Jackson
Skinny: The standout play of Elliott was one of the highlights of the spring as he showed impressive range in coverage to go with the physicality he flashed as a rookie last summer. Clark is a rock-solid backup entering his third season, but could the roster crunch at other positions squeeze him out?

SPECIALISTS (5)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Kaare Vedvik, Matthew Orzech
Skinny: Vedvik really struggled with his kicking accuracy during spring practices open to reporters and will need to rebound in the preseason to build his potential trade value.

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Sizing up the 2019 Ravens’ 90-man roster following rookie camp

Posted on 08 May 2019 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Thursday 2:30 p.m.)

The Ravens won’t trim their roster to 53 players for nearly four more months, but the draft and rookie free-agent signings offer a much better idea of what John Harbaugh and his coaching staff have to work with for the 2019 season.

This exercise will carry more meaning as we advance into the preseason, but my all-too-early look at the roster is based more on track record, contract status, draft standing, and positional need than anticipating improvement or regression from any given player. We’ll get a much better idea of where players stand beginning with the snap distribution during organized team activities later this month.

In other words, don’t read too much into who might be deemed a bubble player now as much will change before the Ravens even get to training camp in July. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain position groups lacking as much quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.

Though general manager Eric DeCosta, Harbaugh, and the rest of the staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to arbitrarily pinpoint a certain number of tight ends or inside linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens always look for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their individual position groups when filling out the back of the roster.

The numbers in parentheses indicate how many players are currently on the roster at that position. As we move deeper into the spring and summer, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the preseason.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
IN: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
BUBBLE: Trace McSorley
LONG SHOT: Jalan McClendon
Skinny: How the coaching staff uses McSorley and how he develops will determine whether Baltimore carries three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for a second straight year and only the second time in the last decade. Comparisons to New Orleans’ Taysom Hill — who is much bigger — will continue.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
IN: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
BUBBLE: Kenneth Dixon, De’Lance Turner
LONG SHOT: Christopher Ezeala, Tyler Ervin
Skinny: Suggesting someone who averaged 5.6 yards per carry last year could be on the bubble speaks to the great backfield depth. Dixon could also be a trade chip entering the final year of his contract, but a history of injuries and suspensions could prompt a tough decision. Don’t sleep on Turner either.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
IN: Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Seth Roberts, Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley
LONG SHOT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Sean Modster, Jaylen Smith, Antoine Wesley, Joe Horn Jr.
Skinny: With Baltimore expected to again use multiple tight ends and run the ball so frequently, the brass won’t feel compelled to keep more than four or five receivers unless others prove deserving of a spot. This is a critical preseason for Scott and Lasley, who played zero snaps as rookies last year.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Cole Herdman, Charles Scarff
Skinny: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman may prefer having another blocking tight end in the mix to replace Maxx Williams, but it’s premature to handicap the chances of these candidates. Keizer spent much of last year with the organization, giving him a slight experience edge over the two rookies.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Matt Skura, Ben Powers, Bradley Bozeman
BUBBLE: James Hurst, Alex Lewis, Jermaine Eluemunor, Greg Senat
LONG SHOT: Randin Crecelius, R.J. Prince, Patrick Mekari, Marcus Applefield, Darrell Williams, Patrick Vahe
Skinny: Bozeman’s ability to play center makes him a safe bet while Hurst’s $4.75 million cap number and injury-riddled 2018 leave his status in at least some question until he proves his back problems are behind him. Time could be running out for Lewis, who just hasn’t been able to stay on the field.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Daylon Mack
BUBBLE: Zach Sieler, Gerald Willis, Patrick Ricard
LONG SHOT: Kalil Morris
Skinny: This is a tough group to handicap after the duo of Williams and Pierce, but Henry is the best interior rusher on the roster despite missing most of 2018. Sieler is a good bet to make it as a 5-technique end, but the talented Willis could be the wild card after surprisingly going undrafted.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
IN: Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Chris Board
BUBBLE: Matthew Thomas, Alvin Jones, Otaro Alaka, E.J. Ejiya, Silas Stewart
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: Board leading the team in special-teams tackles as a rookie leaves him safe at this point. The competition for a potential roster spot behind him is wide open, however, with Thomas, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, headlining a group lacking experience. They’re listed as bubble players by default.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
IN: Matt Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser
BUBBLE: Tim Williams
LONG SHOT: Aaron Adeoye, Markus Jones, Michael Onuoha
Skinny: Contributions on special teams and the shortage of strong-side or “Sam” backers give Bowser a clear edge over Williams, who appeared in only seven games in 2018 and was a healthy scratch by season’s end. There should be opportunities for the long shots to try to put themselves on the radar.

CORNERBACKS (11)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Justin Bethel, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall
BUBBLE: Cyrus Jones, Maurice Canady
LONG SHOT: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Terrell Bonds
Skinny: There isn’t a deeper group of corners in the NFL, leaving the Ravens with a good problem trying to decide which ones to keep. Jones returning kickoffs in addition to punts would cement his spot — he only did the latter last year — while the oft-injured Canady is in the final year of his rookie deal.

SAFETIES (6)
IN: Earl Thomas, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: DeShon Elliott
LONG SHOT: Bennett Jackson
Skinny: Elliott is the one to watch in this group as he showed promise before breaking his forearm in the preseason last year and could potentially push Clark for some playing time in sub packages. Levine’s positional versatility remains an invaluable part of Wink Martindale’s defense.

SPECIALISTS (5)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Kaare Vedvik, Matthew Orzech
Skinny: The Ravens will hope Vedvik kicks the football like he did last summer to improve his trade value at the end of the preseason. Beyond that, there’s little to see here.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following rookie camp

Posted on 06 May 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens completing their rookie camp this past weekend, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Marquise Brown is studying the playbook, but not having the first-round pick on the field took away some luster from rookie camp. He’ll still have extensive summer reps, but overcoming the learning curve at wide receiver on the heels of the foot injury presents a challenge that shouldn’t be dismissed.

2. Miles Boykin revealed he worked out with Brown prior to the combine and the two roomed together during rookie camp. History says Baltimore should be excited if just one of them makes a real impact, but it’s exciting having two young talents with such upside at the receiver position.

3. Pro Football Focus tagged Boykin with only three drops on 62 catchable targets last season, and he credited the catching improvement to the health of his fingers. The 6-foot-4 wideout said he dealt with broken fingers in each of his first two collegiate seasons.

4. It always strikes me how enjoyable rookie camp must be for John Harbaugh and the coaching staff working with so many players who won’t wear a Ravens uniform again beyond that weekend. Harbaugh coaching vise technique on punt return to unknowns had to take him back to his roots.

5. From Joe Flacco’s younger brother to Jerry Rice Jr., rookie camp has brought interesting tryout names to Owings Mills over the years with wide receiver Joe Horn Jr. joining that list this spring. The Missouri Western product drew Harbaugh’s praise, but there were no flip-phone celebrations to be found.

6. Trace McSorley garnered more attention, but former Baylor quarterback Jalan McClendon threw some impressive passes during Saturday’s workout open to reporters. You’d expect the Ravens to add a fourth quarterback to the 90-man offseason roster, whether it’s McClendon or someone else.

7. The most notable of the Ravens’ rookie free-agent signings, defensive tackle Gerald Willis limped off the field Saturday before later deeming himself OK on social media. The Miami product and younger brother of Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins has potential if the off-field issues are behind him.

8. Otaro Alaka, E.J. Ejiya, and Silas Stewart were just getting their feet wet, but Baltimore has to hope one will be the latest rookie free agent to stick as an inside linebacker. Former Raven and assistant coach Zach Orr was among those watching closely this past weekend.

9. Beginning Tuesday afternoon, teams are permitted to sign unrestricted free agents without it counting against the compensatory pick formula. As we’ve noted more than once, the cap space is there for Eric DeCosta to make another notable signing or two.

10. Iman Marshall expressed infectious enthusiasm answering questions Friday, but I didn’t know whether to be impressed or offended that he didn’t return to the theater to finish watching “Avengers: Endgame” upon receiving the call that he’d been drafted. I guess that’s why I never made it to the NFL.

11. Haloti Ngata and his family visited the team facility Saturday with the recently-retired five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle and Super Bowl XLVII champion taking some time to chat with rookies. The next stop for the 35-year-old should be the Ravens Ring of Honor this fall.

12. Hollywood, Sack Daddy, Biggie, and Mack Truck. Time will tell how successful the 2019 draft class is, but the nickname game is strong. Even McSorley — whose real first name is Richard — was nicknamed after former NFL defensive lineman Trace Armstrong.

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Ravens sign four draft picks, announce rookie free-agent signings

Posted on 03 May 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their rookies hitting the practice field for the first time this weekend, the Ravens wasted little time signing half of their 2019 draft class to four-year contracts.

On Friday, general manager Eric DeCosta signed fourth-round picks Justice Hill, Ben Powers, and Iman Marshall as well as fifth-round selection Daylon Mack, leaving only wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, and quarterback Trace McSorley unsigned. Contracts are slotted based on the salary cap and rookie compensation pool, eliminating virtually all of the common holdouts that would occur prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.

Baltimore also announced the signing of its rookie free agents, a list headlined by Miami defensive tackle Gerald Willis and Louisville wide receiver Jaylen Smith. Despite racking up 18 tackles for a loss during his senior season and being viewed by some as a potential Day 2 pick, Willis went undrafted largely because of off-field concerns, which included a reported fight with the son of former Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg that contributed to his dismissal from the University of Florida. Smith, a four-year starter for the Cardinals, had a disappointing senior year after catching a combined 13 touchdowns in his previous two years playing with current Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, but the pair worked out together in Florida this offseason, making the 6-foot-2 wideout a logical addition.

Of the 17 undrafted players signed, three are inside linebackers — Otaro Alaka of Texas A&M, E.J. Ejiya of North Texas, and Silas Stewart of Incarnate Word — after the Ravens did not draft a player at that position of need last weekend. At least one undrafted rookie has made Baltimore’s 53-man roster for 15 straight seasons, making the Ravens an attractive destination for many talents believing they were overlooked during the draft.

Below is the full list of rookie free-agent signings as well as the jersey numbers assigned to the Ravens’ eight draft picks:

ILB Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M — No. 50
OT Marcus Applefield, Virginia — No. 62
ILB E.J. Ejiya, North Texas — No. 57
TE Cole Herdman, Purdue — No. 88
OLB Markus Jones, Angelo State — No. 96
G Patrick Mekari, Cal-Berkeley — No. 65
WR Sean Modster, Boise State — No. 14
DT Kalil Morris, Kent State — No. 91
OLB Mike Onuoha, Texas A&M Commerce — No. 90
LS Matthew Orzech, Azusa Pacific — No. 59
TE Charles Scarff, Delaware — No. 85
WR Jaylen Smith, Louisville — No. 16
ILB Silas Stewart, Incarnate Word — No. 59
C C.J. Toogood, Elon — No. 61
WR Antoine Wesley, Texas Tech — No. 84
DT Gerald Willis, Miami — No. 92
S Evan Worthington, Colorado — No. 30

WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma — No. 15
OLB Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech — No. 45
WR Miles Boykin, Notre Dame — No. 80
RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State — No. 43
G Ben Powers, Oklahoma — No. 70
CB Iman Marshall, USC — No. 37
DT Daylon Mack, Texas A&M — No. 94
QB Trace McSorley, Penn State — No. 7

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What to expect from Ravens’ 2019 draft picks

Posted on 28 April 2019 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2019 draft, so what can we now expect from the Ravens’ eight selections?

Below is the early look at how each rookie fits now and in the future:

WR Marquise Brown
Drafted: First round (25th overall) from Oklahoma
2019 projected role: We may not see “Hollywood” on the practice field until training camp as he recovers from a foot injury, but the explosive and shifty receiver will immediately compete for a starting role.
Long-term view: His small 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame and the Lisfranc injury raise concerns — ask Jimmy Smith about the latter — but Brown looks the part of the home-run hitter this offense has lacked for years. If he becomes the next DeSean Jackson, the Baltimore pass game could be very fun to watch.

OLB Jaylon Ferguson
Drafted: Third round round (85th overall) from Louisiana Tech
2019 projected role: With the exits of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Ferguson will compete for the rush linebacker job and extensive snaps in the pass-rush rotation.
Long-term view: You love the college production as Ferguson broke Suggs’ Division I record for career sacks, but he’ll need to expand on his pass-rushing technique as his bull rush won’t overwhelm opposing linemen as frequently at the next level. Ferguson has the traits to be a productive starting edge defender.

WR Miles Boykin
Drafted: Third round (93rd overall) from Notre Dame
2019 projected role: Given the Ravens’ lack of outside receivers, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin will have the chance to compete for meaningful playing time right off the bat, especially if he blocks well.
Long-term view: The combination of size and athleticism makes you think Boykin is just scratching the surface of his potential after his breakout senior year at Notre Dame, but improving his route running and finding more consistency will be keys. Few Ravens wide receivers have ever had as much upside.

RB Justice Hill
Drafted: Fourth round (113th overall) from Oklahoma State
2019 projected role: Hill joins a backfield that includes Mark Ingram and two others — Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon — who averaged over 5.0 yards per carry last year, meaning touches could be scarce early.
Long-term view: A 5-foot-10, 200-pound frame doesn’t scream every-down back, but Hill had the fastest 40-yard dash of any back at the combine and showed big-play ability in college. His development as a receiver out of the backfield will likely be an X factor in determining his ultimate role at the NFL level.

G Ben Powers
Drafted: Fourth round (123rd overall) from Oklahoma
2019 projected role: A three-year starter for the Sooners, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Powers will compete for the starting left guard spot with the likes of James Hurst, Alex Lewis, and Bradley Bozeman.
Long-term view: Powers earned attention for his WWE-like proclamation of “taking a grown man’s dreams and crushing it,” but his physicality and pedigree coming from a major program is what excites Baltimore. Like close friend Orlando Brown Jr., Powers has the chance to become a starter very quickly.

CB Iman Marshall
Drafted: Fourth round (127th overall) from USC
2019 projected role: Joining the deepest position group on the roster, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Marshall’s only realistic hope of seeing the field this season — injuries aside — is as a special-teams contributor.
Long-term view: With Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith both over 30, the Ravens taking a Day 3 corner made sense and Marshall’s size and physicality make him an interesting prospect at corner or safety. Penalties were an issue at USC and he isn’t the fastest, but Marshall could be a sleeper in this class.

DT Daylon Mack
Drafted: Fifth round (160th overall) from Texas A&M
2019 projected role: The 340-pound defensive lineman’s best chance of cracking a deep rotation early will be showing off the pass-rush ability that resulted in his 5 1/2 sacks during his senior season.
Long-term view: With Baltimore possibly needing to choose between keeping Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce next offseason, this pick makes sense, especially if Mack builds on a strong 2018 that followed an ordinary first three years with the Aggies. The Ravens know how to find defensive tackles.

QB Trace McSorley
Drafted: Sixth round (197th overall) from Penn State
2019 projected role: The undersized and developmental quarterback will very likely need to contribute in other ways — think of Taysom Hill with New Orleans — to stick on the 53-man roster.
Long-term view: McSorley has the athleticism to play in Baltimore’s run-based offense and showed passing ability two years ago to make you believe he could be an NFL backup before a rough senior year. This is an interesting low-risk flier on a “tough-ass competitor” as John Harbaugh labeled him.

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