Breaking down the 2020 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

September 05, 2020 | Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta will continue to explore other tweaks to the roster with a move or two certainly plausible before the Sept. 13 opener against Cleveland, but below is a breakdown of the initial 53-man roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3) — Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
Analysis: Despite an uneven summer performance, McSorley held off promising rookie free agent Tyler Huntley for the No. 3 job with a year of experience in Greg Roman’s offense likely playing a big part in the decision. The 2019 sixth-round pick was also less likely to pass through waivers to make it to the practice squad compared to an undrafted rookie without any preseason tape for other teams to evaluate, the same reality likely contributing to the Ravens not keeping a single rookie free agent on their initial roster. Barring a move in the coming days, this will mark the first time since 2003 that Baltimore will not have an undrafted rookie on its Week 1 roster.

RUNNING BACKS (4) — Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
Analysis: How the carries will be distributed in this group will be fascinating to watch, but all four making the roster was a foregone conclusion. After battling injuries, Hill appears to be a distant fourth in the pecking order for offensive touches, but he remains in the mix to be the kick returner if he’s healthy. Dobbins remains the biggest wild card here after impressing throughout his first camp.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6) — Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Chris Moore
Analysis: Many wondered if Moore might be on the bubble after missing training camp with a broken finger, but head coach John Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Chris Horton are big fans of his ability on special teams, leading you to believe his spot was never in real danger. The Ravens are expecting a breakout year from Brown and growth from Boykin in their second season, but how long Snead is able to hold off the rookies Duvernay and Proche for playing time will be interesting.

TIGHT ENDS/FULLBACKS (3) — Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Patrick Ricard
Analysis: The competition to replace Hayden Hurst never materialized due to injuries and uninspiring performance, leaving just two true tight ends on the current roster. Even if the Ravens use tight ends less often than the 42 percent of plays at least two were deployed last year (SharpFootballStats.com), you’d expect a third option to join the mix at some point. Ricard can share in some of the blocking responsibilities, but a fullback just shy of 300 pounds just isn’t going to do what Hurst did in last year’s offense. A healthy Andrews is expected to assume a sizable portion of Hurst’s 457 snaps.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9) — Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari, D.J. Fluker, Tyre Phillips, Ben Bredeson, Ben Powers
Analysis: The battle for Marshal Yanda’s old right guard job appears to be down to the veteran Fluker and the third-round rookie Phillips, who really came on late in training camp. The absence of another swing tackle on the roster could mean Fluker will fill that role with Phillips starting. Many predicted Powers, a 2019 fourth-round selection who appeared in only one game as a rookie, would be on the outside looking in after a disappointing summer, but the Ravens rarely give up on mid-round picks quickly and the Oklahoma product would have likely been a popular waiver claim.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6) — Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Justin Ellis, Broderick Washington
Analysis: The 29-year-old Ellis ended any discussion about him being on the bubble with a strong camp, a reality only confirmed when Madubuike suffered a knee injury last weekend that puts his status for the start of the season in question. Washington, a fifth-round rookie from Texas Tech, was quiet in his first camp, but he may need to step up in the rotation for the short term. The three starters — Campbell, Williams, and Wolfe — are all on the wrong side of 30, but the Ravens haven’t had a starting defensive line of this potential for quite a long time.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5) — Patrick Queen, L.J. Fort, Malik Harrison, Chris Board, Otaro Alaka
Analysis: Keeping five inside linebackers for a defense that used at least six defensive backs 41 percent of the time last season (Football Outsiders) seems unusual, but it speaks to the potential of a young group and how much they’re expected to be used on special teams. Expectations are high for Queen as a first-round pick and instant starter, but Fort and Board made strong claims for defensive roles while Harrison gets better acclimated in his rookie season. Alaka figures to be more of a factor on special teams if active on Sundays, but DeCosta and Harbaugh both spoke of his potential this offseason.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5) — Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, Jihad Ward
Analysis: Speculation about Jadeveon Clowney won’t go away until the three-time Pro Bowl selection signs somewhere, but there were no surprises with this group. Expectations and motivation are high for Judon after he received the franchise tag, but the Ravens need to see growth from Ferguson since he’s the only one of the group under contract beyond 2020. Each of these players has his strengths and weaknesses, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale figures to again rely heavily on the blitz to pressure quarterbacks, which you can do with a dynamite secondary.

CORNERBACKS (5) — Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett
Analysis: An improved Averett was never seriously challenged for the No. 5 corner job, but what stands out about this position group beyond its obvious talent is the versatility with Humphrey showing the ability to thrive inside at the nickel spot last year and Smith cross-training as a safety and a nickel this summer. This is a critical campaign for Young after missing two full seasons in the last three years because of injuries, but his toughness at the nickel could help this group reach an even higher level, which is a scary thought for opposing offenses.

SAFETIES (4) — Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine, Geno Stone
Analysis: The ugly dismissal of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Earl Thomas last month drastically changed the dynamics of this group, but the Ravens appear very confident in Elliott stepping into a starting role and Smith remains an in-house option as well. A seventh-round rookie from Iowa, Stone was challenged by undrafted rookie Nigel Warrior for a roster spot, but the draft pick ultimately prevailed in that competition. Jordan Richards was the most notable incumbent Raven to be released on cut-down day, but his special-teams ability could easily lead him back to the roster.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Analysis: This trio enters its ninth consecutive season together, a remarkable and rare example of continuity that could be more important than ever in the midst of this unprecedented season.