The Ravens won’t trim their roster to 53 players for nearly three more weeks, but the absence of a normal offseason and preseason games make the evaluation process more challenging than ever.
With full-team practices finally open to media starting Monday, my look at the current 80-man roster — trimmed from 90 due to social distancing challenges — is based more on track record, contract status, draft standing, and positional need than trying to project improvement or regression from any given player. We normally have a better idea of where players stand with the observed snap distribution from organized team activities, but the absence of an on-site spring program complicated that picture for everyone.
In other words, projected bubble players or long shots still have time to improve their standing over the next few weeks despite the lack of preseason games. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain position groups lacking as much quality depth and other spots enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.
Though general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the staff are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to arbitrarily pick a certain number of tight ends or inside linebackers usually isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens always look for reserves who excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions when filling out the back end of the roster.
Bubble players who are underlined are the ones projected to make the cut for the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 16.
IN: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
BUBBLE: Trace McSorley
LONG SHOT: Tyler Huntley
Skinny: Harbaugh confirmed the plan to keep three quarterbacks, but that always depends on other needs and the roster’s overall health entering September. A normal offseason may have sparked tighter competition, but Huntley making it to an expanded practice squad wouldn’t be surprising.
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (5)
IN: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Patrick Ricard
BUBBLE: Kenjon Barner
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: Barner is only in the running because of the return specialist competition, but the incredible depth at this position isn’t going to help his chances unless he’s markedly better than other return men this summer. How the carries will be distributed in this backfield should be very interesting.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Jaleel Scott
LONG SHOT: Antoine Wesley, Michael Dereus, Jaylon Moore
OPT-OUT: De’Anthony Thomas
Skinny: The last two spots in this group probably aren’t ironclad locks, but Proche is an early favorite to be the punt returner as a sixth-round rookie and Moore was re-signed for his strong work on special teams, making them strong bets. Scott will have to excel to remain on the 53-man roster.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: Jerell Adams, Charles Scarff, Eli Wolf
LONG SHOT: none
RESERVE NON-FOOTBALL INJURY LIST: Jake Breeland
Skinny: Even if the passing game trends more toward wide receivers than it did a year ago, the Ravens still need a viable third option to step up behind the incumbents. With veterans like Delanie Walker and Charles Clay still available, a free-agent signing before Week 1 wouldn’t be surprising.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari, D.J. Fluker, Ben Powers, Ben Bredeson, Tyre Phillips
BUBBLE: Parker Ehinger
LONG SHOT: Will Holden, Trystan Colon-Castillo, Sean Pollard
OPT-OUT: Andre Smith
Skinny: Sorting through the interior picture is anyone’s guess with many expecting offensive line play around the league to suffer from the lack of a traditional spring and summer. Colon-Castillo is an interesting undrafted rookie, but the path to a roster spot is so difficult under these conditions.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5)
IN: Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington
BUBBLE: Justin Ellis
LONG SHOT: Aaron Crawford
Skinny: Ellis fits the description of a veteran backup to Williams at nose tackle, but carrying six defensive linemen seems a bit excessive with the Ravens having several edge defenders who can move inside in various packages. The versatile Ricard also adds depth, which could squeeze Ellis out.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, L.J. Fort
BUBBLE: Chris Board, Otaro Alaka
LONG SHOT: Kristian Welch
Skinny: The top three are set, but Harbaugh and DeCosta have praised Alaka, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year and was in line for snaps in late September before a hamstring injury ended his season. Given Baltimore’s history with undrafted inside linebackers, keep an eye on Welch.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Pernell McPhee, Jihad Ward, Tyus Bowser
LONG SHOT: Aaron Adeoye, John Daka, Chauncey Rivers, Marcus Willoughby
Skinny: Considering Ferguson is the only one of the top five under contract beyond 2020, you’d really like to see enough promise from one or two of these long shots to continue developing them on the practice squad. How the rush linebacker position looks opposite Judon remains to be seen.
IN: Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith
BUBBLE: Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall
LONG SHOT: Terrell Bonds, Khalil Dorsey, Josh Nurse
Skinny: Averett took a step back in 2019 after his promising rookie season, but he seems more likely to receive the nod over Marshall if Baltimore keeps only five corners. You can never have enough corners though, so one of these young guys could easily force the issue with strong practices.
IN: Earl Thomas, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: DeShon Elliott, Geno Stone, Jordan Richards
LONG SHOT: Nigel Warrior
Skinny: Elliott playing just 40 defensive snaps due to injuries over his first two seasons and Stone being a seventh-round pick make it very difficult to consider either as roster locks, but they bring intriguing upside and Wink Martindale figures to continue using plenty of three-safety dime looks.
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
LONG SHOT: Nick Moore
Skinny: There’s nothing to see here, and the continuity figures to be as important as ever with an abbreviated summer devoid of preseason games.