With the Ravens through 4 preseason games, and with the unusual situation of still having a 5th game to go, the Ravens roster should be mostly locked at this point. The Ravens held 11 starters out of their game on Saturday, so at the least those 11 will be held out Thursday, if not even more players who have already earned their roles. A few situations in the last few days also helped to shape the roster, with Jaleel Scott developing a “serious hamstring injury” which landed him directly on IR, DeShon Elliott’s fractured forearm which should keep him out for most, if not all, of the regular season, and Greg Senat and Willie Henry having week to week injuries to begin the season.
Since most fans aren’t going to stick around for RG3’s chance for preseason revenge against the Redskins, Purple Reign is going to break down where the roster stands, which spots are locked up, and which ones are still up for grabs on Thursday.
THE LOCKS –
QB – Flacco, Jackson – This is self explanatory. Flacco was never going anywhere this year, and his play so far has been exciting to say the least. Jackson was never going to be cut, and his play has also been exciting to say the least.
RB – Collins, Allen – Collins and Allen formed a nice 1-2 punch last season and nothing so far in the preseason and training camp has shown any change to that
WR – Crabtree, Snead, Brown, Moore – The Top 4 WRs have only gotten on the field for limited snaps in the preseason, but that was to be expected as they want to remain healthy and ready to start Week 1.
TE – Andrews, Boyle, Hurst – This TE group would’ve been the locks prior to this past week anyway, but Hurst’s foot injury now opens the probability that a 4th TE also makes it Andrews will be counted on in the early weeks, with Boyle assisting as a blocker.
OL – Stanley, Hurst, Yanda, Lewis, Brown, Skura – The starting C job seems far from settled, but Skura and Lewis will make the team as either starters or top backups.
DL – Williams, Pierce, Urban, Henry, Ricard – Henry’s injury may open an extra DL spot to join the rotation for a few weeks, but the Top 5 was set long ago (I’m including FB/DL Pat Ricard here).
LB – Suggs, Smith, Judon, Mosley, Peanut, Young, Williams, Bowser – The only names that may not have been on this list at the start of the preseason were Tim Williams and Kenny Young, who were still likely to make the club anyway. Strong preseason performances have vaulted them all the way up to competing for starting/starring roles.
CB – Carr, Humphrey, Young, Averett, Canady, Jean-Baptiste/Jimmy Smith – With Jimmy Smith’s suspension, Jean-Baptiste’s strong preseason can be converted into a 4 week audition to stick with the team for the remainder of the season.
S – Weddle, Jefferson, Levine, Clark – This list would’ve included DeShon Elliott, but his injury likely lands him on IR and it’s unclear if another safety makes the roster in his place.
ST – Tucker, Koch, Cox – No, Justin Tucker’s rash of 50+ yard misses won’t turn the job over to Kaare Vedvik.
That brings us to 43 roster locks, with 10 remaining spots still to be determined.
Here are some of the players who are in line for those 10 spots…
- RG3 vs <any other position> – It’s really hard not to put RG3 as a lock on this team, but I think until final cutdown, it’s hard to predict what Harbaugh will do. Jackson has played well, but it’s clear he needs more seasoning before he can be a legitimate backup option at a moment’s notice. RG3 meanwhile has played VERY well and clearly has proven he belongs on a team, if not this team. RG3 should get a large portion of snaps against the Redskins and assuming another strong performance, should lock up his spot, even at the expense of depth at other positions
- Kenneth Dixon vs Gus Edwards vs Mark Thompson vs De’Lance Turner – This battle really seems to be Dixon vs Edwards, as Edwards has led the Ravens in preseason carries and rushing yards. Thompson has offered a bit more as a receiver, but seems to be behind Edwards in snaps. Dixon again had some injury issues this preseason, but when he returned to the field, he averaged similar YPC to Edwards. De’Lance Turner was not mentioned much in this battle all summer, but burst into the picture with an electrifying 65 yard run vs the Dolphins. Still, the battle is really between Dixon and Edwards, and Thursday will be the last chance for Dixon to try to outplay Edwards and convince the coaches to give him another chance.
- 5th and 6th WR spots – While the Top 4 WRs are locked in, no other WRs showed a clear separation in the battle to earn a spot with the 2018 Ravens. Scott and Lasley, the two drafted rookie WRs, struggled to take over any games. Perriman had a dominating performance against the Rams, but hasn’t been able to convert that into any meaningful stats against the other preseason opponents. Tim White and Janarion Grant have been competing both as WRs and as Special Teams Returners, but both have struggled to make a difference in either battle. DeVier Posey is also in the mix at WR but didn’t really do anything until this past game. It would seem likely that Lasley might earn a spot due to his rookie draft status, but even that isn’t a lock. Those WR spots still need to be determined, and even this next game may not be enough to convince the coaches of who should make it. It’s likely that one spot should go to either Grant or White as a returner, but the team has a contingency plan if neither is strong enough to win the job, as Willie Snead has been practicing returning punts, while Chris Moore returned a few kicks in 2017.
- Reserve OL spots – The Ravens are likely to keep 8 or 9 OL, so with 6 locks, there should be at least two more linemen to make the roster. There is a large group of options, with the likely candidates being Jermaine Eluemunor, Nico Siragusa, Greg Senat, and Bradley Bozeman. This decision may also come down to the starting 5 options on the line, as James Hurst could provide backup at both T and G spots if he doesn’t end up starting. Similarly, if Skura is not the starter at C, he could backup the C and G spots. Bozeman and Senat were considered long shots to make the roster before preseason began, but Senat is the primary backup at LT and Bozeman is 2nd in preseason OL snaps behind Orlando Brown. So both could play their way into roles in the 2018 line. The last note here is Greg Senat injured his knee in the Dolphins game and is now considered week to week, which could put his chances at a roster spot back to being a long shot.
- Final DL spot(s) – Even before Willie Henry’s hernia injury, there was a strong chance the Ravens would carry 6 DL with Chris Wormley or Carl Davis getting the last spot. Henry’s injury and the play of Zach Sieler in preseason makes this decision a bit more complicated. Sieler has shown lots of potential and progress with his play, and may not last to the practice squad if he is cut. Wormley, Sieler, and Davis are playing for just 1 or maybe 2 spots, and will need strong games Thursday to cement a place.
- 9th LB Spot – It’s likely that the Ravens will carry a 9th LB, who will contribute heavily on Special Teams. The most likely winner of this battle could’ve been Kamalei Correa, but shortly after writing this post up, strong rumors surfaced that Correa may be traded to the Titans before Thursday’s game. This battle would then come down to Albert McClellan or Chris Board. McClellan can decently play ILB and OLB in the base defense, but his strength is certainly his ST ability. Board is less likely to win the spot, but he is tied for the team lead in tackles with Kenny Young and has certainly showed a lot of promise. Also, with the likely trade of Correa, it could be a sign that the “9th LB spot” may go to another position instead, so McClellan or Board needs to have a strong game both on Special Teams and defense to prove their worth.
- Final Spot (4th TE or 11th DB) – When counting down my spots, I realized I was short on my original thoughts at both TE and S. So, this is likely the final spot battle (though an extra DL or LB could come off at the expense of a DB). A 4th Tight End is pretty likely to make the roster with Hurst’s injury, as Hurst won’t go on IR for a 4 week injury. This is likely to be Maxx Williams, but there is a chance Darren Waller’s offensive ability or Vince Mayle’s ST ability will weigh more heavily with the coaching staff. And then, there is the outside chance that Elliott’s injury could sway the coaching staff to have a player like Kai Nacua, Darious Williams, or Bennett Jackson to make the club to fill his void. Much like RG3’s roster spot, this comes down to which roster position carries the most need with the coaching staff. I would lean towards a 4th TE making it over an 11th DB at the moment, but who knows.
While Thursday’s preseason game should mostly be a boring, hopefully injury-less affair, there are plenty of end of the roster battles still going on that should make for some interesting down-to-the-wire performances.