This preseason features unchartered waters for NFL coaches and scouts. As a result of the new CBA which places strict limits on the amount of contact that takes place in training camp, team talent evaluators are more challenged than ever before to pick the final 53 players – and get it right!
Perhaps more than in years past, players will fall victim to “The Turk” and into the waiting arms of a new employer. In some cases that new team might not realize the gem that comes out in the wash of the NFL bloodbath that will take place beginning next Monday, August 27 when teams have to trim their rosters from 90 to 75. Four days later, the roster scalpels will come out again to cut from 75 to 53.
And that makes the preseason games that much more vital to a player on the proverbial bubble.
Traditionally Preseason Game 3 is the game where teams will let their starters take snaps as late as the third quarter. It’s the last real test before the first regular season game and consequently the fringe players are often relegated to the sidelines. All of this sets up Preseason Game 4 as a real pressure cooker for those looking to make their last positive statement and establish a career in the NFL.
Of course the preseason games aren’t the sole determining factor in making the final 53. All of those hours in the classroom and on the field at the Under Armour Performance Center will also be considered when shaping rosters and it’s those hours that fans and to some degree the media aren’t privy to. It’s those hours that might leave you a bit confused as to why one player who didn’t perform well in a preseason game is chosen over one who did.
Below is my projected final 53 based upon my own observations and discussions with people in and around the team. In the past the Ravens final 53 man roster on opening day has been comprised of: (2) QB’s; (6) WR’s; (4) RB’s; (3) TE’s; (8) OL’s; (9) DB’s; (9) LB’s; (9) DL’s; and (3) specialists. We’ll see if this blueprint of sorts is used as a general guideline.
That said, when shaping this 53 man squad it becomes quite clear that the Ravens front seven is nowhere near as deep as in years past. And that for me is cause for concern and another sign that if the Ravens are going to reach their lofty goals, it’s really going to fall on the shoulders of No. 5. Also worth noting, there is an excellent chance that one or more players currently on another team’s roster will be members of the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. The positions to watch closely are RB, TE, DL and LB
QUARTERBACK (2): Joe Flacco; Tyrod Taylor
RUNNING BACK (4): Ray Rice; Bernard Pierce; Damien Berry; Vonta Leach
WIDE RECEIVER (6): Anquan Boldin; Torrey Smith; Jacoby Jones; LaQuan Williams; Tandon Doss; Deonte Thompson
TIGHT END (3): Dennis Pitta; Ed Dickson; Billy Bajema
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Bryant McKinnie; Bobbie Williams; Matt Birk; Marshal Yanda; Michael Oher; Kelechi Osemele; Gino Gradkowski; Jah Reid; Tony Wragge
DEFENSIVE LINE (8): Haloti Ngata; Terrence Cody; Art Jones; Ma’ake Kemoeatu; Pernell McPhee; Bryan Hall; DeAngelo Tyson; Nicolas Jean-Baptiste
LINEBACKER (9): Ray Lewis; Jameel McClain; Brendon Ayanbadejo; Courtney Upshaw; Albert McClellan; Paul Kruger; Sergio Kindle; Dannell Ellerbe; Chavis Williams
SAFETY (3): Ed Reed; Bernard Pollard; Christian Thompson;
CORNERBACK (6): Lardarius Webb; Jimmy Smith; Cary Williams; Corey Graham; Asa Jackson; Danny Gorrer
SPECIALISTS (3): Sam Koch; Justin Tucker; Morgan Cox
PRACTICE SQUAD: RB Bobby Rainey; G/T Jack Cornell; T Ramon Harewood; LB Nigel Carr; NT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen; S Omar Brown; WR Tommy Streeter; S Chyl Quarles
BUBBLE: RB Anthony Allen; DB Chykie Brown; S Sean Considine; LB Ricky Brown; S Emmanuel Cook
PUP: Terrell Suggs