With two weeks of training camp firmly in the books along with the Ravens first preseason game of the year, Dev Panchwagh and I are putting on our General Manager and head coaching hats as we forecast the Ravens 53-man roster.
The next few weeks will prove to be pivotal for as many as 40 players unless they do something between now and August 26 when the team will make their first cuts.
In: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
Practice Squad: Keith Wenning
NOTES: While the Ravens rarely carry three quarterbacks during the season, rookie Keith Wenning will stick around long enough to eat up some snaps during the remaining three preseason games. Unless Wenning can overcome Taylor, it appears as if the Ball State product could end up on the practice squad, not the 53, assuming he sneaks through waivers.
Running Backs (4)
In: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Justin Forsett
Out: Cierre Wood, Fitzgerald Toussaint
NOTES: With Rice, Pierce and Taliaferro locks, the Ravens will hang onto Justin Forsett given his experience with Kubiak’s offense for at least the duration of Rice’s two-game suspension. Wood and Toussaint, camp fodder only, fail to make the cut.
In: Kyle Juszczyk
Out: Shaun Chapas
NOTES: The role of the fullback has all but disappeared in today’s NFL. While we saw some of the ways that Gary Kubiak will use Juice in 2014 against the 49ers, it won’t be enough to save Chapas regardless of injury to Juszczyk.
Wide Receiver (6)
In: Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro
Bubble: Kamar Aiken, LaQuan Williams, Deonte Thompson, Jeremy Butler
Out: Mike Wille, Jace Davis
NOTES: The wide receiver corp has five locks so far and could go as high as seven. The battle is on at the midway point of training camp between Aiken, Williams, Thompson and Butler. Each have had their ups and downs during the first two weeks of camp. Aiken appears to have a leg up on the competition while Butler and Thompson are neck and neck. Mike Willie and Jace Davis have fizzled out and negated to reps with the third string offense.
Left Tackle (2)
In: Eugene Monroe
Out: James Hurst
NOTE: The Ravens are very thin with depth behind Monroe but from what we’ve witnessed during training camp and in the first preseason game Hurst certainly isn’t the answer. His struggles with pass protecting and run blocking only verify his undrafted status.
Left Guard (2)
In: Kelechi Osemele, A.Q Shipley
Out: Will Rackley
NOTES: The Ravens took a chance on veteran guard Will Rackley however the former Jacksonville Jaguar hasn’t been able to stay healthy and is still recovering from a concussion he suffered at the beginning of camp. The injury opens up the door for Shipley to make the team even though he struggled last year.
In: Jeremy Zuttah, Gino Gradkowski
Out: Reggie Stephens
NOTES: Zuttah acquired by trade earlier in the offseason is the sure starter barring injury. Gradkowski gets the backup role much as he has throughout camp running with the second team offense. Stephens was signed to the practice squad by the Ravens in September of 2013 and will fail to make the roster just like he did in Cincinnati, Chicago and Buffalo.
Right Guard (3)
In: Marshal Yanda, Ryan Jensen, John Urschel
Out: Parker Graham
NOTES: Yanda is fully healthy entering 2014 and despite missing time with an ankle injury, Jensen, the second-year player is a lock behind Yanda. The Ravens rarely cut draft picks and are likely to give Urschel some time to develop. Graham will be the odd man out as he has been quiet throughout camp and spent his time running with the third string offense and rightly so. The former Oklahoma State standout has struggled in pass protection and run blocking.
Right Tackle (2)
In: Rick Wagner, Jah Reid
Out: David Mims, Brett Van Sloten
NOTES: Jah Reid was thought to have been the odd man out entering 2014 given his past playing history coupled with his offseason arrest. Reid has quietly had a nice camp and given the lack of depth at right tackle it won’t be shocking to see him in the purple and black again this season. More alarming than Reid’s past performances are the play of David Mims and Brett Van Sloten. Mims, who signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Ravens in December, has struggled consistently despite his 6-8, 350 pound frame. Van Sloten who appeared in 48 career games at Iowa hasn’t fared much better. Slow off the snap the Ravens will stick with Reid.
Tight End (3)
In: Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels, Crockett Gillmore
Bubble: Phillip Supernaw
Out: Nathan Overbay
NOTES: Arguably offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s favorite position… Gillmore is a rookie and raw, the Ravens likely consider him a project. He won’t be looked upon to have an immediate impact in 2014 but expect to see him used in multiple tight end sets. Pitta and Daniels are locks, although both coming off injuries it’s not absurd to think the Ravens keep either Nathan Overbay or Phillip Supernaw around on the practice squad.
Defensive Tackle (2)
In: Haloti Ngata, Timmy Jernigan
Bubble: Terrence Cody
Out: Jamie Meder
NOTES: Cody remains on the PUP list while recovering from hip surgery and has yet to take a snap in training camp making it possible that if he comes back healthy his spot on the roster is secure for another year. Neither Jamie Meder nor Levi Brown have taken advantage of Cody’s absence, thus sealing their fate.
Nose Tackle (2)
In: Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson
Bubble: A.J. Pataiali’i
Out: Derrick Hopkins
NOTES: Second-year player Brandon Williams will take the starting roll and DeAngelo Tyson will be used in rotation. A.J. Pataiali’i could earn his way on to the practice squad as his play has progressed as training camp wears on running with the second/ third team defense although he lacks special teams experience. While Hopkins was impressive at Virginia Tech (13 sacks, 3 FFs, 2 FRs 2 PD), his play-making ability hasn’t translated over to the NFL going against third-team offenses.
Defensive End (2)
In: Chris Canty
NOTE: Here’s to hoping that Canty displays a better regular season than he has during training camp. Veterans know when to rise up and when to relax and given Canty’s status he will. Kapron Lewis-Moore has had a nice camp and saw extended snaps in the preseason match-up with the 49ers but was likely lost for the year with a torn left Achilles tendon. The Ravens also lost Brent Urban to a season ending tear to his ACL earlier in camp.
Outside Linebacker (2)
In: Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee
Bubble: D.J. Roberts
Out: Nicholas DiMarco
NOTES: McPhee continues to hit his stride and will see plenty of reps during the regular season. D.J. Roberts had a nice showing in week one of the preseason improving upon his training camp performance and could be assigned to the practice squad. Nicholas DiMarco fails to make the squad as he struggles to get reps even on the third team defense.
Inside Linebacker (4)
In: Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan
Bubble: Josh Bynes
Out: Austin Spitler, Zachary Orr
NOTES: McClellan gets the nod over Josh Bynes as the special teams ace is capable of playing every position in the linebacking corp if needed which could leave Bynes on the outside looking in. While Bynes also brings special teams experience he is limited to strictly the inside linebacker position. Undrafted rookies Austin Spitler and Zachary Orr have seen their reps limited on defense and neither one has stood out on special teams. Since the Ravens are deep at inside linebacker neither make the cut.
In: Courtney Upshaw, Elvis Dumervil
Bubble: John Simon
NOTES: No change at this position as Upshaw and Dumervil hold down the fort at the SAM position. Second-year player John Simon has been M.I.A. except on a few rare occasions for much of training camp. It’s clear that the Ravens are giving Simon every opportunity to prove his worth as he and Albert McClellan played the most defensive snaps (27) for the team against the 49ers. But will it be enough?
In: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown
Bubble: Tramain Jacobs
Out: Dominique Franks, Marrio Norman, Sammy Seamster, Deji Olatoye
NOTES: The cornerback unit is a nightmare beyond Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb when he’s healthy. Chykie Brown continues to struggle locating the football and seems to be a walking penalty flag while the team continues to give the young corner time to right the ship. Asa Jackson has progressed rather well with the extra reps he took for the injured Webb but suffered an ankle sprain that could have him out of action for a few weeks. Jacobs has been up and down during camp and played the third-most reps (25) on defense in the Ravens 23-3 victory over the 49ers. With three more preseason games, expect the Ravens to give Jacobs even more reps.
Franks, Norman, Seamster and Olatoye rarely challenged the aforementioned players, although Olatoye is a player who the Ravens could stash on the practice squad if he makes it through waivers.
Strong Safety (2)
In: Matt Elam
Bubble: Brynden Trawick, Anthony Levine, Omar Brown
NOTES: Matt Elam will need to stay healthy as both safety positions are very thin regarding depth. It’s a three-way battle between Trawick, Levine and Brown. With Brown listed second on the latest depth chart, both Levine and Trawick must prove their worth again on special teams to earn the second roster spot.
Free Safety (3)
In: Darian Stewart, Jeromy Miles, Terrence Brooks
Bubble: Will Hill
NOTES: Darian Stewart will start with Jeromy Miles and Terrence Brooks waiting in the wings if the former Ram can’t stay healthy as he’s exhibited in the past few seasons. Miles provides depth along with experience in special teams finishing fourth on the team with eight special teams tackles last season. 2014 is likely to be a grooming year for Terrence Brooks who has struggled at times during training camp. The rookie did however play 19 snaps late in the game on Thursday. If Miles struggles look for Will Hill to assume his role after serving his six game suspension.
In: Sam Koch, Justin Tucker, Morgan Cox
Out: Richie Leone
NOTE: The undrafted punter Richie Leone fails to unseat the veteran Sam Koch, keeping the wolfpack intact for another season.