So far through two preseason games, things have gone just about as expected for the Baltimore Ravens.
It was known that the lack of quality of depth at cornerback would be painfully obvious, and it was expected that the offensive line and run game would look improved, among many other things.
Within the story lines of each positional unit has been the stellar play of some individuals, and some concerning regressions and/or lack of growth for many others.
At the midway point of the preseason, whose stock has gone up or down?
Heading into training camp, who really knew what Asa Jackson would bring to the team? He had been in the NFL for two years, still hasn’t been on the field for a defensive play in the regular season, and is deep in the NFL’s substance abuse program with a four and eight-game suspension to his name.
So far – while currently injured – all has gone well for the third-year nickel candidate. He had a more favorable training camp than Chykie Brown, and in the preseason opener, Jackson played as well as the team probably could have hoped given his reps with the first team.
When healthy, it looks like Jackson will be a regular at cornerback for the Ravens this season.
It was obvious the Ravens offense needed a little more “Juice” this year after contributions from the fullback position were lacking in 2013.
Halfway through the preseason, all signs point to a heavy dosage of Kyle Juszczyk this year mainly as a short-yardage receiving threat out of the backfield, but also as a lead blocker.
We knew he was a good receiver; his supreme blocking so far in the preseason has only heightened his value to the offense.
Easily Baltimore’s best defender through two games, the starting nose tackle job belongs to Williams for the regular season, and he should perform quite well there.
The cornerback situation has been a complete mess. Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson have been injured and incumbent Chykie Brown has not fared well.
Watching Baltimore’s secondary situation unfold has been far from a pretty sight, but one bright spot has been the play of undrafted rookie Tramain Jacobs, formerly of Texas A&M.
In both preseason games, Jacobs was one of the defense’s better second half players, and with the iffy state of the cornerback position in Baltimore, he just might be the annual undrafted rookie to make Baltimore’s final roster.
After a tumultuous 2013 season in which Gino Gradkowski was a one-and-done starter at center (it’s unlikely he ever starts at center with the Ravens again unless an injury occurs to Jeremy Zuttah), and quite frankly, his career looked to be on life support after two NFL seasons.
But in the first two preseason games working as the second-team center, Gradkowski has failed to stand out (in a good way, as other backup linemen have consistently struggled), and at the very least, his roster spot is safe for this season.
We’ll see if he can fully revive his career after a poor starting performance last year.
Like Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown entered this season’s training camp with a career-defining opportunity. A role player and backup for three seasons, Brown’s fourth NFL year offered him the opportunity to seize a nickel corner job, which is essentially a starting position in today’s NFL.
An up-and-down defender with an admirable 2012 postseason performance, Brown’s experience made it seem logical that he’d be a strong contender for the nickel corner role.
But now, more than midway through August, it’s brutally evident that – while he still likely makes the roster – Brown has shown no inherent ability to be relied on as the third corner.
Looking lost and out of place in both preseason games, as well as having a disappointing training camp, Brown’s hopes of being the nickel corner in Baltimore are quickly diminishing.
When all corners are healthy, he is likely no better than fourth on the depth chart this season.
His stock could only really go up after being almost exclusively a special teams player last season, but he makes this list because there simply hasn’t been any noticeable growth from year one to year two for John Simon.
Lacking outside linebacker depth, having Simon contribute on defense this year for the Ravens would help prevent a late-season decline again to a player such as Terrell Suggs, but so far, Simon hasn’t proved himself as any different of a player than last year.
He looks like the definition of “just a guy” on defense. He’ll make the team, but how much can he contribute on defense?
Like Simon, Matt Elam makes the list due to lack of growth. In an up-and-down rookie year that saw Elam play out of position at free safety (he’s still a free safety so far this season), Elam didn’t play poor per se, but there was plenty of room for improvement.
But in year two, where is that noticeable jump needed from a first-round pick?
He had a few quality run stops in the first preseason game, but overall, he hasn’t made any noticeable impact in nearly 60 snaps. Granted, it is still the preseason which doesn’t matter, but seeing fellow 2013 draft picks such as Brandon Williams, Arthur Brown and Ricky Wagner display noticeable improvements does warrant questioning of whether or not Elam can make the jump he needs to make this season.
Owen Daniels has a history with Gary Kubiak and the Ravens need better tight end depth to execute the tight end-heavy offense Kubiak brings. What could have gone wrong with signing Daniels to a non-guaranteed deal?
Well, nothing, since it won’t cost the Ravens anything if the Daniels experiment doesn’t go well in Baltimore, which appears to be the case right now.
Sitting out the last preseason game and recent practices with “sore legs,” there’s genuine concern as to whether or not Daniels will be sticking around with the team for the season.
If he’s healthy and ready to play, Daniels will be the team’s #2 tight end, but right now, let’s just worry about whether or not we even see him in a Ravens uniform this season.
The Ravens kept him on the active roster despite an injury during his 2013 rookie year, but the 2014 preseason offered Jensen’s first live game snaps in the NFL, and so far it hasn’t been pretty.
Rumored to be a right tackle candidate during the offseason, Jensen has been exclusively a guard, struggling with the second-team offense against the San Francisco 49ers before being demoted to third team for the second preseason game.
Is his spot on the final roster still a certainty at this point?