Tonight’s preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons will not attract much attention from Baltimore Ravens fans, but it certainly will be the main focus for the coaching staff and front office as final cuts loom.
With the roster at 75 players, 22 moves must be made before Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline by which time all NFL rosters will have to be at 53 players.
Between now and Saturday, the only chance players will have to make a final impression before deadline day is the matchup with the Falcons, creating value in the game for most of the roster. With no starters set to suit up against Atlanta, the backups will be the focus, as will the ongoing position and roster battles that remain to be settled. According to John Harbaugh 43 players will be dressed at the Georgia Dome.
What should be the focus for fans against the Falcons?
Can Terrance Magee or Fitz Toussaint fill in for Lorenzo Taliaferro?
Simply put: the Ravens do not have to keep Magee or Toussaint on the active roster until Taliaferro returns to the field. If Taliaferro is only going to miss, say, the season opener against the Denver Broncos, then the offense could survive with just Justin Forsett and Buck Allen at running back.
However, if Taliaferro’s MCL sprain is severe enough to keep him on the sideline for multiple regular season games, then it may become necessary for the Ravens to carry an extra running back, thus creating an opportunity for Magee and Toussaint.
So far during the preseason, neither have excelled, thanks in part to poor offensive line play among the reserves, but also a noticeable lack of playmaking ability by either running back. Of the two, Magee – an undrafted rookie – has shown more promise, and a strong performance in the preseason finale would surely earn him practice squad priority, and possibly a spot on the active roster while Taliaferro recovers.
Can Jeremy Butler make a final push?
An offseason superstar, Butler has stood out as an ideal possession receiver throughout the preseason, however, he has not made as noticeable of a year-two jump as expected. Thus, he has been leapfrogged by rookie Darren Waller in the roster battle, as Waller offers more potential and could contribute in year one.
If Butler simply goes through the motions on Thursday night and fails to make a lasting impression, it will no surprise to see him among the team’s final cuts on Saturday afternoon.
Will a return man FINALLY emerge?
Probably not, but for the sake of previewing the game, we can acknowledge that given Asa Jackson’s extensive playing time as a return man during the first three preseason games, he appears to be the team’s top in-house choice.
The problem with the situation is that Jackson, quite frankly, should not be on the final roster as he is an average return man with below average cover skills. Unless Jackson or another new candidate shines in the return game against Atlanta, the Ravens may need to make a post-final-cuts move to shore up their return man situation.
Trindon Holliday is available. He has to be better than the team’s current options, right?
Can Tray Walker right the ship?
Undoubtedly Baltimore’s worst performer in coverage last Saturday against the Washington Redskins, Walker is walking on thin ice when it comes to his perceived value to the team in 2015. While noted as a project when selected, Walker’s struggles against Washington were even worse than anticipated.
Luckily for Walker, he is sure to see plenty of playing time against Atlanta, which offers him an opportunity to head into the regular season on a high note.
As a fourth round selection, it is unlikely Walker would slip through waivers and make it to the practice squad, so the Ravens may need to commit to Walker on the active roster for the season. Right now, he is far from a likely contributor on defense, but earning extra reps on Thursday night could go a long way towards his development.