5 Players With Most to Prove in Preseason

Keith Wenning
Quarterback Keith Wenning during training camp: Baltimore Ravens

The 2014 NFL preseason is almost upon us, and for the Baltimore Ravens, it will be a four-game audition for many players who, by the start of the season, may be on the outside looking in when it comes to either a roster spot or significant playing time.

During last year’s preseason, Marlon Brown’s gave quite the performance. The then-rookie undrafted free agent was second in preseason snaps for Ravens offensive players, stepping up during the extended playing time with 10 catches and two touchdowns.

Training camp is where players put themselves on the map, but preseason performances are often make-or-break opportunities for many.

Starting with Thursday’s opener against the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens will have four games to settle several unanswered questions about roster spots and roles on the team.

Many players will have to prove themselves during the four-game slate this month to offer clarity heading into the regular season.

 

Terrence Brooks

Sooner or later, Brooks will be the starting free safety for the Ravens. However, the starting free safety job won’t come without competition, as Brooks has begun camp behind veteran free agent addition Darian Stewart on the depth chart.

Being lower on the depth chart might not mean too much yet (Matt Elam entered the regular season as a backup last season before being a full-time player for 15 games), though it does force Brooks to outplay the man that occupies his current spot in the starting defensive lineup.

Brooks is a much more talented player than Stewart with more coverage ability, but for rookie safeties, the mental aspect is the biggest adjustment. The rookie has had several different roles so far in the defense, and his versatility will be welcomed when/if he does eventually take on a large role for the defense this season.

In the preseason, Brooks’ physical ability is important, but what will matter most is how much of a responsibility he takes on managing the back end of the defense and proving he can be depended on early in his career.

Having an experienced and talented starting free safety in Will Hill joining the team in Week 7 makes Brooks’ room for error in the preseason even smaller.

 

Keith Wenning

Penciled in as the backup to Joe Flacco sometime soon in his NFL career, by all accounts, Wenning – a sixth-round pick out of Ball State – has done little to assert himself in his competition with Tyrod Taylor.

Keeping two quarterbacks is a much more desirable route for any team, since it opens up room for depth at positions that actually need it, but if Wenning can’t prove himself by the end of the month, the Ravens may be forced to carry three quarterbacks until he can prove that he’s a reliable option behind Flacco.

An experienced signal caller with 47 college starts to his name, Wenning may look more consistent as a passer in an actual game setting in preseason than he has in practice. If unable to undergo a quick learning curve in the coming weeks, the Ravens will have a tough decision to make at quarterback: keep both Wenning and Taylor or roll with Wenning as the lone backup.

 

Jah Reid

Through three NFL seasons, Reid has been a bust, plain and simple. As a third-round pick in 2011, Reid was expected to be a starter for the team either at tackle at guard but has struggled for playing time.

That falls on both Reid’s inability to live up to his physical capability, and the Ravens for using such a high draft pick on a player who turned out to be, well, not very good.

On an offensive line that has a fair amount of interior depth – including rookie John Urschel and second-year lineman Ryan Jensen – tackle may be where Reid needs to prove himself to make the team.

So far, the right tackle job has been Rick Wagner’s to lose, and he has done nothing in camp to suggest he shouldn’t be the starter. In the preseason, Reid’s main competition will likely be undrafted rookie James Hurst.

An experienced tackle with intriguing developmental qualities, the Ravens could find it more beneficial long term to keep Hurst on the team and simply move on from Reid.

One backup tackle may be all the Ravens keep on the final roster, leaving Reid or Hurst as the odd man out. Can Reid use the preseason to revive his career and win the backup tackle job?

 

Chykie Brown/Asa Jackson

Both make the list because as contenders for the third cornerback job, odds are one (or maybe both) will prove to be an unreliable option when it comes to finding a nickel cornerback.

The process of replacing Corey Graham has not progressed as we’re now into August, partially because of Aaron Ross’ season-ending injury, which set back the team’s pursuit of finding a capable nickel defender while also possessing depth at cornerback.

Unless veteran addition Dominique Franks or a player not currently on the roster proves himself worthy of playing time, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will be forced to send out either Brown or Jackson in nickel situations.

Brown, the more experienced defender of the two, entered training camp with the leg up in the competition against Jackson, but began the season with some struggles, opening the door for Jackson to step up his pursuit for an expanded role.

The preseason may be more important for Jackson, who has very little NFL experience in the regular season. Lack of depth and a lingering back injury to Lardarius Webb should give Jackson and Brown coverage opportunities against first and second-teamers in live action.

Can either step up and win the job or will the Ravens be forced to look elsewhere for a dependable third corner? Let us know what you think!

 

Who do you think will win the nickel corner job on the Ravens defense?
Asa Jackson (77%)
Chykie Brown (4%)
Veteran corner currently not on the roster (19%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.
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About Kyle Casey

Kyle Casey
Kyle's love of pro and college football stems from his passion for the Baltimore Ravens. He has held season tickets in section 542 of M&T Bank Stadium since 2004. He is currently a sophomore Mass Communications student at Towson University....more

5 Raves on “5 Players With Most to Prove in Preseason

  1. Tucker:M&T Sec 527 on said:

    Have they invited another punter to put the heat on Sam Koch? Personally, I think Koch should be kept, but there were those who said last season that his salary would be too high, and he wasn’t dropping punts inside the 20 like he once did. Do they save a million plus and release Koch, replacing him w/ a cheaperP?

  2. Filmstudy on said:

    Sorry Kyle, but I have to disagree on putting Reid in the top 5.

    The main downside to Reid right now (other than performance to date) is his option value. Each player’s option value declines each year for the first 4 as his years as a cheap cap cost drain away. Reid is now a 4th-year player being kept around as insurance for RT and perhaps guard (where he has already failed). I don’t see any way he’ll be anything but a backup this season and very little likelihood he will have the opportunity to play in an expanded role where he’d have a chance to be signed to a vet minimum deal in 2015.

    How about Simon, Gilmore, Taliaferro, Pierce, Forsett, Juice, Hurst, Urschel, BWilliams, or Cody? Those folks are all either playing for jobs, a significantly expanded role, and/or avoiding a mysterious “amoria phlebitis” diagnosis at the end of camp.

  3. jws on said:

    I CAN SEE YOU ARE NOT GET SMARTER WITH MY DALY EMAIL REPORTS I SENT
    TO FANS OR WITH MY ARTICLES ON FANSFASTASYFOOTBALL.COM WEBSITE.
    IF YOU DID YOU WOULD KNOW REID,WENNING WILL NOT MAKE THE TEAM
    AND STEWART IS LIKELY THE 3RD CORNER NICKLE BACK IF WEBB’S BACK
    DOES NOT IMPROVE AND JACKSON MUST BE THE STARTER IF FRANKS
    DOES NOT PLAY BETTER IN PRESSEASON. SINCE YOU KNOW ALOT ABOUT THE
    RAVENS YOU KNOW ELAM IS PLAYING NOT A STRICT STRONG SAFETY POSITION AND
    HE WILL BE WONDERING ALLOVER IN THIS YEAR’S DEFENSE.
    WONDERING DEEPER
    DEEEPER ON SOME FORMATIONS OFFENSES SHOW.

  4. Unibomber on said:

    Two birds, one stone? Let’s see what Brooks has at corner. He played that during his first 2 years in college and he has the speed and the skills to do it. Maybe he could follow in the footsteps of Webb.

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