The Ravens have until Saturday at 6:00 p.m. to establish their 53-man roster. In some cases, players are fighting for a chance to live a dream by playing in the NFL, for others, they’re just trying to extend their career and collect another NFL-sized paycheck before being forced into retirement.
Currently, the Ravens are in a bit of a predicament, with eight wide receivers still remaining on the roster, all of which have either made an NFL roster before, or have enough talent to do so now. Let’s take a look at some key players by position and try to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
The Ravens backfield situation is one that will be unique heading into the regular season. While most of the league has devalued running backs, the Ravens will carry two on their roster this season. The amount of members of the backfield may be the same (4), but I believe it’ll be an even split this year between running backs and fullbacks.
Rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk has been praised for having good hands, but he’ll likely be used as an emergency third running back if necessary. Last season, third-string running back Anthony Allen only carried the ball 16 times, mostly in mop-up duty during meaningless parts of the game. If Juszczyk appears to be able to carry Allen’s minor workload, it could spell trouble for for the third-year running back.
Anthony Allen: If Allen makes the team, he’ll be on thin ice. Allen has essentially be relegated to a one-trick pony, albeit a major contributor on special teams and the Pro Bowl season Jacoby Jones had last year as a kick returner. Juszczyk’s versatility could likely lead Allen to the unemployment line as special teams coach Jerry Rosburg already confirmed that Juszczyk and Allen play similar positions and are interchangeable if necessary.
That may not just mean by position, Rosburg could also be talking about job roles as well.
Prediction: 53-man roster, with no job security
Bobby Rainey: For the second-straight season, Rainey has put together fantastic game film during the preseason. Unfortuantely for Rainey, the Ravens don’t have a roster spot to burn on someone who just has a bunch of potential. In the two areas he excels (running back and kick returns), the Ravens have talent that will ensure that Rainey wouldn’t be active on game days.
While I hate to see him go, Rainey deserves a shot at some significant playing time, and that’ll come elsewhere in the NFL. Look for Rainey to be scooped up by another team hungry for a playmaker.
Prediction: Cut, with a bright future ahead of him.
Delone Carter: Last week, the Ravens received Carter in a trade from the Indianapolis Colts for WR/RS David Reed. I believe the Ravens were doing Colts head coach Chuck Pagano a favor because they knew Reed wasn’t going to factor into their plans. In the Colts’ eyes, Reed wasn’t worth surrendering a draft pick for, so Carter was the other piece of the trade as he was likely going to be released in Indy. Carter has an uphill climb to make a quick impression on the Ravens coaching staff, one already struggling to find ways to get running backs not named Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce on the field.
UPSET ALERT: Could rookie Matt Furstenburg actually beat out veteran Dallas Clark? Most people probably don’t believe so, but the former Maryland Terp has a good case to present. The new-era of the Ravens appears to be choosing youth over experience, and the same may be said about Furstenburg.
Billy Bajema: Popular opinion is that Bajema won’t make the team this season. I think a lot of people discount how much of a blocking tight end he is for the Ravens, whom with Dickson as a pass catching threat, is the only blocker the team has. Juszczyk is a good blocker and has been utilized as an H-Back, but I don’t see the team going with three pass catching TE’s.
Prediction: 53-man roster, only because of his blocking
Dallas Clark: I know he’s a big name TE, and maybe that comes with bigger expectations, but I’ve yet to really be impressed with Clark. When praised, it’s for his hands more-so than anything, but Clark has been shaky thus far. Clark also isn’t a blocking option as he has trimmed down from his previous playing weight and doesn’t have the muscle he once had as a member of the Colts.
Matt Furstenburg: He’s fast, he has good hands and he’s put plenty of good plays on film throughout training camp. Popular opinion is that Furstenburg will be placed on practice squad, but with the Ravens unlikely to retain both Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson next season, is Furstenburg their guy?
If released, there is a good chance that another team could claim Furstenburg off of waivers and add him to their team. It remains to be seen if the Ravens want to take that chance, but I think their roster is better served with Furstenburg than a one-year rental on Dallas Clark.
Prediction: Furstenburg in, Clark out (it may not be popular but it’s possible)
So many other moves impact the receiver position, that it’s almost impossible to really know what’s going to happen. The wide receiving corps has enough talent that could make an active roster, but most of them aren’t good enough to start. With eight wideouts that have potential, look for six to be the magic number if Deonte Thompson is placed on IR.
Deonte Thompson: I personally believe that Thompson draws more praise than he should. His foot injury during training camp was unfortunate, because we cannot get a great gauge as to his abilities heading into his second season. I don’t think the Ravens have room for Thompson on their active roster, much for the same reason Bobby Rainey likely won’t make the team.
Thompson is a body catcher, which doesn’t bode well for a guy playing in the slot if needed. As far as on the outside, his style closely resembles that of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, who are burners. On special teams as a kick returner, the Ravens have a few options and don’t necessarily need Thompson, who started five games last season as a returner.
Prediction: Injured Reserve, out of practice squad eligibility and worth keeping around
Tandon Doss: Doss certainly hasn’t shown anything to prove he’s deserving of a roster spot. It was apparent on Thursday night that he’s not on the same page as quarterback Joe Flacco, who is the primary reason Doss is playing in Baltimore in the first place.
With younger guys on the roster who are far more valuable to the team and contribute on both special teams and their skill positions, Doss has to go, especially if a trade is made.
Marlon Brown: The undrafted rookie free agent has turned heads during training camp, especially those of his coaches. Between he and Aaron Mellette, I think Brown gets the nod as the sole rookie to crack the wide receiver depth chart.
Prediction: 53-man roster
Aaron Mellette: Despite having a very good training camp, Brown has out-shined him so far. Mellette has potential, but is unlikely to find it on the roster this year. I’d expect him to get the Tommy Streeter treatment and be placed on Injured Reserve so he’ll have another chance to prove himself next season. On the practice squad, Mellette would likely be picked up by another team.
Prediction: If Doss stays, he’ll go on IR to protect his rights for another season. If Doss is cut, he’ll make the team.
LaQuan Williams: When the Ravens traded Reed, I believe that was to make room for Williams on the active roster. Williams has greater potential as a receiver than Reed, even though he’s still very raw. On special teams, Williams has played on almost every unit with the first team, and it’s hard to see the Ravens letting a multi-faceted player like that walk.
Prediction: 53-man roster
Not much needs to be said about the offensive line, who will replace only one member from their Super Bowl starters. Gino Gradkowski has seemed to earn the starting job, beating out A.Q. Shipley, who will also make the team as a backup.
Here are some notable players worth talking about though:
Rick Wagner: A fifth-round pick by the Ravens, Wagner has been adjusting to the NFL. Wisconsin is known for breeding offensive lineman, and that’s what the Ravens are hoping to receive from Wagner. At times, Wagner has struggled against Suggs and Dumervil, but for the most part has put together a decent training camp.
Prediction: 53-man roster, won’t receive much playing time
Antoine McClain: Primarily a practice squad player last season, McClain hasn’t done anything to stand out to earn a shot on the active roster this year.
Note: Defensive breakdown will be posted on Tuesday.
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