Stock Up, Stock Down at Midway Point of Preseason

Jensen
Ryan Jensen during Ravens 2014 OTA's (Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens)

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?

STOCK UP

Asa Jackson

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.

Kyle Juszczyk

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.

Brandon Williams

If you’ve been following along this preseason, it isn’t too hard to understand just how well Brandon Williams has played.

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.

Tramain Jacobs

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.

Gino Gradkowski

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.

STOCK DOWN

Chykie Brown

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.

John Simon

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?

Matt Elam

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

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.

Ryan Jensen

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?

11 Raves on “Stock Up, Stock Down at Midway Point of Preseason

  1. Smh212 on said:

    Kyle,
    W/ regards to Elam, what are you basing your opinion of Elam on? In other words, what defensive assignments has he blown? Is it is coverage skills, overall awarness? Not understa sing the scheme? In addition, given his extensive play at FS again this year, don’t you think it’s possible that’s the position the Ravens see him playing? Interestes to hearing your thoughts.

    • Kyle CaseyKyle Casey on said:

      Just haven’t noticed any inherent impact thus far in the preseason, while other 2013 rookies have gone noticed with ease. And if the Ravens indeed see him playing FS this year and beyond, I think that’s simply not the best utilization of skill set for a player who struggles in coverage.

      • Ed on said:

        Wait, I’m sorry I’m confused – I thought Darian Stewart was playing FS and Elam was now playing SS? Is this not the case, and if not, why?

        We were told all last season and off season that Elam was playing out of position at FS and part of the reason we expected so much more from him this year is because of the move to the SS position, which he’s better suited for.

        Is that not the case so far this preseason?

  2. Bo on said:

    The Ravens can upgrade and save a pile of money by putting Elam on the bubble and promoting Omar. The front office became enamored with Elam’s slick pre-draft highlight reel.

    I have a neighbor who’s son played HS football (and not very well). He created an impressive highlight reel for prospective colleges and sure enough, got a scholarship to a Div I3 school. Great kid, but, the reel made him look like Superman on the field when he was Jimmy Olson at best.

    The Ravens got snookered and hopefully the producer of that reel got a few $mil for his/her work.

    • RobFuse on said:

      I loved Omar Brown, but I think I’m ready to say Omar just isn’t that guy. He hung around the ball the last couple season, made plays, but he showed in preseason that his coverage and tackling just isn’t that good. He doesn’t even stand out on special teams. I don’t see him even making the team. Getting lucky turnovers isn’t enough to make an NFL team.

  3. Mark on said:

    Who saw what in Jensen last year to take a valuable spot on the 53 for the whole season? They must have thought somebody would snatch him off the practice squad. A season of practice, healthy and an off season in the weight room and he can’t even run with the 2′s in a pre-season game.

    • Mike B. on said:

      Your statement is not factual. No one on the Ravens coaching staff ever claimed that Jensen cannot perform with the number 2 offense. I think all of you have an issue with Jensen because he isn’t a D1 product, he’s a D2 product.

  4. Tommy.O on said:

    @BO that comment is false. Elam i think is playing alot more free safety this preseason which takes him away from his strength which is a in the box safety. But the lack of free safety makes him the only candidate.

  5. Nick on said:

    I agree with all but Gradkowski, Elam and Daniels. Gradkowski in my opinion hasn’t gone up or down. He was a an NFL starter last season and with his average play at best this preseason with the second stringers does not warrant any real gain, but puts him where he best fits, as a backup. Elam came in as rookie and played out of position. Not only did he out perform his expectations for his rookie season (was supposed to be back up behind Huff) he took a starting job after the first game and played way better than the veteran. Was he incredible, no, but he still finished with decent stats minus creating as many turnovers as we may have wanted. For a rookie playing out of position, I’ll take that and with him going back and forth between strong and free this preseason he is lining up in different spots trying to get a grasp on different NFL position yet again. With a new position and an added role in the defense, there is going to be some learning that needs to be done. Has he stood out this preseason? No, but it’s still just preseason and I don’t think his play as of yet have warranted either a stock up or stock down designation. Lastly, Daniels. He is getting old, that’s all there is too it. But I don’t think for one second that he won’t be kept. He is a proven veteran in Kubiak’s system and sore legs or not, I don’t see the ravens cutting the most comfortable tight end in there new offense. He knows this offense, he knows what he is supposed to do and he is a veteran so why not let him rest his legs and save him for when he is needed in the regular season games. He has a low to no risk contract, so it would suit the ravens to take advantage of that and his skill and knowledge with the system.

  6. Mike B. on said:

    Everyone who is complaining about Ryan Jensen has not truly studied the tape and paid attention to the recent activities and feedback from the coaching staff.

    Jensen has not lost his position as the number 2 right guard and John Urschel did not beat Jensen out his position. Jensen sprained his ankle in the first preseason game and sat out of practice for four days. As a result, Urschel was moved up to the number spot merely because he saw more practice days that week and was better prepared for the second preseason game. A coaching staff decision had nothing to do with Jensen’s performance in game one. While Jensen did have a slow start in game one, he recovered and even received praise for his run blocking.

    Further more, on the Raven’s official website still lists Jensen as the #2 right guard.

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