For the most part tonight, when the Ravens take on the Saints in New Orleans, many will wonder why the teams even bothered to play the game. The game is hardly a sight for sore eyes. But for 74 players, 37 from each team, tonight’s performances can change lives, alter NFL dreams.
On Saturday by 4PM Eastern Standard Time, all 32 teams must trim their rosters from 90 players to fifty-three. In some cases, coaching staffs have already made up their minds and even superlative efforts tonight might not matter. Just ask former Ravens fourth-round pick John Simon who was dumped after one season. He was lights out during his preseason finale in 2014 with the Ravens, and despite being a favorite of the team’s scouts, he was cut anyway.
But that said, tonight’s results will definitely impact the roster and possibly the team’s depth chart. Here are five things to focus in on tonight – the game within the game.
Josh Woodrum is likely to receive most of the first half snaps and his playing time could leak into the second half as well. If he doesn’t play in the second half, that could be an indication that the Ravens are going to try and slide him onto the 10-man practice squad. But for now, the backup job belongs to Ryan Mallett. If Woodrum somehow avoids “The Turk” on Saturday along with Mallett, consider it a cause for concern. It would mean that Flacco’s back issues are expected to linger.
It’s unlikely that the Ravens will keep a fullback – at least not one among the current 90 players. Lorenzo Taliaferro has looked lost at fullback while Ricky Ortiz has been rather pedestrian and is a practice squad candidate at best. Patrick Ricard is likely to be one of the UDFA’s that make the team and he’ll split FB duties with Nick Boyle, who will play a hybrid role.
We’ve heard it forever…Ravens lack depth at wide receiver. It’s possible that they’ll keep more than five although only four are deserving and one of those has been sidelined for over 3 weeks (Breshad Perriman) while another, Michael Campanaro is on the Christmas card list of each of the team’s trainers. Chris Moore will make the team but he’s been a big disappointment. Quincy Adeboyejo has fallen from grace and will need a bounce back game in The Big Easy tonight if he wants to avoid The Turk.
The Ravens have to be tickled with the performances of their young players across the defensive front. Brent Urban has looked like a Pro Bowler while Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis and Willie Henry have all had plus efforts this summer. A trade is possible but if one isn’t made, third-round pick Chris Wormley might suffer a season-ending hang nail tonight that effectively redshirts him as a rookie.
Kamalei Correa has been given every opportunity to earn the inside backer job beside C.J. Mosley. He’s made some progress but struggles to shed blocks. Meanwhile Patrick Onwuasor has been impressive. Correa is probably the favorite to start but that’s purely political given his second-round draft status from a year ago. Keep an eye on Bam Bradley. He’s another UDFA who has a shot given Albert McClellan’s season ending ACL injury.
The Ravens are proud of their ability to uncover undrafted players who can play in the big leagues. The next UDFA to make the team will mark the 14th consecutive season that the Ravens have found an undrafted keeper for the final 53-man squad. In 2017 look for the team to not only keep the streak alive, they are likely to keep as many as four UDFA’s.
CB Jaylen Hill is a slam dunk and RB Taquan Mizzell might not be far behind. Patrick Ricard has better than a 50/50 shot while LB Bam Bradley is a dark horse on the rise.
So in between the yawns, the penalty flags and the broadcast crew’s attempts to keep things interesting, focusing upon what is essentially a fight for survival for some, could capture your attention and keep you from waking up to, “Honey, the game is over. Come up to bed…”
And by all means, respect the players who have nurtured lifelong dreams to play in the NFL.
Their respective days of reckoning are just hours away.