With just one preseason game to go, a good portion of the 53-man roster looks set in stone. Still, dozens of bubble players will be fighting for their jobs on Saturday, attempting to make cut down day as hard as possible for Ravens decision makers. Here are the 10 players with the most to gain (or lose) in the preseason finale.
Maybe no player’s spot on the team has diminished as much as Justice Hill’s has this preseason, as the third year running back has failed to set himself apart from his competition. Hill ran for an unspectacular eight yards on five attempts in the first preseason game against New Orleans, and hasn’t practiced in the two weeks since that game with an ankle sprain. Meanwhile, Ty’Son Williams has done more than enough to take Hill’s spot.
The Ravens do like Hill as a gunner on punt coverage, and that may be what eventually keeps him around. But if Hill is again unable to go in the preseason finale, he may well find himself on the chopping block.
Trending the opposite direction from Hill is Williams, who’s done everything to prove he deserves to take over the third running back spot. He’s totaled 88 yards on 20 carries through the two games with a nice touchdown run to seal the win over Carolina.
Through two games, the 24-year-old has shown good balance and speed, made good cuts and hit holes hard. Pushing for a spot on the team, he’ll likely beat out Hill with another solid showing against Washington.
The offensive line situation, particularly at tackle, has been a dire one for the Ravens throughout camp. Ronnie Stanley has recently begun fully practicing, but his absence throughout the preseason has shined a light on the team’s biggest need: a swing tackle.
Michael Schofield could prove to be that guy. He’s taken a majority of the left tackle snaps through two games and has played well. The sure things on the line seem to be Stanley, Ben Powers, Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland, Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari, Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva. With eight spots seemingly in place, the ninth – and probably final – spot likely comes down to either Schofield or Trystan Colon. Schofield’s advantage is that he’s maybe the best option to step in for Stanley at left tackle if need be, and that he’s the only true tackle outside of Stanley and Villanueva.
As previously mentioned, the ninth spot along the offensive line could come down to Schofield or Colon, and the positional advantage favors Schofield. Colon has been mostly limited to center between last season and training camp this year. With so many other interior lineman (Bozeman, Powers, Phillips, Cleveland, Mekari), does it make sense to keep six guards and centers while only keeping two tackles?
It would take a strong showing in the final preseason game to sway the decision-makers in Colon’s favor over Schofield, but maybe they ultimately decide to keep both and roll with 10 linemen.
After an excellent game last week in Carolina, Powers is currently leading the way in the left guard competition, albeit mostly due to struggles of Phillips and a concussion limiting Cleveland up to this point. Nonetheless, Powers has taken advantage of the opportunity and likely earned a starting spot because of it.
With another good outing in the finale, he’ll surely secure the left guard position to at least open the regular season.
The concussion has sidelined Cleveland for weeks now, and he’s unfortunately fallen behind in the battle for the starting left guard spot that many handed him prior to camp. This Saturday should be his first opportunity to show what he’s got in a live game scenario. A good performance can the chance to solidify his spot as the backup to Powers with the chance to take over should either he continue to impress in practice over the coming weeks or Powers struggles in the regular season.
When Justin Houston was signed, many speculated that Jaylon Ferguson was squarely on the roster bubble heading into the preseason. The decision to keep or not to keep Ferguson will ultimately fall on whether the Ravens want five or six outside linebackers, but Ferguson’s great preseason has certainly made them lean toward six.
If he does make the team, the outside linebacker position could turn into a six man group to make five on game days, leaving one of the bunch inactive on Sundays. The situation was similar in 2020, with Ferguson and Jihad Ward taking turns being active.
No one benefits from the Shaun Wade trade more than Washington. The undrafted free agent safety from TCU has impressed both in camp and preseason games – enough, in fact, to make Wade expendable.
With Tavon Young not playing, Washington has played the second most snaps in the slot this preseason with 25, trailing only Brandon Stephens’ 36. That’s what we all thought Wade’s role would be, but Washington overtook him for that spot. He’s gone from on the edge of the bubble at the start of camp to almost a lock to make the roster currently, and another good preseason game would likely cement his place on the team.
Similarly to Washington, Nigel Warrior has also had a nice preseason and also benefits from Wade’s departure. It was a loaded secondary group that, fortunately for Warrior, just got a little bit thinner.
Still, Warrior is on the outside looking in at the final roster. He’s played mostly outside corner through two weeks of preseason, but seems to be behind Chris Westry on the depth chart. Westry figures to be the CB6 as it stands now, and with Washington and Stephens also getting time at slot corner, keeping seven true cornerbacks will be tough. All that Warrior can control is how he plays Saturday. A good performance will make for a challenging cut down day next week.
Anthony Levine’s spot on the team is a tricky one. On one hand, you have his leadership qualities and special teams prowess, which the coaching staff clearly value. On the other hand, you have the fact that he’s 34 years old and hasn’t been a big contributor on defense in years.
On defense, there’s no chance Levine is ahead of Stephens, Washington, Stone, or any of the cornerbacks in the pecking order; his best days as a box safety are behind him. His only way to contribute on the field is through special teams, a role that could have greater importance now with the injury to fellow veteran L.J. Fort. If Levine sticks around, it’ll be to play special teams and for the veteran mentorship he could provide young defensive backs. Ironically, it would come at the expense of one of those young defensive backs being cut. We’ll see how much time the coaching staff gives their veterans in this unprecedented third and final preseason game. If they run things as regular-season dress rehearsal, the game could give fans a window into how Levine is utilized and how they see his role and future. If the vets are mostly resting or in street clothes as in the old fourth preseason games, we’ll be left guessing on Co-Cap – as with many of those on list – until Tuesday.