However, what is surprising, and mostly disappointing, is how some of the younger players are not stepping up and grabbing this golden opportunity. With the stench of last week’s preseason game still lingering, players need to capitalize on what is before them; namely preseason game number three. This is a big week.
With the first round of cuts looming on August 27th, here is my first attempt at filling out the roster for the 2013 Baltimore Ravens.
Quarterback (2): Joe Flacco, Tyrod. Taylor
Comment: This is a no-brainer as Caleb Hanie has no chance whatsoever.
Running Back (3): Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Vonta Leach
Bubble: Anthony Allen, Bobby Rainey
Comment: Allen has a chance because of how he excels on special teams. Rainey doesn't quite fit on this team, as he is a poor-man’s Rice, but I don’t believe he lasts on the practice squad as he has some value to other teams.
Offensive Line (8): Bryant McKinnie, Marshall Yanda, Gino Gradkowski, Kelechi Osemele, Michael Oher, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley, Rick Wagner
Bubble: Ramon Harewood, Jack Cornell*
Comment: Harewood is a potential cut, as Wagner has performed quite admiringly thus far. Wagner, under offensive line coach Juan Castillo’s tutelage, could push for a starting position in the coming years. Because of the depth here, Cornell is certain to be on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the team outright.
H-back (1): Kyle Juszczyk
Bubble & Comment: None. Juszczyk is not ready to be a fullback, and he isn’t a tight end. So, he gets his own space on this list.
Tight End (3): Ed Dickson, Dallas Clark, Matt Furstenburg
Bubble: Visanthe Shiancoe, Billy Bajema
Comment: I may be in the minority, but I think Furstenburg gets the nod over the veterans. I think he was slotted to be the third tight end back in the spring, before the injuries to this position. Clark makes Shiancoe expendable. Bajema might squeak onto the team as he is the only in-line tight end who can block.
Wide Receiver (5): Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, Brandon Stokley, Tandon Doss
Bubble: David Reed, LaQuan Williams, Aaron Mellette, Marlon Brown*, Tommy Streeter*
Comment: This is the one position that will affect many other roster spots. How many receivers do they can keep: six, seven, or possibly even eight? Depending on how many receivers the team carries will depend how many they can afford in other positions. Mellette has made the biggest surge (even getting reps with the ones on practice Sunday) and is in position to make the team. Of course, the team could cut Jones and elevate another player. In the end, I think they keep seven with the last spot between Williams and Mellette.
Defensive Line (5): Arthur Jones, Brandon Williams, Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears
Bubble: Terrence Cody, DeAngelo Tyson, Will Pericak*
Comment: A potential buh-bye to Mount Cody is waiting in the wings. Yes, he has raised his game this preseason. But I’m not sure it is enough (unless the 2nd round label is too tough to swallow). Tyson seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle with the depth the team has accumulated.
Outside Linebacker (6): Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee, John Simon, Adrian Hamilton
Comment: After a year of wondering where a pass rush would be coming from, the Ravens have quickly overhauled this position. They are deep.
Middle Linebacker (4): Daryl Smith, Arthur Brown, Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan
Bubble: Nigel Carr, Bryan Hall, Brandon Copeland*
Comment: With Jameel McClain a possible IR candidate, or even an injury settlement candidate, the Ravens are set here. Carr and Hall, particularly Hall, can provide special teams help which may help their cause for the final roster.
Defensive Backs (4): Laradrius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown
Bubble: Moe Lee, Marc Anthony, Asa Jackson
Comment: Surprisingly, there is little depth after the regulars. The recent release of Chris Johnson affects the overall depth. All of that bodes well for undrafted free agent Lee and draft pick Anthony (affectionately nicknamed J-Lo). Lee has simply outplayed Anthony. Depending on other position battles, there may be as many as two spots up for grabs.
Safety (3): Michael Huff, Matt Elam, James Ihedigbo
Bubble: Omar Brown, Christian Thompson, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick*
Comment: The Ravens are set here, but one injury could change things dramatically. That thrusts Brown into the conversation as he has out-performed Thompson.
Kicker: Justin Tucker
Long Snapper: Morgan Cox
Punter: Sam Koch
Comment: The Wolfpack are secure.
* = Practice Squad
Some sort of IR: Dennis Pitta, Jameel McClain, Kapron Lewis-Moore
Suspensions: Jackson (8 games), Thompson (4 games)
By my count, there are six spots up for grabs among all of the bubble players.
On offense, Reed’s contract and special team prowess make him a good-bet. Mellette’s recent resilience pushes him up the depth chart. I think they are in.
On the defensive side of the ball, the lack of depth at cornerback, coupled with Johnson’s release, puts Anthony and Lee on the team. Brown, “Baby Ed Reed”, provides some depth at safety and on special teams. He makes it.
The last spot comes down to Allen, Williams, Cody, and Hall. This was a very tough decision as all three are capable of making this team, and all three have value. I think Allen’s chemistry with Jones on special teams makes him a compelling pick. If Williams asserts himself into the wide receiver battle, he may make a late push. Hall’s dedication in the off-season transforming himself from a lineman to a linebacker shows his dedication to the team. In the end, I think Hall edges Cody and the others because of his attitude—he is a John Harbaugh kind of player.
I labored over this list for quite a bit, changing my mind many times. Much can change with this week’s practice and important preseason game. Therefore, another iteration of the 53-man roster looms.