Ordinarily this space is reserved for my thoughts on the Ravens’ latest game. But their 24-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams in the preseason finale Thursday night was so low key, with few starters playing and both coaches bypassing easy field goals, that there’s no use delving too deeply into who won and why.
Since this game was really all about determining the final spots on the roster, let’s get right to the matter at hand – picking the final 53. I do think several jobs were determined Thursday night, and in the wake of that, here’s what I think the Ravens’ roster will look like after they pare their squad by late Saturday afternoon’s deadline:
Quarterbacks (2) – Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor.
The only question is whether the Ravens keep a third quarterback, which they haven’t done since Taylor joined the team in 2011. Taylor’s concussion gave Caleb Hanie an opportunity to take every snap and show something Thursday night. After starting poorly, with an interception, he improved as the game went on and ended up with decent numbers. But he didn’t do enough to earn a job.
Running backs (5) – Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Vonta Leach, Kyle Juszczyk, Bobby Rainey.
I was all set to give that last spot to Anthony Allen, a special teams ace, over Rainey and Delone Carter. But Rainey is just too much of a playmaker, as he has shown throughout the preseason. He had over 100 all-purpose yards Thursday night, bulled his way to two touchdowns and was the first player Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh mentioned after the game, without prompting. If the Ravens cut him, he will land elsewhere. But why cut a good football player? Carter, meanwhile, did little with his chance, and Allen fumbled on the goal line. Allen could resurface, as he did a year ago.
Tight ends (3) – Ed Dickson, Dallas Clark, Billy Bajema.
The fans would love to see rookie free agent Matt Furstenburg make it, but the Ravens need a strong blocker rather than a receiver as their No. 3. Plus, Furstenburg didn’t finish strong Thursday night, failing to catch any of the three passes sent his way. I think he is destined for the practice squad.
Wide receivers (7) – Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Brandon Stokley, Marlon Brown, Tandon Doss, Aaron Mellette, LaQuan Williams.
I recently started thinking the Ravens wouldn’t keep Doss, who has struggled in the preseason and fallen on the depth chart. But I think he made the team with a nice performance Thursday night. In the end, he is a polished veteran who could be plugged into the mix in an emergency. But I do think he is now behind Brown, probably the No. 4 receiver at this point after scoring another touchdown Thursday night. With Deonte Thompson likely headed to an injury list, Williams makes it strictly for his value on special teams.
Offensive linemen (8) – Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, A.Q. Shipley, Jah Reid, Rick Wagner.
The Ravens usually keep nine here, but they don’t have that much depth this year, and Reid is a versatile backup, so they’re only keeping eight. Gradkowski wins the center battle with Shipley.
Defensive linemen (7) – Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Art Jones, Marcus Spears, Terrence Cody, Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson.
The Ravens are so deep in quality players here that Tyson, who played significant minutes in the Super Bowl, was on the bubble. I say he makes it because there are always injuries here, so mega-depth is warranted. The surprise is Cody, who seemed like a bubble player after his disappointing 2012 but has easily earned a job.
Linebackers (9) – Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, John Simon, Pernell McPhee, Josh Bynes, Daryl Smith, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan.
The Ravens aren’t just stocking four positions here; they’re also stocking the guts of their special teams units. Some talented football players are getting squeezed out, most noticeably Nigel Carr.
Cornerbacks (5) – Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, Marc Anthony.
Asa Jackson, a talented return man, would have taken the last spot if not for his PED suspension, which will keep him out until November. I think he has a job when he gets back. Brown had an up-and-down preseason in pass coverage but is too valuable on special teams.
Safeties (4) – Michael Huff, James Ihedigbo, Matt Elam, Omar Brown.
I was ready to give the last spot to Anthony Levine until Brown’s terrific performance Thursday night. He doesn’t have Levine’s size, but he’s an instinctive playmaker, always around the ball, and solid on special teams. Christian Thompson is suspended for the first four games, but I’m not sure he has a job when he returns. Brynden Trawick is a big guy who made too many plays Thursday night not to land on the practice squad at the very least.
Specialists (3) – Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox.
The Ravens didn’t even bring in training camp competition for any of these guys.