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Eisenberg: Thoughts On The Ravens Roster Cuts

Posted Aug 30, 2014

You can be sure the Ravens will still tinker with the roster, maybe at WR and CB.

When I walked into the Under Armour Performance Center Saturday morning, the first person I saw was Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome. He was ascending a staircase with a cell phone planted in his ear – his default position for the weekend, I'm sure.

His to-do list included helping decide who makes the 53-man roster, determining whether he could trade any players, and how to construct his practice squad. That's all.

By the end of the day, the Ravens were down to 53 players. Here are my thoughts on their "final" cuts:

  • Seven out wide?  -- The Ravens said they had tough choices to make at receiver, with three apparent finalists for two jobs. They ended up keeping all three, Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson and Kamar Aiken, giving them seven wide receivers in all, which seems like too many. I wouldn't be surprised to see another move impacting that position.
  • Third cornerback – Once Corey Graham left, the Ravens wanted competition for their "next man up" incumbents, Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown. They signed veterans Dominique Franks and Derrick Cox. Both seemed to hold up pretty well, but both got cut Saturday. For now, Jackson is the No. 3, Chykie Brown the No. 4. But more moves could be coming.
  • Special teams – If final roster cuts are mostly about deciding who is going to populate the kick and punt teams, Jerry Rosburg, the Ravens' special teams coordinator, had a very good day. His top five special teams tacklers from a year ago all kept their jobs: Albert McClellan, Anthony Levine, Chykie Brown, Jeromy Miles and Brynden Trawick.
  • Undrafted free agent rookies – The Ravens have a long history of finding impact players this way. Last year, it was Marlon Brown; the year before, Justin Tucker. This year, offensive tackle James Hurst and linebacker Zachary Orr made the team after not hearing their names called during the 2014 draft. Orr is a big longshot who has impressed on special teams. Right now, it's hard to envision either having a big impact, but that's sort of the point – you never see them coming. So stay tuned.
  • Offensive line depth – After much debate, here (drum roll, please) are the four guys who will back up the starting five: Gino Gradkowski, Jah Reid, James Hurst and John Urschel. It's a young group. Hurst and Urschel are rookies. Reid, a fourth-year guy, is the oldest. I figured veteran A.Q. Shipley was in because he started nine games in 2013 and could provide experience at guard and center, but the Ravens went with the upside of Urschel and Hurst, cutting Shipley. Urschel is the only true guard, but the Ravens like him, Reid has played there and Gradkowski could slide over, so they have options.
  • John Simon – The Ravens seldom part ways with a fourth-round draft pick just one year after taking him. For that reason as much as any, I thought Simon was safe. True, the second-year linebacker barely played as a rookie, and the Ravens were concerned about his ability to cover the field. But he seemingly helped his cause with a strong performance in the team's preseason finale Thursday night. No matter. Simon was cut. He'll get a shot somewhere else. The Ravens were just too deep at linebacker.
  • Going with two quarterbacks – The cutting of rookie Keith Wenning wasn't a surprise, even though he played well Thursday night. The Ravens need roster spots for guys who might actually play, and Joe Flacco's durability makes it highly unlikely that a No. 3 quarterback takes a snap. Wenning was the only member of the Ravens' 2014 draft class to get cut, but he's likely headed for the practice squad if he clears waivers.
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint – The undrafted rookie running back rushed for 103 yards Thursday night, which led to a late surge in public support for him making the team. For now, there were too many quality backs ahead of him, and the Ravens needed the roster spot for guys who cover kicks and punts. But Toussaint is another candidate for the practice squad. The Ravens don't want to see him go elsewhere and contribute, as Bobby Rainey did in Tampa a year ago.
  • My "mock" 53 -- In the interest of full disclosure, after the Ravens' preseason finale, I predicted which 53 players they would keep. Three got cut: Shipley, Simon and Franks.
  • Final roster isn't final – You can be sure the Ravens will continue to tinker. They'll make a move when suspended running back Ray Rice returns in week 3, and possibly make another when suspended safety Will Hill returns in week 7. Shoot, they could easily tinker with the roster in the coming days.

In other words, that cell phone will still be planted in Ozzie's ear.

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