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Late For Work 8/22: Sizing Up Ravens Roster Midway Through Preseason

Posted Aug 22, 2017

17 players whose stock has gone up or down. Za'Darius Smith is smiling again after a down year. A pair of former Ravens are in the news, including Deonte Thompson with a 109-yard return for a touchdown.


Sizing Up Ravens Roster Midway Through Preseason

With training camp and half of the preseason in the books, let’s take a look at where things stand with the roster.

For those of you entering our “You Pick the Team” contest, predicting the final 53-man roster has been made slightly more difficult because you have to make decisions for 90 players instead of 75. The league got rid of its 75-man cutdown day, which used to occur prior to the final preseason game. Now, all teams have to cut their roster nearly in half from 90 to 53 all at once by Sept. 2.

Well, WNST’s Luke Jones has provided you with a little cheat sheet, publishing his current predictions, including what he says are 41 locks and 23 players on the bubble:

QUARTERBACKS
Lock: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Bubble: None
Long shot: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
As well as Woodrum has played, and as likable as he is … sorry, Jones doesn’t see him supplanting Mallett as the primary backup.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS
Lock: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
BubbleRicky Ortiz, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Taquan Mizzell
Long shot: Bobby Rainey
Injured reserve: Kenneth Dixon
Right now, Jones projects Ortiz as the winner of the fullback spot over Taliaferro. That said, the Ravens are experimenting with undrafted rookie defensive lineman Patrick Ricard at the spot. So, the coaches clearly haven’t settled on either Ortiz or Taliaferro at this point.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Lock
: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BubbleMichael CampanaroQuincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
Long shot: Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
Injured reserve: Tim White
It’s a shame that White, the Olympic-caliber track star, was lost for the year with a thumb injury. The Ravens were taking a long look at the undrafted rookie as the punt and kick returner, and he added playmaking ability on both special teams and offense. Now, Jones projects Campanaro and Adeboyejo as the two bubble players to join the four locks. Jones wants to see more out of Moore, but expects him to make the roster.

TIGHT ENDS
Lock: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
Bubble: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell
Long shot: Ryan Malleck
Injured Reserve: Crockett Gillmore
Jones believes the Ravens would like to keep four tight ends this year. If that’s the case, free-agent pickup Donnell has stood out, notching a touchdown and two-point conversion in Thursday’s preseason game and making other nice plays throughout training camp. If this group remains healthy, they have a good chance to help the team recover from the losses of Dennis Pitta, Gillmore and Darren Waller.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Lock: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor
BubbleJeremy ZuttahMatt Skura, De’Ondre Wesley
Long shot: Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir, Derrick Nelson
Injured reserve: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
Jones has all three bubble players making the team. And if you’re wondering why he designated Zuttah as a bubble player after the Ravens just signed him to a multi-year deal and said he will compete for the starting center role, here’s his explanation: “The re-signed Zuttah might be a lock, but he’s not a great fit for Greg Roman’s scheme and has essentially been cut by two teams in the last five months, meaning he still needs to prove himself.”

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Lock: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi
BubbleCarl Davis, Patrick Ricard, Willie Henry
Long shot: None
Henry is the odd man out in Jones’ predictions for this very deep and talented defensive line group. But that doesn’t mean Henry will be cut outright. Head Coach John Harbaugh has mentioned the possibility of trading one of these linemen.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS
Lock: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor
Bubble: Bam Bradley
Long shot: Brennen Beyer, Donald Payne
There doesn’t seem to be much drama here, although Jones gave Bradley a hat tip by putting him in the 53-man roster conversation after a strong preseason. And while he’s a lock, “the Ravens need to see more consistency out of Correa in a starting role,” Jones wrote.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
Lock: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
Bubble: Za’Darius Smith
Long shot: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
A year ago, Smith’s place on this roster seemed much more certain. But an infusion at the position with a pair of rookies from the second and third rounds, plus the emergence of Judon, has put Smith on the bubble. “A strong start to the preseason has improved Smith’s stock, but he still feels like a candidate to be traded for help at another position of need,” wrote Jones.

CORNERBACKS
Lock: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BubbleJaylen HillSheldon Price, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Robertson Daniel
Long shot: Reggie Porter
Injured reserve: Tavon Young, Maurice Canady (designated to return candidate)

The injuries to Young and Canady changed the makeup of this group. Jones projects only five corners making make the team, selecting Hill and Price as the two to join the three locks on the roster. Jones was tempted to name Hill a lock. That’s how good the rookie free agent has been. Based on how often injuries have taken a toll on this group in the past, you’d think the Ravens would want to carry more than five corners, but “Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine are slated to play the nickel and dime spots to minimize the need for an extra corner,” Jones wrote.

SAFETIES
Lock
: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BubbleChuck Clark
Long shot: Otha Foster
Because of his special-teams prowess, Jones has Clark making the team.

SPECIALISTS
Lock: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
Bubble: None
Long shot: Kenny Allen
Really not much to see here in terms of roster decisions, but Tucker is a massive weapon for the Ravens and will be a major factor in winning games.

17 Players Whose Stock Has Gone Up or Down

Want even more information as you try to make your roster choices? Of course you do.

The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec looks at whose stock has gone up or down recently:

Stock up
1) RB Buck Allen:
Zrebiec said Allen’s been the “most effective” back so far.
2) ILB Bam Bradley: He could be this year’s version of another undrafted middle linebacker succeeding.
3) WR Michael Campanaro:
Despite injuries, he’s outplayed other candidates for the fifth receiver spot and he’s the top punt returner, says Zrebiec.
4) CB Jaylen Hill: From minicamp to training camp to preseason games, Hill hasn’t stopped making plays. Zrebiec would be surprised if he didn’t make the roster.
5) OL James Hurst:  Playing at three different positions and being one of a few healthy offensive linemen, Zrebiec says Hurst deserves to start somewhere along the line.
6) OLB Za’Darius Smith: Zrebiec differs from Jones slightly, saying he thinks Smith has played his way onto the team, especially since Williams is developing more slowly.
7) QB Josh Woodrum: His strong play has put him in practice squad consideration, whether with the Ravens or elsewhere.

Stock down
1) CB Brandon Boykin:
A “slow start” and undisclosed injury may knock Boykin out of roster contention.
2) ILB Kamalei Correa: Zrebiec calls him the “biggest question mark” on defense and his inconsistency leaves the door open for Patrick Onwuasor.
3) QB Ryan Mallett: “I don’t believe Mallett has played as poorly in the preseason games as some have suggested,” wrote Zrebiec. “However, I do believe he hasn’t been nearly good enough to have much confidence in the offense if starter Joe Flacco isn’t ready to start the regular season.”
4) WR Chris Moore: Moore’s roster spot seems secure, but that’s “more because other wide receivers have either struggled or gotten hurt.”
5) WR Keenan Reynolds: His transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver is noticeable, but Zrebiec says it still hasn’t translated to games.
6) RB Bobby Rainey: Zrebiec sees Rainey as the fifth back on the depth chart, and leapfrogging up two spots will be hard to do.
7) RB Lorenzo Taliaferro: It isn’t a “good sign” that the Ravens are experimenting with Ricard at fullback.
8) DE Chris Wormley: The third-round rookie’s roster spot seems safe, but Zrebiec puts him behind Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi, and as such, may not dress on gamedays.

Za’Darius Smith Is Smiling Again After Down Year

The 2015 fourth-round pick is smiling again after a strong game against the Miami Dolphins, notching two quarterback hits and one tackle in his start.

The Sun’s Edward Lee says a smile was hard to come by from Smith during the 2016 season. He was a healthy scratch three times, logging just 20 tackles, and was leapfrogged by Judon. It was a far cry from Smith’s rookie year when he flashed with 5.5 sacks.

“It’s a learning experience from being that guy to going back down and just being a guy,” Smith told Lee. “I went from being a guy with 5½ to a guy with just one, and I let a rookie come in and have more sacks than me. So it wasn’t a good year for me, but I have a bigger role this year.”

Smith pointed to an ankle injury during the preseason that slowed him down last year, and in retrospect, he may have needed to take more time to recover.

“I didn’t want to [take time off] because I was coming off a killer year in my rookie year, and I just wanted to improve and really make a name for myself and have a set spot here on this defense,” he said. “But things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. I rushed it. I did, but we can’t focus on that.

“Year One was a success, and I had all of the fans behind me. But my second year was a down year, and I started losing sight of things and people started falling off and not being a fan of Z anymore. My whole motivation is, ‘You’ve got to do better than last year.’”

Quick Hits

  • Some news on former Ravens … good for you, Deonte Thompson.

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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