Analyzing Five Tough Ravens Roster Decisions

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The Ravens must trim their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday, leaving difficult decisions ahead. Players try not to worry too much, but everyone knows the clock is ticking.

Some players will receive terrific news. For others, the news will be disappointing.

"We can't control who stays or goes," tight end Maxx Williams said. "So really, everyone is going to be thinking about [that] now until everything happens because it's that time of the year."

Here are five tough decisions the Ravens must make regarding roster spots and position battles:

1. Does Robert Griffin III make the roster?

This is the Ravens' most-talked about decision and there is much to consider. The team has not kept three quarterbacks since 2009. Joe Flacco's backup, Lamar Jackson, is a talented but untested rookie. Griffin is a former No. 2-overall pick, a once-star player trying to reboot his career after injuries and inconsistent play.

Griffin has shown during the preseason to be worthy of an NFL roster spot. Perhaps another team will call the Ravens with a trade offer they can't refuse.

However, unknown factors make the decision more difficult. If Flacco is healthy all 16 games, Griffin is like a sports car that stays parked in the garage, a luxury the Ravens may not need. But if Flacco misses time, even just a game or two, how well the backup quarterback plays could determine whether the Ravens make the playoffs or not.

Which quarterback gives you the best chance to win this year if Flacco isn't available, Jackson or Griffin? Who would back up Flacco if Jackson were injured while being used as an offensive weapon? Is keeping an extra special teams player, wide receiver, or offensive lineman more important than keeping Griffin? Those are the back-and-forth conversations the Ravens' decision-makers will have. But after missing the playoffs the past three seasons, the Ravens would be putting a lot of trust in Jackson if they let Griffin go.

2. Will Patrick Onwuasor or Kenny Young win the competition for starting inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley?

Both Onwuasor and Young have performed well during practices and games, which is a win-win. Even if Young does not earn the starting job, his quick progress as a rookie fourth-round pick bodes well for his future. Don't be surprised if Onwuasor and Young rotate snaps early in the season until somebody wins the job outright.

3. Who makes the cut at wide receiver behind John Brown, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore?

Janarion Grant, Jordan Lasley, Breshad Perriman and Tim White are competing for two spots, at most. The competition at returner between Grant and White will likely determine which one makes the team. Watch closely when Grant and White get opportunities Thursday night. Both need to play well.

A 2015 first-round pick, Perriman is in definite danger of being cut, especially because he does not play special teams. Lasley was a fifth-round pick this season and has made some nice catches, despite several drops. The Ravens will likely want to keep Lasley this early in his career, hoping he continues to develop.

4. Do the Ravens have enough offensive line depth, or will they feel compelled to add some prior to Week 1?

The starting offensive line appears set with Ronnie Stanley (LT), Alex Lewis (LG), Matt Skura (C), Marshal Yanda (RG), and Orlando Brown Jr., who has started at right tackle throughout the preseason.

"Orlando has really, probably proven himself as a viable guy," Harbaugh said.

But the depth behind the starters is not etched in stone. James Hurst can play multiple line positions, making him a valuable backup. However, rookie offensive tackle Greg Senat has turf toe, and may not be part of the 53-man roster. Bradley Bozeman, Jermaine Eluemunor, and Nico Siragusa are among those battling for roster spots, but it would not be shocking to see General Manager Ozzie Newsome acquire more offensive line depth before Week 1.

5. Who will emerge as the Ravens' primary pass-catching tight end with Hayden Hurst out to start the season?

A stress fracture is expected to sideline Hurst for perhaps the first two or three weeks. As a rookie, Hurst was playing confidently and looked like the team's top receiving tight end before his injury. The Ravens love utilizing tight ends, and Thursday's preseason games is important for tight ends on the bubble such as Darren Waller and Vince Mayle. If neither Waller nor Mayle make the roster, the Ravens are likely to keep just four tight ends – Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, Mark Andrews and Hurst. The Ravens will need Williams and Andrews to assert themselves as pass-catchers until Hurst returns.

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