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Late for Work 8/29: Biggest Surprises in Pundits' Roster Predictions

ILB Josh Ross
ILB Josh Ross

Biggest Surprises Among Near-Identical Roster Predictions

With the conclusion of the preseason, roster predictions published over the weekend offered surprises on various ways the Ravens could approach the first iteration of their 53-man roster.

While there was a lot of consensus among the pundits, there were some moves that could surprise fans.

The first is the addition of undrafted free linebacker Josh Ross, who both The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec and ESPN's Jamison Hensley predicted will make the roster.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Ross, an undrafted free agent out of Michigan, has earned his way onto the roster with a strong preseason. His history with defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald should help."

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "One of the toughest roster decisions is between Ross and Kristian Welch, who has been a core special teams player. But Ross, who was all over the field in the preseason, has more upside as far as a defensive player. Welch has a better chance of clearing waivers and would get added to the practice squad."

Our Ryan Mink also predicts Ross will make the roster.

Other surprises included Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer and Mink all cutting defensive lineman Brent Urban and keeping defensive lineman Isaiah Mack due to Urban being a vested veteran and not subject to waivers.

"All indications are that Urban is in a good position to make the team, but he's a guy who can be released and re-signed and that would be a way to get Mack, who is hardly a certainty to clear waivers, on the roster," Zrebiec wrote. "This was the Ravens' deepest and most impressive position group all summer and they will want to maintain some of the quality depth they accumulated."

Another intriguing area is outside linebacker, where projections expect only four players make the list, with injured rookie David Ojabo being one of them. Shaffer believes that won't last long.

"Ojabo, who's headed to IR, won't be ready until at least midseason as he rehabs his own Achilles injury," Shaffer wrote. "Steven Means, a vested veteran who impressed in camp, would likely take the second-round pick's spot on the roster later this week."

Despite being injured, second-year wide receiver Tylan Wallace is predicted to make the roster over the UDFA wide receiver group brought in over the offseason. Hensley and Zrebiec believe it's due to the Ravens' avoidance of parting ways with draft picks quickly, while Shaffer sees Wallace's value on special teams being enough to edge out the others.

Overall, there was strong consensus among the roster predictions, with Mink, Zrebiec and Shaffer all sporting identical predictions. Only Hensley's varied, where he picked cornerback Kevon Seymour to make the roster over Mack.

"Injuries have repeatedly hit this position, which is why the Ravens will keep an extra cornerback," Hensley wrote. "Seymour showed he was serviceable when pressed into the lineup late last season and impressed team officials by playing hurt."

Injury Scares in the Preseason Signal Wise Decision for Ravens to Rest Starters

The Ravens exited the preseason with few injuries throughout their three-game stretch and zero season-ending injuries resulting from the preseason contests.

It was a conscientious change after last season's poor luck. Though there are minor concerns of a "slow start," it's far superior to injury scares to a star player, which occurred for the Pittsburgh Steelers with linebacker T.J. Watt suffering a knee injury on Sunday.

Along with Watt, wide receiver Diontae Johnson and safety Damontae Kazee also were injured. According to Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, both Watt and Johnson may have returned in a regular season game, but Damontae Kazee will need surgery for a wrist/arm injury.

Watt wasn't the only starter to go down during preseason as New York Giants No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux suffered a knee injury after a low block.

Thibodeaux's knee somehow survived this block with only a sprained MCL, but the stress of seeing their player go down gives an air of confidence for the Ravens' preseason decisions. After all, they didn't have to worry about such a circumstance with cornerback Marlon Humphrey, outside linebacker Justin Houston or, heaven forbid, Lamar Jackson…

Playing it safe for the Ravens kept the preseason injuries at bay, and players sound confident they'll be ready for the season after a ramped-up training camp 'calloused' them for what's to come.

Tyler Linderbaum Impresses in Nine Snaps

On Saturday, rookie center Tyler Linderbaum saw his first game action as a Raven. Though he played only nine snaps, NFL Network's Brian Baldinger broke down the tape and explained "what all the fuss was about."

Baldinger noted the big touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson also involved Linderbaum's impressive blocking.

"A lot easier throw when you can put both defensive tackles on the ground and let the quarterback take the shot down the field to Demarcus Robinson for 67 yards," Baldinger said.

Also singing the praises of Linderbaum was linebacker Vince Biegel, who went up against the offense each day in camp and may have run into Linderbaum a time or two.

Last season's running struggles were in part due to a shuffling offensive line and some inconsistency at center. But if Linderbaum were to get healthy and stay healthy, as he said following the game, there's confidence his addition will be a great boon to the running and passing game.

Jordan Stout Could Soon Be 'the NFL's Best Punter'

Rookie punter Jordan Stout only entered the field as the holder for field goal and extra point attempts in Saturday's game, suggesting the Ravens are satisfied with his punting performance in training camp and the preseason games prior. Hensley believes it's because the Ravens might have found their next special teams star.

"The Ravens could soon have the NFL's best punter to go along with the league's best kicker," Hensley wrote. "Stout has been impressive with his strong leg and ability to place punts inside the 10-yard line. He is replacing Sam Koch, who is now mentoring Stout as an assistant after punting for the team for 16 years."

Stout finished with the second-highest net yardage (47.0 yards) among punters in the preseason, and four of his seven punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.

It speaks volumes that the Ravens coaching staff rested a rookie leg before the regular season kicks off.

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