Editor's note: The Baltimore Ravens offices will be closed July 4-8. As such, "Late for Work" will take a brief vacation, but will be back in full force on July 11.
Way Too Early Ravens 53-Man Roster Predictions
Let's send "Late for Work" into its brief vacation with a bang, and examine way too early predictions for the 53-man roster. Obviously training camp and the preseason will shake things up, but it's always fun to talk roster positioning.
Quarterback (2)*Consensus: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
*Everybody is on the same page here. Flacco hopes to be back for the first day of training camp and will resume his role as the starter. The Ravens have kept just two quarterbacks for the past six years and Mallett will be the backup unless a major unforeseen situation occurs.
Running Back (3-4)
Consensus: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon
Debate: Terrance West
*West had a solid offseason after signing with the Ravens late last season, and he'll need to continue progressing in training camp. It's unlikely Baltimore would cut Forsett, Allen or Dixon, so West is more likely competing with bubble players at other positions, including wide receiver and tight end. As for Trent Richardson, who was an intriguing signing this offseason after the former third-overall pick spent last year out of football, the journalists agree he is a long shot at this point. "Trent Richardson's weight problems and latest injury could spell the end of the road," wrote Platania. "Lorenzo Taliaferro hasn't stayed consistently healthy."
*Consensus: Kyle Juszczyk
*Debate: None, I think. Platania doesn't ever mention Juszczyk as in or out. *
Wide Receiver (6-7)
*Consensus: Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Mike Wallace
Debate: Keenan Reynolds, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, Kaelin Clay
*Can you sleep on any of these guys? If the Ravens only keep six, then … "Reynolds has been one of the standout players in offseason practices, which gives him the edge over oft-injured Michael Campanaro and Kaelin Clay for the receiver-returner role," wrote Hensley. But if the Ravens keep seven, then Campanaro and Butler both have legitimate chances. Both need to prove their special teams worth, and remember, they'll be competing with West and tight end Darren Waller in that department for final roster spots.
Tight End (3-4)
*Consensus: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams
Debate: Dennis Pitta
*The top three tight ends appear to be locks, barring injury. Nick Boyle is suspended, and all three journalists see Waller as a long shot simply because they can't envision the Ravens keeping that many tight ends. His special teams prowess would be enough to keep him any other year that position wasn't loaded. That said, don't count him out. The big debate is Pitta. Hensley says he's in, Platania says he's out and Jones says he's on the bubble. "Pitta being listed [as] the bubble player has more to do with his health and how he'll respond to live contact this summer than his playing ability," wrote Jones.
Offensive Line (8)
Consensus: Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen, Alex Lewis
*Debate: James Hurst, De'Ondre Wesley, Vladimir Ducasse
*Platania sees Wesley beating out Hurst as the backup swing tackle, and Hensley predicts the opposite. While Lewis has primarily played guard, he could also fill that role. Or, as Jones points out, the Ravens could add a veteran for the job. "The Ravens would want a better option at the No. 3 tackle position, but Hurst looks like the choice right now," wrote Hensley.
Defensive Line (7)
Consensus: Tackles – Willie Henry, Brandon Williams, Carl Davis, Timmy Jernigan. Ends – Bronson Kaufusi, Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban
With a loaded defensive line, the major question is how many the Ravens keep. Seven seems to be the consensus, but if it's six, then Jones sees Urban on the bubble. "Urban is more than likely on the good side of the bubble, but he needs to stay healthy and show more than he did in his first NFL action late last season," he wrote.
*Consensus: Outside – Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za'Darius Smith, Matthew Judon, Kamalei Correa. Inside – Albert McClellan, Zachary Orr, C.J. Mosley
Debate: Arthur Brown
*Brown is in for Platania, out for Hensley, on the bubble for Jones. Who will start at inside linebacker? "Orr appears to be the favorite to start next to Mosley, but Baltimore has experimented with moving second-rounder Kamalei Correa inside," wrote Jones. Outside linebacker appears set, but Hensley says to watch undrafted rookie Victor Ochi for the practice squad.
Consensus: Corners – Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Will Davis, Tavon Young. Safeties – Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Kendrick Lewis
*Debate: Corners – Sheldon Price. Safety – Anthony Levine, Terrence Brooks, Matt Elam
*There are all sorts of combinations for safety as neither Levine, Brooks or Elam is pulling away. Training camp will go a long way in helping decide their fate. As for corner, the journalists all say Kyle Arrington won't make the team, but there's debate about Sheldon Price. Platania has him in, Hensley has him out.
Special Teams (3)
Consensus: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Shout Out To Michael Phelps
This isn't football news, but one of Baltimore's sports heroes is shining again. Swimmer Michael Phelps qualified for his fifth Olympic appearance after winning the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. swimming trials Wednesday night.
That means the most-decorated Olympic athlete is bound for Rio.
"With everything that's happened and being able to come back, that was probably harder than any swim I've had in my life," Phelps said, per the Associated Press. "Just being able to finish how I want to is so important to me. Getting on this team is what I wanted to do."
Phelps has been a regular at M&T Bank Stadium for Ravens games and he credited Ray Lewis for helping him find his competitive fire again.
Alex Lewis' Dogs Freak Out When Reunited
BARCS Animal Shelter posted a heart-warming video of Alex Lewis and his dogs' reunion after the pups' 2,000 mile-cross country trip from Arizona.
"A few weeks ago, Ravens rookie Alex Lewis #72 visited BARCS when his buddy and teammate Ronnie Stanley adopted a pup," BARCS wrote on Facebook. "Alex helped our staff carry heavy bags of donated dog food, and we learned that during college he volunteered as a dog walker at his local shelter. And, that Alex is a HUGE, vocal champion for animal adoption. In fact, he had two rescue pups of his own named Tino and Tootsie. When Alex moved to Baltimore after the draft, he couldn't immediately bring his dogs with him, and he was heartbroken and missed them terribly."
Lewis' mother and sister drove Tino and Tootsie to Baltimore, and their reaction to seeing Lewis is fantastic:
Bold Prediction: Bengals Won't Make Playoffs
Here's a bold prediction that will make Ravens fans more than happy.
The Bengals won't make the playoffs, says Hensley.
In an ESPN Q&A with AFC North writers, the question was posed whether Cincinnati will finally notch its first postseason victory after five consecutive winless playoff trips.
Hensley took it a step further and said the Bengals won't win one because they won't be there.
"Cincinnati, which has been the surest bet in the division, will fail to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010," he wrote. "This has the feel of an 8-8 team.
"Why? The losses of [Marvin] Jones and [Mohamed] are big. The loss of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is even bigger. He brought swagger and creativity to the Bengals. Now the play-calling duties go to Ken Zampese, who has never been an NFL offensive coordinator despite being in the league since 1998. The addition of free agent Brandon LaFell is underwhelming, and tight end Tyler Eifert's inability to stay healthy is cause for concern. Last year's seventh-highest scoring offense is primed to take a step backward. The same can be said of the entire Bengals team."