Roster Locks, Bubble Players, Long Shots Heading into Training Camp
The last weekend of the year without football is officially over! Ravens players report to training camp THIS Wednesday and hit the fields THIS Thursday. We're just days away, folks.
Go ahead and dance.
The next six weeks are critically important for the Ravens as they look to build a team that can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The competition will be fierce and it could make or break careers. We wish everyone the best of luck (and health) as position battles begin for limited roster space.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec made a position-by-position breakdown of the roster locks, bubble players and long shots. ESPN's Jamison Hensley says there are eight starting jobs up for grabs: center, tight end, fullback, defensive tackle, defensive end, outside linebacker, cornerback and returner.
Anything could happen leading into the season opener on Sept. 10, but here's how Zrebiec sees the situation today:
Quarterbacks (Ravens will likely keep 2)
Locks if healthy: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Long shots: Dustin Vaughan
Running Backs (4)
Locks if healthy: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead
On the bubble:Buck Allen, Taquan Mizzell, Lorenzo Taliaferro (fullback), Ricky Ortiz (fullback)
Reserve/suspended list: Kenneth Dixon (four games)
Zrebiec:"Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have traditionally kept three tailbacks and a fullback. If they stick to that plan, Allen will compete with Mizzell for one spot with Taliaferro and Ortiz trying to win the fullback job. However, the Ravens could gain some roster flexibility by using Taliaferro both at fullback and as the No.3 tailback, similar to Le'Ron McClain's old role. That could get them through until Dixon returns from suspension. In either circumstance, Allen needs a strong summer to earn a spot."
Wide Receivers (6)
Locks if healthy: Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
On the bubble:Kenny Bell,*Michael Campanaro, Griff Whalen, Chris Matthews, Keenan Reynolds *Long shots: Quincy Adeboyejo, C.J. Board, Tim Patrick, Tim White Zrebiec: "Campanaro was a clear favorite for one of [two open spots], but he's now expected to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list after sustaining an offseason toe injury. If he misses extended time, that would open the door further for a number of young receivers, including a more confident Reynolds. Matthews has size and experience, but Bell stood out in offseason practices. Adeboyejo and White head the team's four-man undrafted free-agent wide receiver class."
Tight Ends (3)
Locks if healthy: Nick Boyle, Crockett Gillmore, Benjamin Watson
On the bubble:Ryan Malleck, Vince Mayle, Maxx Williams
Reserve/suspended list: Darren Waller (one year)
Zrebiec: "This is one of the hardest positions to forecast because it's unclear who will be healthy."
Offensive Line (9)
Locks if healthy: Ronnie Stanley (tackle), Alex Lewis (guard/tackle), John Urschel (center/guard), Marshal Yanda (guard), James Hurst (tackle), Jermaine Eluemunor (guard/tackle), Nico Siragusa (guard)
On the bubble:Ryan Jensen (center/guard), Stephane Nembot (tackle), Matt Skura (center), De'Ondre Wesley (tackle)
Long shots: Jarell Broxton (guard), Roubbens Joseph (tackle), Brandon Kublanow (center), Jarrod Pughsley (guard), Maurquice Shakir (guard)
Zrebiec: "The outlook will be further clouded if the Ravens sign a veteran center or tackle. As things stand, Stanley, Lewis, Yanda and Hurst appear entrenched as the starters with Urschel and Jensen battling for the center job. The loser of that competition, along with rookies Eluemunor and Siragusa, will be favorites for three of potentially four reserve roles. Nembot and Wesley are developmental tackles the Ravens like, and they'll try to keep one or both."
Defensive Line (7)
Locks if healthy: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley
On the bubble:Brent Urban,*Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
*Zrebiec: "The five-technique defensive end position is the spot to watch with Urban, Kaufusi and Wormley bidding for the starting role. Ricard, an undrafted free agent out of Maine, is a physical, high-energy player that the coaches like. The Ravens need Davis and Henry to emerge as productive players."
Outside Linebackers (5)
Locks if healthy: Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
On the bubble:Za'Darius Smith
Long shots: Randy Allen, Boseko Lokombo
Zrebiec: "Could Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2015 who had 5½ sacks as a rookie but did little last year, be the odd man out? Suggs and Williams are the top two on the depth chart at rush linebacker and Judon and Bowser occupy those spots on the strong side. … Albert McClellan started 11 games last year, so he could factor on the outside as well."
Inside Linebackers (4)
Locks if healthy: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor
On the bubble:Brennen Beyer
Long shots: Bam Bradley, Lamar Louis, Donald Payne
Zrebiec: "This is one spot where the Ravens can ill afford an injury. Correa, a second-round draft pick last year, is the clear leader to start alongside Mosley in the weak-side linebacker spot that opened with Orr's retirement. McClellan and Onwuasor are the likely backups and two of the team's best special teams players. The Ravens seem to always find an undrafted rookie inside linebacker that sticks and contributes, so it would be foolish to dismiss the chances of Bradley or Payne."
Locks if healthy: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Maurice Canady
On the bubble:Brandon Boykin, Sheldon Price
Long shots:Robertson Daniel , Jaylen Hill, Reggie Porter, Al-Hajj Shabazz
Injured reserve: Tavon Young (torn ACL in OTAs)
Zrebiec: "Young's likely season-ending knee injury opened a spot and led to the late signings of Boykin and Shabazz. Canady is the front runner for the slot role after a strong performance in offseason practices. Boykin, who graded out as one of the league's better slot corners a few years ago, has a good chance to stick as well. Price and Daniel both look the part and will press for spots. Ideally, the Ravens would keep more than five corners, but safety Lardarius Webb's experience in coverage gives them that luxury."
Locks if healthy: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine Sr.
On the bubble:Chuck Clark
Long shots: Otha Foster
Zrebiec: "Assuming the Ravens get out of training camp healthy at this position, the only real question will be whether they can find a spot for Clark, a rookie sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech. Ultimately, Clark will have to make the roster on special teams."
Locks if healthy: Justin Tucker (kicker), Sam Koch (punter), Morgan Cox (long snapper)
Long shots: Kenny Allen
Simms: Ravens Could Make Some Noise with Flacco's Weapons
While each NFL team says it's trying to win the Super Bowl, Bleacher Report's Chris Simms believes only a handful have a legit chance and are "actually pushing their chips into the middle and going for a title."
For him, there are seven "true contenders" for the Lombardi Trophy: the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and … Baltimore Ravens.
Simms predicts New England will win its third Super Bowl in four years (I just gagged), but said one of the other six listed will be its biggest challenge. That includes the Ravens. Here's why:
"This might surprise some people, but to me, the Baltimore Ravens are a team that can win the Super Bowl," Simms wrote. "First of all, they had the seventh-best defense in football last season (322.1 yards per game allowed). I can honestly say the Ravens have some team speed again, and this might be the best group of skill-position guys Joe Flacco has ever had around him.
"In other words, the Ravens are a complete football team."
This might be the first time this offseason that somebody has named Flacco's weapons as a reason to be optimistic. Most just point to the defense, and rightfully so. As Simms said, it was ranked No. 7 last season and General Manager Ozzie Newsome bolstered it further by signing Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr,* *and loading up on defensive players in the draft.
In addition to the speed Flacco has at his disposal, Simms says the offense will be better off with Marty Mornhinweg getting a full offseason to implement his offense. He took over the reins mid-season after Marc Trestman was let go.
"This is a team I always felt could be a sleeping giant last season," Simms wrote. "With the additions the Ravens have made in the offseason, they're now a team that can legitimately compete for a Super Bowl. To get to the Super Bowl in the AFC, you have to be able to go through New England. Baltimore is one of the few teams that has shown it can go into New England and win during the Brady-Belichick era."
Predicting Mosley's 2017 Stats
C.J. Mosley sure has been getting a lot of praise lately (deservedly so).
First, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier said Mosley is the toughest middle linebacker in the league and compared him to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.
Now, in the video below, NFL Network's Willie McGinest said Mosley will break out (huh? he's already been voted into two Pro Bowls in three years) this season with pretty big stats.
"He's consistent. I love him in Dean Pees' system because he's tall, he's rangy, he can cover, he's great in space, you're not getting away from him once he gets his hands on you," McGinest said. "Dean Pees plays his linebacker in a lot of different positions. That's important because he can do it all."
As such, McGinest predicts 135 tackles, five sacks, and four-plus interceptions for Mosley. The Ravens linebacker has either posted, or been very close to posting, those stats in the past, but never all three in a single season.
At the end of the video, McGinest said Mosely has already broken out, so I don't know why he's listed as a breakout candidate in 2017. Nonetheless, McGinest sees big things for the fourth-year veteran.
- The Ravens signed veteran Griff Whalen Friday, adding another option at slot receiver and returner. "The addition of Whalen, 27, appears to be a response to the uncertainty regarding the health of Michael Campanaro, who is still recovering from a toe injury sustained during organized team activities in late May," wrote Zrebiec. "If he is able to stay healthy, Campanaro (River Hill) is a perceived favorite for one of the reserve receiver spots behind Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman, and the primary punt returner role." [The Baltimore Sun]
- The movie STEP, which tells the story of a powerful group of women from Baltimore, is holding a hometown debut tonight at teh Parkway Theatre. The Ravens made a financial committment to the film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.