The Athletic Analyzes Ravens on Bubble, Including Wide Receivers
The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec took a look at Ravens players on the roster bubble and assessed whose stock is rising and whose is falling heading into tonight’s preseason home game against the Green Bay Packers.
One of the more compelling competitions has been at wide receiver. Last week, Zrebiec wrote that Seth Roberts is undoubtedly one of the team’s top five receivers (along with locks Willie Snead IV, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Miles Boykin and Chris Moore). However, Roberts landed on Zrebiec’s “trending down” list this week.
“Did an [undisclosed] injury that could sideline him for as much as two weeks put him back on [the bubble]?” Zrebiec wrote. “Probably not, but it certainly hasn’t helped his cause, nor has the solid play of several of the young receivers.”
One of those young receivers is Jaleel Scott. The 2018 fourth-round pick has looked good this entire offseason and is trending up.
“Other than tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Miles Boykin, Scott has probably been the Ravens’ most consistent offensive player this summer,” Zrebiec wrote. “However, he still has work to do to make the 53. It would be a challenge for the Ravens to keep six receivers, and Scott right now is sixth on the depth chart. He also doesn’t have much special teams experience. He’s going to have to leave little doubt that he belongs with his play the rest of the preseason.”
Another young receiver who has stood out in training camp is undrafted rookie Antoine Wesley, but he could end up a victim of the numbers game, wrote Zrebiec, who placed Wesley in the “status quo” category.
“Wesley added to his highlight reel Tuesday with an acrobatic end zone grab over safety Earl Thomas,” Zrebiec wrote. “He’s not been as consistent when the pads are on, and he was a nonfactor in the preseason opener, and curiously didn’t get many snaps. Overall, though, the Texas Tech rookie has earned his way into the mix. The issue is he’s still seemingly the seventh receiver on a team that will only take five or six.”
Veteran Michael Floyd is trending up, according to Zrebiec, but like Scott and Wesley, the odds are not in his favor.
“The door is slightly ajar [for Floyd] with the undisclosed injury to Seth Roberts and the continued uncertainty about Marquise Brown’s health,” Zrebiec wrote. “Floyd, 29, has gotten better every week and he’s made a few highlight-reel catches in recent practices. That may not be enough, but Floyd has at least played his way into the conversation.”
Obviously, having to make tough decisions on roster spots is a good problem for the Ravens to have, especially at wide receiver, a position that traditionally hasn’t been an area of strength for them.
“The Ravens’ receiver competition is exciting for the first time in a long time,” Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote. “The battle for roster spots at this position has always been competitive, yet it hasn’t been this good.”
Here’s a look at some other players on Zrebiec’s “trending up” list:
Running back Tyler Ervin: “He’s not even mentioned when the merits of the Ravens keeping a fourth running back are weighed. However, the former Houston Texan showed in the preseason opener that he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands, taking a punt return for 24 yards. He’s the team’s most experienced and accomplished return man, and he’s looked the part in practices.”
Cornerback/punt returner Cyrus Jones: “The thought heading into camp was Jones, buried on the cornerback depth chart, was going to have to make the team by winning the return competition. However, he has opened a lot of eyes with his play defensively. With Tavon Young sidelined, Jones has stepped into the nickel role with the starting defense. That’s significant because it would prevent the Ravens from having to devote a roster spot exclusively for a return man. It’s not impossible, though, that the Ravens can find spots for both Jones and Ervin.”
Guard/center Patrick Mekari: “An undrafted rookie free agent out of Cal-Berkeley, Mekari wasn’t on too many people’s radars when camp began. Yet, he spent part of this week rotating in as the first-team left guard. He’s also gotten a few reps at center. Mekari will be a player to watch against the Packers. A quality performance and projected starting left guard Jermaine Eluemunor’s seat will get even hotter.”
Players who are trending down, in Zrebiec’s opinion, include:
Running back Kenneth Dixon: “Dixon looked fine in the preseason opener, gaining 16 of his 21 yards on one carry. However, he played only 10 snaps, the fewest of the five running backs active for the game. He also hasn’t been getting a ton of reps at practice, and when the team does special teams drills, Dixon doesn’t participate. It’s been an odd level of participation for a player who looks to be in good shape and was believed to need a strong preseason to make the team.”
Defensive tackle Gerald Willis: “The undrafted rookie out of Miami wasn’t all that noticeable against Jacksonville, and consistency continues to elude him. … The Ravens are well covered in the defensive tackle spots. Willis needs to play really well over the next couple of weeks to improve his roster chances.”
Browns, Steelers Fan Site Writers Are Down on Lamar Jackson
There’s plenty of optimism among Ravens fans and some of the national media regarding Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, but writers for Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers websites don’t share that optimism (wishful thinking on their part, perhaps?).
Cleveland sports website Waiting for Next Year’s Cody Suek identified Jackson as the Ravens’ main weakness.
“Jackson is one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the league, hence why I believe he is the weakness of this team,” Suek wrote. “He will continue to make plays with his legs (which will please fantasy football team owners), but the wear and tear of an NFL season will not allow a perpetual running quarterback to exist without a Herculean build. Time will tell just how far he can carry the team.”
Behind the Steel Curtain’s Anthony Defeo also questioned Jackson’s ability as a passer and his longevity.
“If his accuracy and inability to progress beyond his second read before taking off and running are still problems in 2019, I don’t see how he will last long enough to revolutionize anything,” Defeo wrote. “Is what Harbaugh’s proposing truly innovative, or is it merely smoke and mirrors aimed at covering up the deficiencies of his young quarterback? I guess the Steelers and the rest of the NFL will soon find out.”
Jackson, of course, has heard these criticisms ad nauseum, and he uses them as motivation.
On a side note, Jackson also is aware that he did not make Sports Illustrated’s list of the 10 greatest individual seasons in college football history. A number of people took to Twitter to criticize the list for omitting Jackson’s amazing junior season, and the former Louisville star retweeted a couple of them.
Praise for Ravens Defense, Earl Thomas
In yesterday’s edition of “Late for Work,” it was noted that the Ravens did not make NFL.com’s Adam Schein’s list of the top nine defenses entering this season. However, NFL on CBS analyst Adam Archuleta believes the Ravens, who had the No. 1 defense in the league last season, will again play at a very high level, thanks in large part to the acquisition of Thomas.
“They have a track record of just being a really good, solid defensive football team,” Archuleta said. “I think they still have the talent on paper to be very good. I think Earl upgrades the turnover potential of the secondary.
“Earl is so good, just as a pure, deep middle safety. … When you really break down the nuances of that position, on how teams try to attack the middle of the field and how he’s able to bait quarterbacks and how he’s able to take away so many parts of an offensive game plan, [he’s] just a tremendous asset.”
Archuleta acknowledged that the pass rush is the biggest question mark for the Ravens defense, but he’s a believer in their system.
“Big question I have is, ‘Where’s their pass rush going to be?’” Archuleta said. “But they’ve always found a way to pressure and get after the quarterback, so I have a pretty good idea that they’re going to do the same.”
As highlighted in last Thursday’s Late for Work,” Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale could very well be the answer to the team’s pass rush question.
“The Ravens might not have the marquee pass-rushing names you would like to see on defense, but they do have a defensive guru who will be just as important to the pass rush as the talent on the field,” 105.7 The Fan’s Alex Woodward wrote. “Not only is he aggressive, but he's also creative with how he maneuvers the defense.”
· Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was selected sixth overall in 2016, received an “A” grade from NFL.com’s Adam Zierlein in his revisiting of the first-round picks from that year’s draft. “The Ravens' left tackle played at a quality level right off the bat, and he's done nothing but improve with each season,” Zierlein wrote. “Stanley is a good technician with nice physical tools and is on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl player.”