Will These Five Ravens On The Roster Bubble Make The Cut?
As exciting as the returns of Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith Sr. are, these next three preseason games are mostly about the Ravens' bubble players. Suggs, Smith and other veterans are focused on the regular-season opener against the Bills on Sept. 11.
Saturday's matchup in Indianapolis will have a direct effect on the dreams of 15 Ravens that will be cut on Aug. 30 when the roster is trimmed from 90 to 75. It goes to 53 by Sept. 3.
CSNMidAtlantic.com's Bo Smolka looks at five players on the roster bubble and predicts whether each will make the 53-man roster:
CB Kyle ArringtonThere's more viable competition for Arrington than there was when the Ravens signed him last offseason. The team added veteran Jerraud Powers and a pair of rookies in Tavon Young and Maurice Canady.* *There's also a healthy Will Davis, who the Ravens traded for last September and subsequently tore his ACL.
Smolka: "In short, there just isn't any room for the 30-year-old Arrington. Prediction: Cut"
LB Arthur BrownThe former second-round pick had been stuck behind C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith for years, so this season seems to be his best chance since being drafted to stand out. Unfortunately, Brown has still had a quiet camp while Zachary Orr looks primed to start. The Ravens have also opted to transition safety Anthony Levine and outside linebacker Kamalei Correa to inside linebacker. The Ravens like the special teams ability and versatility of Levine (and Albert McClellan), and they're not going to cut a 2016 second-round pick.
Smolka: "The Ravens have stuck with Brown … for three years, but this year, the numbers don't work. Prediction: Cut"* *
WR Jeremy ButlerThis is going to be an extremely close call. Butler is used to being on the bubble, a position he's been in the last three summers, and he's never been on the right side of cuts come September. Each training camp, Butler practices very well, but he's never gotten over the hump. There are so many players ahead of him (Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro) and the Ravens could keep four running backs and tight ends, further hurting his chances. The key to Butler's success might lie with Perriman.
Smolka: "If [Perriman] begins the regular season on the physically unable to perform list, which seems increasingly likely, that opens the door for one more receiver to make the team. Butler has earned it. Prediction: Makes the team"
S Matt ElamThe 2013 first-round pick is elevating his game at just the right time, and it could help him narrowly make the squad. Both Elam and his main competition, 2013 third-rounder Terrence Brooks, have looked strong in training camp as they fight for the NFL lives. Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb are the obvious starting safeties, and Kendrick Lewis seems like a shoe-in for one of the backup roles. Head Coach John Harbaugh spoke highly of both Brooks and Elam, so if all else is equal, will their draft statuses be the deciding factor?
Smolka: "Elam has come on in camp lately, and the Ravens won't be quite ready to give up on a former first-round pick. Prediction: Makes the team"
WR-PR Keenan ReynoldsThe conversion from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver/returner in just a couple of months is not easy, so maybe it shouldn't be any surprise that Reynolds has struggled from time to time. With the wide receiver battle so tight, Reynolds' path to the 53-man roster is as a returner. He's shined at times, but unfortunately, he's struggled with drops there too. If Campanaro is healthy, he looks like the leading candidate for the punt return role.
Smolka: "The Ravens would love to stash Reynolds on the practice squad for a year and let his development continue, and although there's a chance they will lose him on waivers to another team, it's a chance they will take. There is still a lot of upside there. Prediction: Cut"
Risky Fantasy Options At Tight End, Receiver And Running Back
Ravens coaches must be smiling at the depth they have at tight end, receiver and running back. They have their leaders at each position with Benjamin Watson, Smith Sr. and Justin Forsett, respectively.
That said, if you're a fantasy owner, you really can't rely on any of the three because there is talent behind them that will surely dig into their targets/carries week to week.
Let's take a look at ESPN's fantasy projections for each, and whether Jamison Hensley thinks they'll actually hit those projections …
RB Justin Forsett ESPN fantasy projection: 736.6 yards rushing, 3.8 touchdowns
Hensley: "The odds are against Forsett reaching those rushing yards. Coach John Harbaugh has yet to name a featured back, and the Ravens could end up with a running back by committee. That means there's a good chance of decreased touches for Forsett. The other factor working against Forsett is the track record of offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. In Trestman's 13 years as a head coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL, his offenses have ranked in the top half of rushing attempts per game only twice. Last season, the Ravens set a team record for their fewest rushing attempts. It will be a challenge for Forsett to put up over 700 yards, a number he has only surpassed once in his career."
*TE Benjamin Watson fantasy projection: 49 receptions, 524 yards receiving, four touchdowns *Hensley: "History says take the under. Watson has caught more than 50 passes only twice in his career and he has been held to fewer than 500 yards receiving in eight of his 13 seasons. The other factor that hurts Watson's fantasy value is the Ravens' crowded tight end group. As long as they stay healthy, Pitta, Gillmore and Maxx Williams will cut into Watson's production. Where Watson should help the Ravens is inside the 20-yard line. Watson scored five red zone touchdowns last season, which were two more than what all of the Baltimore tight ends had combined."
*Steve Smith Sr. ESPN fantasy projection: 57 receptions, 801 receiving yards, four touchdowns *Hensley: "Smith will go over, but not by much. He has caught at least 64 passes and averaged 1,094 yards in his last four full seasons. What still works in Smith's favor is his chemistry with Flacco. That should continue as long as he's healthy."
If you're trying to figure out how much value Wallace and Aiken will bring … Hensley thinks Wallace will go over 37 receptions for 481 yards and three touchdowns. He says Aiken is in a tough situation, however, with the return of Smith, and isn't sure he can top 52 receptions for 647 yards and four touchdowns.
Andrew Luck To Make Preseason Debut vs. Ravens
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano confirmed that starting quarterback Andrew Luck will make his preseason debut Saturday vs. the Ravens.
And this isn't just any preseason debut. Luck is in a position much like Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, as both of their 2015 seasons ended early with injuries.
Luck hasn't played in a game since suffering a lacerated kidney in Week 9 last season.
"Saturday's preseason game against the Ravens is more about working through any rust for Luck after he missed the final seven games last season," wrote EPSN's Mike Wells. "Taking some snaps behind the offensive line, including rookie center Ryan Kelly. Facing an opponent in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's system. It will also be a good test to see how Luck does when it comes to getting rid of the ball quicker, and executing his improved footwork."
Terrell Suggs: Roger Goodell Has His Favorites
The story that is taking the NFL by storm right now is Commissioner Roger Goodell threatening to suspend four active players named in the Al Jazeera report about performance-enhancing drugs if they will not agree to an investigative interview by Aug. 25.
Earlier this summer, the four players (Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Packers defenders Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and free-agent linebacker Mike Neal) sent sworn affidavits to the league denying the claims of the report.
The conflict is highlighting the struggle between the NFL players' union and the league. Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs made an appearance on "Mike and Mike," where he was asked how NFL veterans like himself can help the relationship.
Suggs said he and most players in the NFL don't even have a relationship with Goodell because he has his "favorites." Those favorites, Suggs says, are the highest-paid players in the league. Watch the interview below.