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Late for Work 8/30: Analyzing Several Tough Roster Decisions

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Analysts Believe Jaleel Scott Has Earned Roster Spot

Depending on how one looks at it, Jaleel Scott’s outstanding performance against the Washington Redskins last night either made the Ravens’ decision on whether to keep six wide receivers on the roster a no-brainer or agonizingly difficult.

Not only was there a lot of competition for the sixth spot, there has never been any guarantee there would even be a sixth spot.

However, after Scott capped off an impressive preseason by catching six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown to help the Ravens win their 17th straight preseason game, a number of observers believe he secured his place on the roster, which will be trimmed to 53 players by tomorrow at 4 p.m.

“If there were any doubters of the second-year receiver’s place on the 53-man roster before tonight, consider them all silenced,” Ravens Wire’s Alex Bente wrote.

Ravens Wire’s Chuck Mills reached the same conclusion about Scott’s future with the Ravens.

“Scott came into this game not guaranteed a roster spot but did everything the team could have asked of him and should have cemented his name on the Ravens’ 53-man roster,” Mills wrote.

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker acknowledged that the odds of Scott making the team were never in his favor, but it’s difficult to bet against him at this point.

“Scott, in his second-year out of New Mexico State, was thought to pose one of the Ravens’ most difficult roster decisions,” Walker wrote. “Coaches are enamored with his 6-foot-5 frame and downfield speed, which he demonstrated against the Redskins. He’s been one of the team’s most productive pass catchers this preseason. But it’s not clear the Ravens want to carry six wide receivers, which they’d probably have to do if they keep Scott.

“Roster pinch aside, can they afford to give up on a second-year player with real upside as a downfield threat? Scott caught six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown as Trace McSorley’s favorite target on Thursday, and he’s also helped himself by contributing on special teams.”

Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote that Scott not only rose to the occasion last night, he has passed every test for the Ravens this preseason.

“The Ravens gave Scott the chance to steal the spotlight and he did just that,” Schisler wrote. “The most important thing that Scott did was make the highlight reel plays. The bottom line, however, is that Scott has been dependable when his number is called. When the ball was thrown his way, he caught the ball.”

Scott led the Ravens in receiving this preseason, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. It was a stark contrast to his rookie season. He did not stand out in camp last year before going on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

“I had him written off this team before the offseason got into swing, and now I want him to not only make the final 53, but to get significant time in the regular season,” Ebony Bird’s Darin McCann wrote. “He appears to be one of those guys who can get open on a slant whenever he wants by getting quick body position, and has good tracking skills downfield. He can play a role on third downs and the red zone at the least.”

Did Kenneth Dixon, Trace McSorley Do Enough to Make the Roster?

One of the more compelling players this preseason has been running back Kenneth Dixon. The 2016 fourth-round pick’s talent has never been in question, but it’s been overshadowed by injuries and suspensions. The combination of those issues and a crowded backfield have left Dixon on the roster bubble and a trade candidate.

He looked good against the Redskins, carrying the ball 13 times for 66 yards, but was it enough to convince the Ravens to keep him as the fourth running back behind Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and fourth-round pick Justice Hill?

McCann and Bente don’t think so.

“Kenneth Dixon would be a nice fit in a tandem backfield in Houston with Duke Johnson. In fact, Dixon would be nice in the Ravens’ backfield, as he is a very gifted back who runs through tackles and ends runs going forward,” McCann wrote. “It just feels like his clock is up in Baltimore, for one reason or another.”

Our John Eisenberg had a different take on Dixon. Eisenberg included Dixon on his projected 53-man roster.

“He could be a trade candidate if the right offer comes,” Eisenberg wrote. “But teams don’t like to lose talented players, and Dixon could go somewhere and rush for a thousand yards.”

Another player under the microscope last night was McSorley. The sixth-round pick out of Penn State followed up his eye-opening performance against the Eagles last week with a solid, if not spectacular, game. He did nothing to hurt his case for making the team as the No. 3 quarterback.

“His efforts against the Redskins may be overshadowed by the lack of help from a sub-par offensive line,” Bente wrote. “McSorley spent the larger part of the first half scrambling, often turning disaster into a nice gain with a dump-off throw or a dash ahead. But he flashed greatness with a stellar 24-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Scott late in the second quarter.

“Has he done enough to secure his spot in the final 53? I’d say yes. Sure, we may have preferred seeing McSorley contribute on special teams or in an interesting formation as a receiver, ala Saints QB Taysom Hill — anything that would justify holding a third quarterback — but with Robert Griffin III all but sidelined for the preseason, McSorley handled his draft-card role admirably.”

Some analysts believe it’s unlikely McSorley would make it through waivers if the Ravens tried to place him on the practice squad.

“Trace McSorley showed again what he is — a smart, tough quarterback who has good pocket awareness and can be spotty with his accuracy from throw to throw,” McCann wrote. “He looks like the kind of guy who can be a trusted backup for 10 years who coaches really want to have in their position and meeting rooms. The Ravens are better if he’s on the team.”

Left Guard Situation Still Unclear

Who will start at left guard has been the biggest question surrounding the Ravens in the preseason, and no obvious answers were provided last night.

“Ravens coaches have spent the entire summer hoping for someone, anyone, to take a definitive step forward at left guard. With no preseason games remaining, that has not happened,” Walker wrote. “A day after the Ravens traded Jermaine Eluemunor to the New England Patriots, they started rookie Ben Powers at their most unsettled position.

“But that doesn’t necessarily tell us Powers will line up against the Miami Dolphins for the Sept. 8 season opener. The fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma did not help himself with two holding penalties against the Redskins, part of a sloppy overall performance by the Ravens’ young blockers.”

One left guard candidate who continued making a positive impression was rookie Patrick Mekari.

“Mekari might be the best chance to continue on Baltimore’s legacy of keeping at least one [undrafted free agent] on the Ravens’ 53-man roster,” Bente wrote. “Against the Redskins, Mekari showed his versatility — something Baltimore covets in offensive linemen. Mekari played at tackle, guard and even center throughout the night. That trait alone may earn him a place with the team come Saturday.”

Kaare Vedvik’s Struggles Underscore Eric DeCosta’s Savvy

Kicker Kaare Vedvik, who the Ravens traded to Minnesota after their first preseason game for a reported fifth-round pick, had another rough outing with the Vikings.

Vedvik missed his first field goal attempt, from 37 yards, last night to make him 0-for-3 on the preseason before converting a 27-yard try later.

Of course, we hope for the best for Vedvik, but the situation underscores the savvy exhibited by Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta for completing the trade a few days after Vedvik made all four of his field goal attempts in the Ravens’ preseason opener, including a 55-yarder.

Quick Hits

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling believes Ravens safety Earl Thomas III will be an All-Pro again this season.

Former Ravens Shannon Sharpe and Jacoby Jones made USA Today’s list of the top 100 players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The Ravens now know who they'll see uncer center in Week 1.

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