Final Ravens 53-Man Roster Predictions
You can expect to start hearing rumors about the Ravens' final round of cuts Friday morning, right after the team's preseason finale in New Orleans.
That game will have some impact on the final decisions, but most have already been made. As such, here are ESPN's Jamison Hensley's final roster predictions, with my reaction to his picks.
Feel free to use them as a guide for the "You Pick the Team" contest, presented by Bridgestone.
Quarterback (2): Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
I agree with Hensley here. Josh Johnson did a good job pushing Mallett for the backup role, but Mallett was too strong in preseason games and has a history of regular-season success in Baltimore.
Running Back (4): Justin Forsett, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Buck Allen
"Dixon's sprained knee might have saved Allen, who appeared to be sliding off the roster bubble," wrote Hensley. Despite not looking as good as West and Dixon, I never saw Allen's job in danger. Either way, at the end of the day, the result of keeping four tailbacks is the same. We'll see if any changes need to be made when Dixon returns in mid-September.
Fullback (1): Kyle Juszczyk
Pro-Bowl caliber fullback.
Wide Receiver (7): Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler
The top six receivers are either locks or semi-locks. The question here is keeping Jeremy Butler over, say, more depth at the offensive line. If Butler does make the team, he'll need to excel on special teams in order to be activated on Sundays. Hensley's choice to take Campanaro over Keenan Reynolds is solid, as the rookie needs more time to transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver/returner. Reynolds is a prime candidate for the practice squad if no other teams scoop him up.
Tight End (3): Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams
The unfortunate injury to Benjamin Watson made this an easier decision. As long as Pitta and Williams are healthy Week 1 (and Head Coach John Harbaugh said they will be), then there's no need to keep a fourth tight end.
Offensive Line (8): Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen, D'Ondre Wesley
This is a case where knowing more injury information would be helpful. Hensley's taking a bit of a risk with just eight offensive linemen because we don't know how serious Urschel's contusion is. If he's not ready to go Week 1, the Ravens would only have two backups for five jobs. That could leave room for veteran Vladimir Ducasse. But, Urschel was seen working with Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo after practice this week, indicating he could be fine come Sept. 11. The other note here is that Hensley selected Wesley over James Hurst, who started 13 games that past two seasons and added two more in the postseason.
Defensive Line (6): Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Brent Urban
Kapron Lewis-Moore didn't make Hensley's cut, giving the final spot to Henry, a rookie fourth-round pick. Henry's Pro Football Focus overall grade through three preseason games is a plus-3.1, while Lewis-Moore has a negative-3.9. There's a chance the Ravens keep seven defensive linemen, and in that case, Lewis-Moore gets back in for Hensley.
Linebacker (9): C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Albert McClellan, Za'Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, Matt Judon, Chris Carter
Anthony Levine Sr. could be listed as a linebacker or defensive back, and having him as a backup at both spots could be how the Ravens open a spot on the defensive line for Lewis-Moore. Hensley is giving a spot to Carter, who has been solid. Carter has flexibility both on the outside and inside, and he adds value on special teams. "Depending on the severity of Smith's ankle injury, Baltimore might have to carry nine linebackers. Carter also gives the Ravens an experienced special teams player," Hensley wrote.
Secondary (10): Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine Sr., Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young, Terrence Brooks, Kendrick Lewis, Will Davis
Matt Elam's injury made the decision to keep Brooks as the fourth and final safety easy. Hensley didn't keep sixth-round rookie corner Maurice Canady. "The last spot in the secondary is between Davis and Sheldon Price," wrote Hensley.
SPECIAL TEAMS: 3
Specialists (3): K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch, LS Morgan Cox
Undrafted Rookie Streak About To Be Broken?
You'll notice that Hensley didn't have any undrafted rookies making his squad. It's not surprising. Not many people do in this year's Ravens roster projections.
After Tuesday's first round of cuts, there are four candidates remaining in outside linebacker Victor Ochi,* *inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, defensive tackle Michael Pierce and center Matt Skura.
"I wouldn't say any of them are favorites to be on the roster past Saturday's final cuts," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"Pass rusher Victor Ochi started training camp as the most likely undrafted rookie to make the team. However, he hasn't played much in the preseason and the Ravens have so many outside linebackers ahead of him on the depth chart."
Kamalei Correa Quietly Working To Improve
What a difference a couple of weeks make.
Second-round rookie Kamalei Correa had taken Organized Team Activities and the start of training camp by storm, playing several positions on defense. He even threatened to win the job next to C.J. Mosley over Zachary Orr.
But ever since his practice scuffles with Pitta that contributed to the tight end breaking his finger, perhaps coincidently, Correa has been much quieter. He has logged one tackle in three preseason games in limited playing time.
Correa told The Baltimore Sun's Edward Lee that he is still trying to make the transition from Boise State to the NFL.
"It's really been a humbling experience just knowing that you're not as good as most people who have been playing in the NFL for a while," Correa said. "So it's really been very humbling. I just have to keep improving and keep getting better each and every day.
"It's way more difficult from a talent level and an intelligence level. The game is going at a million miles an hour – way faster than college. But it's exciting to know how much better you really can become and I'm willing to accept that challenge."
Correa hasn't had a specific role on defense, playing both inside and SAM linebacker. He doesn't mind that, however, trying to contribute wherever he can, including on special teams.
"I'm a rookie. So I'm just going to do what's asked of me this year – whether that's asked to be a defensive player or a special-teams player," he told Lee. "What if they throw me on offense for some crazy stuff? I'm just going to do what's asked of me and if that is me playing on defense with a lot more snaps, then I'm willing to accept the challenge."
Saints To Play Their Starters Through First Quarter
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton plans to play his starters in the first quarter of Thursday's preseason game against the Ravens. That means some of Baltimore's backups will get quite the test because Harbaugh said he'll follow a typical plan for the finale.
Per ESPN's Mike Triplett, it sounds like starting quarterback Drew Brees will even play despite not doing so in the finale since 2006. That's a* *decade, folks.
"Doesn't matter to me, football is football, a game's a game," Brees said, adding that he doesn't know exactly how much he'll play, but the mindset has been all week that he will.
"That shows how eager [the] Saints are to get some momentum going after a sloppy 0-3 start to this preseason," wrote Triplett.
Who Will Be The Starting Tight End?
As mentioned above, the decision on who makes the team among the tight ends was made easier by Watson's season-ending Achilles tear. But losing him won't be easy.
"That's going to be really tough on us," Flacco said Saturday.
It opened up another question: Who will be the starter?
"The one who can stay healthy," wrote Hensley. "Pitta, Gillmore and Williams have all made their marks with the Ravens. They all can be the No. 1 tight end, and they would likely split snaps and targets if they can avoid issues that have sidelined them in the past.
"Pitta, Gillmore and Williams all dealt with injuries last season and missed a chunk of training camp this year. The hope is all of them will be ready for the Sept. 11 opener against the Buffalo Bills, but they have to prove they can stay on the field."