7 Answers To Toughest Roster Questions
The preseason is in the books. Now comes the hard part.
Most any Ravens fan can predict a solid 45 roster spots. It's the remaining eight or so that prove to be difficult. And Head Coach John Harbaugh and his staff won't enjoy telling players their NFL dreams have come to an end.
"The next 40 hours or so will be anxious times for the Ravens who happen to be on the roster bubble," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "Harbaugh singled out running back, wide receiver, defensive line and cornerback as positions where difficult calls need to be made."
For those finishing up their "You Make the Team" rosters, we'll address seven of the most difficult roster decisions* *below, using the 53-man predictions of ESPN's Jamison Hensley, WNST's Luke Jones and my own colleague, John Eisenberg.
What will happen with CB/RS Asa Jackson? He's the most difficult decision of all.
Oh, Asa Jackson. He has such big-play potential, yet he makes lots of mistakes.
For the second week in a row, he showed explosion on a return only to come up short. This time in Atlanta, he fell victim to the turf monster and went down untouched while juking the punter. Also for the second consecutive game, he fumbled a punt.
"Jackson is clearly the Ravens' most gifted returner, but can the Ravens trust him?" asked Zrebiec. "The Ravens have to figure out what to do with [him]. He's their toughest roster decision because he's their most explosive return man, but he's also mistake- and injury-prone. And if it's not Jackson, the Ravens need to go out and find a return man on the waiver wire."
Which player will need to be the one-day sacrifice for Urban? One of the young running backs.
The prevailing thought is that Baltimore will use their one injured reserve – designated to return spot on defensive end Brent Urban (torn biceps). Only, they can't use that designation until after *the 53-man roster is finalized, so Urban will take up a valuable roster spot for one day. Who will need to be sacrificed?**
*With primary backup Lorenzo Taliaferro going down with an injury, there was a big opportunity for either Fitzgerald Toussaint or Terrence Magee to prove they belong. But neither gained separation from the other in the season finale in Atlanta. Since both are about equal, the Ravens can risk that at least one will clear the waiver wire if cut, says Jones.
"The prediction here is that the Ravens will waive both Magee and Toussaint to create a temporary roster spot to accommodate Brent Urban and to explore veteran backs that may become available elsewhere," wrote Jones. "They will then have the option to bring back either one assuming they clear waivers."
Jones and Hensley are on the same page with that prediction, but Eisenberg says safety Brynden Trawick will initially be cut and then brought back.
Eisenberg: Trawick, although he thinks both backs will be cut too
Jones: Magee or Toussaint
Hensley: Magee or Toussaint
Have the Ravens lost patience with Arthur Brown and are they cutting him loose? Harbs insinuated Brown is sticking around, and so everyone's predicting he will.
Even though Brown struggled on special teams Thursday night and is still stuck behind Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley on defense, Harbaugh made it sound like the former second-round pick will remain in Baltimore even though it's "not written in stone."
Which WRs will make the team between Darren Waller and Jeremy Butler? It's not that complicated.*
"The wide receiver picture doesn't look complicated," wrote Zrebiec.
Weeeeelllll, it's mostly simple, but still a lil' complicated.
Everyone can agree on the top five receivers: Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro. They also agree that if Perriman still isn't healthy, there's a chance the Ravens will take a sixth. What they don't agree on is who would get that sixth spot.
"If they take six, the next in line most likely will be Jeremy Butler," wrote Zrebiec.
The guys below are going in a different direction, and I'm going with them. If Waller is cut, he may not clear waivers before the Ravens can sign him to the practice squad. If the Ravens keep seven because they're also nervous about Campanaro, THEN Butler makes the team.
If there's room for only one of four corners – Tray Walker, Asa Jackson, Cassius Vaughn or Quinton Pointer – who gets the spot? Walker's the guy.
Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Kyle Arrington and Rashaan Melvin are the top corners. If the Ravens keep five, the unanimous pick is Tray Walker. If they keep six, which is what Jones predicts, then Jackson gets the post because of his special teams ability.
Jones: both, Ravens keep 6 instead of 5
Is Jah Reid or Ryan Jensen one of the backups on the offensive line? Split decision.
Jensen's head injury complicated this decision, but if he doesn't make the full squad, then look for him to make the practice squad and be promoted if there are any lingering injury concerns with Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele or James Hurst. Jensen can play guard, center and even tackle in a pinch.
Hensley: Neither, but Jensen to practice squad
*Kapron Lewis-Moore, DeAngelo Tyson or Christo Bilukidi? No consensus.
What to do with a banged-up defensive line? The injuries to Timmy Jernigan and Urban opened the door for one of these reserves, and there is no consensus.
Eisenberg: Tyson and Bilukidi make it
Hensley: Tyson and Bilukidi make it
Jones: Lewis-Moore makes it
Marlon Resurfaces Thursday Night
Wide receiver Marlon Brown has been quiet during training camp and the preseason because of a back and hamstring injury.
Analysts said he needed a big night in Atlanta – not to make the team, he was already a lock – but just to get himself going again before the Ravens rely on him as the No. 3 receiver when the regular season kicks off.
Hensley believes Brown did just that.
"Wide receiver Marlon Brown let everyone know that he's still on the Baltimore Ravens," wrote Hensley.
He finished the night with three catches for 64 yards, including this fingertips beauty for 42 yards.
How Brady Ruling Affects Ravens
A federal judge ruled* *in favor of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and lifted a four-game suspension the league imposed as a result of their investigation into Deflategate.
The legal matters aren't over yet because the NFL already announced its decision to appeal, but in the meantime, it looks like the future Hall of Famer is going to play when the regular season opens.
The decision affects the Ravens indirectly, and CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown breaks it down with three points:
1) Brady will now play in the opener against the Steelers, not backup Jimmy Garoppolo, which hurts the AFC North rival's chances of winning. That's good news for the Ravens.
2) The Patriots have stronger odds of making the playoffs, which would mean the Super Bowl road may run through them again. Brown says the Ravens likely need to win 12 games in order to be the AFC's No. 1 seed because the Patriots have won at least that many the past five years.
3) Even though Brady is some Ravens' arch nemesis, Brown thinks the players will be happy. "Moving forward, players who feel they have been unjustly punished will be more encouraged about the possibility of winning an appeal," wrote Brown.
Broncos Pro Bowl Safety to Miss Opener vs. Ravens
This will help offset the loss of speedster Breshad Perriman if the rookie still isn't healthy by the time the Ravens' season* *opener kicks off on Sept. 13.
Broncos safety T.J. Ward has been suspended for Week 1 for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. There is no opportunity to appeal, which means the decision is final.
Ward has been to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons, notching 74 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in Denver last year.
"[H]is absence may be something that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will look to exploit," wrote Brown. "David Bruton is likely to replace Ward in the lineup. The Broncos' other starting safety is expected to be someone Flacco is familiar with – Darian Stewart, who played for the Ravens last season."
Davis – Not Perriman Or Williams – Is Ravens' Top Rookie
As soon as they were drafted, some analysts predicted that either Perriman or tight end Maxx Williams could win the NFL's Rookie of the Year award.
So far, Hensley isn't giving either the Ravens' top rookie award with injuries hampering their development. Instead, he gives that honor to third-round pick Carl Davis.
"Now, 10 days before the season opener, the only Ravens rookie who has a shot at starting in Week 1 is defensive tackle Carl Davis," wrote Hensley. "For someone who felt snubbed in this year's draft, this emergence has been vindication after falling to the No. 90 overall selection.
"Through three preseason games, Davis is the Ravens' top-rated defensive player, according to Pro Football Focus. …Davis has a chance of becoming the latest defensive lineman developed by the Ravens, joining Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones, Williams and Jernigan."