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Mailbag: How Would No Preseason Games Affect Roster Decisions?

Head Coach John Harbaugh
Head Coach John Harbaugh

Mink: As was reported yesterday evening, the NFLPA has told players there will be zero preseason games in 2020. Player evaluation is already more challenging this year because of all the missed practice time, and eliminating games takes away another good tool.

With that said, I don't think it will have a big impact on who the Ravens keep on their 53-man roster, if it stays that size. The fact of the matter is, the Ravens don't have a lot of openings. I could go through the 90-man roster right now and probably identify 50 or so players that are very likely to make the roster. Given how loaded the Ravens are, there just aren't many open spots.

The easy answer is that no preseason hurts the chances of an undrafted rookie making the team because they simply have fewer opportunities to impress. The Ravens have a 16-year streak of at least one undrafted rookie landing on the 53. I still think that will be extended because it's likely that one of the undrafted tight ends – Jacob Breeland or Eli Wolf – make the team as the third tight end.

Downing: Having four quarterbacks at the start of camp really isn't any indication of the number the team plans to carry into the regular season. The Ravens typically have four quarterbacks on the initial 90-man roster, but then cut that down to two or three when they get to the 53-man squad. The Ravens have historically only kept two quarterbacks on the active roster, but they opted for three last year with Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III and rookie Trace McSorley. Based on the unique circumstances of this season, it wouldn't surprise me to again see three quarterbacks on roster. That's the most important position in the sport, and it will be even more critical to have depth there as teams navigate the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. If Jackson or Griffin were to come up with a positive test a day or two before a game, then the Ravens would want to have a capable backup already in the system. The decision to keep an extra quarterback may become even easier if the NFL and NFLPA decide to expand roster sizes this year, which is reportedly under discussion.

Mink: The competition for a sixth wide receiver spot is a good one. As of now, I'd give the edge to Chris Moore, who the team re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, because of his value on special teams. That's an area where Jaleel Scott, who shined last training camp, does not offer as much. With rookie James Proche projected as the punt returner, D'Anthony Thomas has an uphill climb.

Here's a thought. Could the Ravens keep just five wide receivers if Proche and Devin Duvernay show enough on special teams? Baltimore threw the ball to its wide receivers the least of any team in the NFL last year, so the Ravens may not really need six. Keeping five wideouts could open up an extra spot to carry four running backs, for example.

Downing: I'm a big fan of Gus the Bus. He's topped 700 rushing yards and averaged more than five yards a carry in each of the last two seasons. At 235 pounds, Edwards is the perfect downhill rusher when the Ravens need to pick up tough yards, and he almost never gets stopped for a loss. He will once again be a critical piece of the offense. But carries will be tougher to come by this year as the Ravens have added second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins to the mix. The Ravens love Dobbins' potential, and his arrival could mean fewer carries for Edwards or Mark Ingram II.

As far as starting this season, Ingram is still in that for that job. Let's not forget that Ingram topped 1,000 rushing yards last year and made the Pro Bowl. Edwards is fully capable of stepping into the starting lineup if Ingram went down, but don't expect him to replace the veteran as the top back on the depth chart. And in terms of the contract, I'd be surprised if the Ravens extended Edwards this year. He's only a restricted free agent after the season, so the Ravens could keep him with an RFA tender after the year. That's the more likely scenario, rather than signing him to a long-term deal right now.

Mink: With the NFL and NFLPA making progress on establishing the protocols for training camp and the full season, we're sure getting closer. It's looking hopeful. In terms of whether all the Ravens will be participating, we don't know that yet. Players have a tough decision to make, but of course they want to play football and know this could be a very special year.

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