The preseason finale is often viewed as the least meaningful of the four exhibition games. Most of the starters only play a series or two – if they take the field at all.
But for the players on the bubble trying to earn the last few roster spots, there might not be a more important game on the schedule than Thursday night's preseason finale in St. Louis.
"This is the biggest game in the careers of a bunch of guys Thursday night," Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said. "There is a lot on the line for these guys, and I can't wait to watch some of them play."
The Ravens have not announced exactly how long the starters will play, but in last year's fourth preseason game quarterback Joe Flacco and a number of the other starters didn't take the field at all. That will give the younger players plenty of opportunities to go out and earn a roster spot.
"These guys work too hard out here to not give them every opportunity out there in a game situation to prove what they can do," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "This is their dream."
The roster must get trimmed to 53 players by 9 p.m. Friday, meaning that Thursday night's game is truly the last chance for a number of players to prove they deserve a job.
"This is really an important game to the majority of the team, not the minority of the team," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "It's going to be on film for everybody to see, and it's down to crunch time where everybody is making their team."
3 Bubble Players To Watch
OLB Sergio Kindle: The third-year linebacker is trying to earn his way onto the roster after a strong showing during the offseason and the early part of training camp. His production has been limited lately because of a shoulder injury that held him out of last week's game, but Harbaugh said this game will be important for the former second-round pick because he is not a lock to make the team.
S Omar Brown: The undrafted rookie has made some big plays during the preseason and always seems to be around the football. He has netted five takeaways – three fumble recoveries, an interception and an onside kick recovery – and he is vying for a spot in a crowded secondary. Special teams play will be key for him because that would most likely be his role this season.
DL DeAngelo Tyson: The seventh-round pick made his biggest play of the preseason last week by picking up a sack against Jacksonville, but he's still competing for a spot on the 53-man roster. Tyson has recently been working with the second-team defense and is competing with former practice squad player Bryan Hall and rookies Terrence Moore, Ishmaa'ily Kitchen and Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.
3 Questions To Answer
* *Does Bobby Rainey stay hot?
The undrafted rookie running back has been one of the surprises of training camp and may have earned his way onto the roster with a strong showing in preseason games. He is competing with second-year running back Anthony Allen and former practice squad player Damien Berry for the third running back spot on the active roster. Another strong showing by Rainey could guarantee his place on the roster.
Who stands out at wide receiver?
Harbaugh has said that the Ravens will keep between five and seven receivers on the active roster, and the exact number likely depends on this week's performance from players like Logan Payne and Deonte Thompson. Sixth-round draft pick Tommy Streeter is also trying to earn a roster spot, but he has not practiced at all this week so his status for Thursday may be in jeopardy. A breakout performance by either Payne or Thompson – or an impressive showing on special teams – could land them on the active roster.
Who earns final offensive line spots?
The final spots on the offensive line will likely come down to a competition between Tony Wragge, Justin Boren, Jack Cornell and Ramon Harewood. The Ravens had eight offensive linemen on the active roster at the end of last season and Cameron said this week that they have not determined the number of linemen to keep this year. Cameron did point out that they would like to have three centers on the roster, which could benefit Boren or Wragge because they could potentially be the team's third center behind Matt Birk and Gino Gradkowski.
Total Defense - 288.9 (3)
Rush Defense - 92.6 (2)
Pass Defense - 196.3 (4)
Points Allowed Per Game - 16.6 (3)
Total Offense - 338.7 (15)
Rush Offense - 124.8 (10)
Pass Offense - 213.9 (19)
Points Scored Per Game - 23.6 (12)
Total Offense – 283.6 (31)
Rush Offense – 104.2 (23)
Pass Offense – 179.4 (30)
Points Scored Per Game – 12.1 (32)
Total Defense – 358.4 (22)
Rush Defense – 152.1 (31)
Pass Defense – 206.3 (7)
Points Allowed Per Game – 25.4 (26)