When the Ravens announced their final roster cuts Saturday, my first thought was it certainly didn't pay to play well in the preseason finale.
Running back Bobby Rainey, safety Omar Brown and wide receiver Tandon Doss all gave strong performances Thursday night against the St. Louis Rams – so strong that I predicted all three would survive Saturday's cut to 53 players.
Well … whoops.
None made it, and neither did either candidate for the No. 3 tight end job, veteran Billy Bajema or rookie Matt Furstenburg. As of today, the Ravens have just two running backs and two tight ends heading into Thursday night's regular season opener against the Broncos. But they do have five safeties, including super longshot Brynden Trawick, an undrafted free agent.
Did you predict any of that? Or that the team would keep seven wide receivers but not Tandon Doss?
I suppose we should have expected such surprising developments, seeing as the unofficial motto of the Ravens' entire offseason has been "Wait, they did what?" Everyone knew some changes were coming after they won the Super Bowl, but few expected the overhaul to include the departures of Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed and the additions of Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark.
In other words, it's been an unpredictable offseason, so why shouldn't the final cuts be unpredictable, too?
Like a lot of people, I thought Rainey had showed enough to make it. He breaks tackles, catches the ball, runs back kicks, makes things happen and looks like a guy who could pile up yardage on Sundays if given a chance.
But of course, with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce ahead of him, he isn't going to get that chance here. So his skills as a back actually didn't help his chances of making the team. Neither did his return skills because the Ravens have plenty of options there, starting with Jacoby Jones. The Ravens need the person in Rainey's projected roster spot to excel on special teams above all, and they apparently decided someone else, possibly Trawick, could help more on coverage units.
So it goes. Don't be surprised if Rainey lands on the Ravens' practice squad if he clears waivers; I'm guessing they would love to keep him around in case Rice or Pierce gets hurt. I'm guessing they would also like to keep Furstenburg, who showed promise, on the practice squad.
Also don't be surprised if Bajema ends up on the 53-man squad at some point, when the Ravens decide they need another tight end. Such changes occur so routinely that it's really a misnomer to call Saturday's survivors the "final" roster. The reality is the roster will continue to change throughout the season, depending on the Ravens' needs from time to time. Today's roster is about as final as a midday stock market report.
Of the headline-making moves, probably the least surprising is Doss' departure. The former fourth-round pick had good hands and polish as a route runner, but he never made the explosive plays that rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette have made routinely throughout the preseason. Quite simply, they shot by him, and with Stokley around, he became expendable.
It's only a surprise because the Ravens kept seven receivers, way more than usual, and he wasn't one. But they kept Deonte Thompson ahead of him because they like Thompson's speed, and they kept LaQuan Williams for his value on special teams. Doss didn't have enough going in any one area.
In my mind, Trawick, LaQuan Williams, safety Anthony Levine and defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson are the big winners – the guys whose roster spots were tenuous but showed enough to make it. Kudos to them.
But a year ago, the Ravens cut Anthony Allen and kept Rainey at this deadline, then brought Allen back and cut Rainey a week later. There could be similar changes almost immediately this year because another roster spot likely will open up if the Ravens put Dennis Pitta on the "possible return" injured reserve list next week, as expected.
In other words, today's deadline notwithstanding, the situation remains fluid. Stay tuned.