Instead of offering my thoughts on the Ravens’ 20-7 win over the Washington Redskins in their preseason finale Thursday night at FedEx Field, I’m going to predict Baltimore’s 53-man roster after cuts are made by Saturday’s deadline.
Quarterback: (3) Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
Skinny: Whether McSorley makes it is the only drama, and Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh offered a spoiler alert when he said the rookie had played well enough to stick. Yes, the Ravens often went with two quarterbacks when Joe Flacco was the starter, but there are more injury concerns now because of Jackson’s playing style. They could try to get McSorley on the practice squad, but they might lose him.
Running back: (4) Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Kenneth Dixon
Skinny: The Ravens don’t usually keep four, but given their offensive style with Jackson at quarterback, the need for quality running back depth is heightened. Dixon is the only one whose job isn’t secure, and he could be a trade candidate if the right offer comes. But teams don’t like to lose talented players, and Dixon could go somewhere and rush for a thousand yards. Tyler Ervin returned punts well enough to stick, but jobs are so tight this year that the Ravens need their returners to have other roles, so Cyrus Jones, in the mix at slot corner, gets that job.
Wide receiver: (6) Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts, Jaleel Scott
Skinny: The top four are locks. Scott, Roberts and Michael Floyd are battling for two jobs. Scott gets one because he is young, tall, fast and has upside potential. Plus, he plays special teams. Roberts was one of the best receivers in camp before an injury set him back. Floyd has come on, but Roberts, a strong blocker, fits what the Ravens want. Look for Antoine Wesley on the practice squad.
Tight ends (3): Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
Skinny: Not much to see here. The Ravens think this group could be among the league’s best. Also, versatile Patrick Ricard will be used as a blocker out of both the tight end and fullback spots. For this projection, I have him on the defensive line, where he’ll probably get the most snaps.
Offensive line: (8) Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Matt Skura, Orlando Brown Jr., James Hurst, Ben Powers, Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari
Skinny: The first four are locks to start. Hurst makes it either as the starting left guard or a “swingman” backing up every position except center. My bet? He starts at guard. That job was available for Powers, a rookie, and Bozeman, in his second year, and neither grabbed it, but both make the roster as depth guys who could start in a pinch. The same is true of Mekari, an undrafted rookie, who gets the last spot on the depth chart ahead of Greg Senat, enabling the Ravens to extend their streak of having an UDFA on the final 53. I’m guessing Senat is headed for the practice squad. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a veteran added here.
Defensive line: (6) Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Willie Henry, Daylon Mack, Patrick Ricard
Skinny: I don’t think there’s much doubt about this projection, which is heavy on nose tackles, no pun intended, and leaves out Zach Sieler and Gerald Willis, neither of whom stood out in the preseason. But both possess upside potential and I’d pencil in one or both for the practice squad. Ricard, one of the team’s most improved players, may have played his way into a significant role. Henry is the most vulnerable of those I have making it.
Inside linebacker: (3) Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Chris Board
Skinny: The big question here was whether the concussion Board suffered in the preseason might force a move. The Ravens did sign a veteran, but he immediately retired. Whatever, it appears Board is healthy. This isn’t much depth, but the Ravens might use a safety alongside Onwuasor in certain situations. If they keep another guy, it’d be rookie Otaro Alaka, a practice squad candidate.
Outside linebacker: (5) Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, Jaylon Ferguson
Skinny: At a position that has stirred questions, it’s pretty easy to make this projection. Judon is a starter. McPhee looks like he’ll be a contributor. Bowser has played his way into a role. Williams still flashes. Ferguson is a high draft pick. This leaves out Shane Ray, whom the Ravens hoped would show the talent that made him a first-round draft pick in 2015. But he hasn’t stood out.
Cornerback: (7) Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Anthony Averett, Justin Bethel, Cyrus Jones, Maurice Canady
Skinny: The first four are locks, and I think Bethel and Jones are, too, because of what they can do on special teams. But Bethel likely won’t take snaps at corner, and it’s also unclear how many Jones will take even though he has gotten a long look at slot corner in the preseason. That’s why I have Canady making it – just ahead of safety Brynden Trawick, by the way. With Tavon Young out and some of the other depth at this position making it for special teams, there’s a need for an experienced corner as insurance.
Safety: (5) Earl Thomas III, Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine Sr., DeShon Elliott, Chuck Clark
Skinny: The first four are locks, and Clark excels on special teams. As noted, my last cut from the roster was Brynden Trawick, another special teams ace whom the Ravens picked up during camp.
Specialists: (3) Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Skinny: No drama here. All three are among the best in the league at their specialty.