Instead of offering my thoughts on the Ravens' 37-3 preseason win over the Washington Football Team Saturday night at FedExField, I'm giving this space over to my 53-man roster prediction. The Ravens have until Tuesday afternoon to get down to 53.
Quarterback (2) – Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley
The battle for the No. 2 job ended when a back injury sidelined Trace McSorley. But Huntley was on his way to winning the battle before that. The Ravens don't want to lose McSorley, but they're facing tough decisions at other positions and really need the roster spot that ordinarily would go to a third quarterback. They risk losing McSorley if they cut him, but with his back injured, the likelier outcome is he goes unclaimed on waivers and lands on the Ravens' practice squad.
Running back (3) – Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Ty'Son Williams
This position group was turned upside down when J.K. Dobbins left Saturday night's game with what might be a serious knee injury. Before that, the big question was whether Hill or Ty'Son Williams would get the No. 3 spot. Williams ran hard and effectively during the preseason while Hill was out with an injury. But Hill is a core member of the Ravens' special teams and also gives them a strong receiver out of the backfield. If Dobbins is out for long, Hill and Williams both would make the roster and see playing time as the Ravens try to make up for the loss of their starting running back. Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters Saturday night that Dobbins would undergo tests on his knee Sunday.
Fullback (1) – Patrick Ricard
The Ravens never want to cut draft picks, but there's no place for fifth-rounder Ben Mason in the offensive blueprint in 2021 and they're facing roster crunches at other positions. The Ravens would hope the market for fullbacks might not be that hot, so they could sign Mason to their practice squad. They'd like to develop him.
Tight end (3) – Mark Andrews, Eric Tomlinson, Josh Oliver
Nick Boyle is one of the NFL's best blocking tight ends, but he is still on the Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP) after suffering a major knee injury last year. This is strictly a guess, but I think the Ravens will keep him on that list to start the season rather than put him on the 53. It would mean he can't return until Week 7, but that seems like a reasonable expectation as he still hasn't practiced in 2021. Tomlinson, who performed well in 2020, would take on some of Boyle's role as the blocking tight end. Oliver showed enough potential during training camp and the preseason to earn a spot. If the Ravens think Boyle might be ready sooner than Week 7, they'll put him on the 53. In that scenario, my guess is they'd cut Tomlinson and immediately try to re-sign him.
Wide receiver (6) – Hollywood Brown, Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, Tylan Wallace
This construct leaves out Miles Boykin, a former third-round pick who has caught seven touchdown passes in two years and excels on special teams. He suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp and seemingly has been passed by several younger players, leaving him vulnerable. But I don't think the Ravens will part ways with a young player with so much upside potential; he could go on an injured list. Deon Cain, Jaylon Moore and Binjimen Victor are bubble players who have excelled at times during camp. They would be candidates for the practice squad.
Offensive line (9) – Ronnie Stanley, Kevin Zeitler, Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers, Alejandro Villanueva, Patrick Mekari, Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland, Michael Schofield
It's easy to get to eight with the starting five (first five listed above), versatile backups (Mekari and Phillips) and a promising rookie (Cleveland). But the situation has been unsettled enough, with injuries thrown in, that I think the Ravens will want extra depth. The leading candidates are a pair of second-year players, Trystan Colon and Ben Bredeson, and Schofield, a veteran. Schofield has seen a ton of playing time at left tackle during the preseason. The swing tackle job remains unclaimed.
Defensive line (6) – Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Justin Ellis
Few Ravens have raised their stock in 2021 more than Washington, who seemingly was on the bubble in the spring but has looked athletic and formidable as a run stopper. Ellis beat out Aaron Crawford for the last spot.
Inside linebacker (4) – Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, Chris Board, Kristian Welch
A tough choice loomed at this position until L.J. Fort's season-ending knee injury. That opened a spot for Welch, a former undrafted free agent who was promoted from the practice squad and found a role on special teams last season. If Fort were healthy, Welch would be squarely on the bubble. But now he has a chance to become the Ravens' latest UDFA success story at this position.
Outside linebacker (6) – Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, Justin Houston, Odafe Oweh, Daelin Hayes, Jaylon Ferguson
There has been some thought that Ferguson's spot was in jeopardy after the Ravens re-signed Bowser and McPhee, drafted Oweh and Hayes and signed Houston. They normally keep five at this position. But Ferguson has had a solid, if unspectacular, training camp and preseason. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale is a fan. Ferguson is a third-year player who is continuing to develop. He's making it.
Cornerback (5) – Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett
As I see it, four defensive backs are competing for one roster spot. The four are cornerbacks Chris Westry and Nigel Warrior, safety Geno Stone and rookie Ar'Darius Washington, who played safety in college. I think Washington gets the spot for a couple of reasons (see below). That leaves out Westry, who has played well and offers an unusual look for a corner with his 6-foot-4 frame. The Ravens would love to have him on the practice squad.
Safety (5) – Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Brandon Stephens, Anthony Levine Sr., Ar'Darius Washington
The Ravens outbid other teams to sign Washington as an UDFA. He is the highest-priced UDFA in the NFL this year. There's little doubt he'd get claimed if he went on waivers. And the Ravens have seen why there was a market for him. Although he is small, he is instinctive, explosive and – this is the difference-maker – versatile. Given a shot at slot corner, he has looked at home (one reason Shaun Wade was reportedly traded). Geno Stone is another young safety the Ravens would like to keep, and they could do it if they try the maneuver of cutting Levine on Tuesday and quickly re-signing him. As a vested veteran, Levine would not have to pass through waivers, increasing the odds that he could return. But I don't think the Ravens would do that with their de facto special teams captain.
Specialists (3) – Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Nick Moore
No surprises here.