Sunday's release of Tommy Streeter, Rashaad Carter and Gerrard Sheppard (Towson, McDonogh) leaves the Ravens with seven healthy wide receivers on their roster. It also narrows down what might be the most intriguing roster competition left before the regular season begins.
As the Ravens prepare for their final preseason game Thursday against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, the makeup of their receiving corps for the Sept. 5 regular-season opener remains undecided.
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"I'm not quite certain what the numbers will be. That's [coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome], they take care of that," said Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. "They look at it and look at the entire team. Our job is to try to get the guys that are out there as good as they can possibly be and we do have some young guys that are obviously performing well. It's a great competition. Some of those young guys — [Aaron] Mellette and [Marlon] Brown — are doing a tremendous job. They're making good progress and we'll see what happens."
The Ravens kept six wide receivers on their regular-season opening roster last year and they figure to keep that many again this year. But if they do so, they're going to have to part ways with one or two players from the group that includes third-year wide receivers Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams (Poly, Maryland), second-year player Deonte Thompson, and Mellette and Brown, both rookies.
Thompson hasn't been on the field since sustaining an injury to his left foot in the Ravens' first preseason game Aug. 8. Harbaugh said the team should know more about this status last week, but putting the 2012 undrafted free agent on injured reserve remains an option.
If the Ravens do that and are intent on keeping six wide receivers, that leaves three spots for four guys. Mellette, a seventh-round pick from Elon, and Brown, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, have both had strong preseasons and their status certainly looks more secure than it did even two weeks ago.
Doss, a fourth-round selection in 2011, initially looked like a lock to make the team, but an uneven preseason, highlighted by his struggles last week against the Carolina Panthers, has prompted questions about whether he'll survive Saturday's final roster cut down to 53 players.
"When you look at him this week, he's had an unbelievable week in terms of preparation," Caldwell said of Doss. "He looks good, he's probably running as well as he's ran since I've been here at least. I think he feels good about himself. He's healthy, which he hasn't been for a while. I think Tandon is working, he's competing and he's doing a nice job."
Pees still going over options
When the Ravens announced their defensive starters before last week's game, three cornerbacks and three outside linebackers were introduced to the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium.
It was not an attempt to cover up who is in line to start Sept. 5 in Denver, rather the reality of the sort of decisions defensive coordinator Dean Pees is sorting through.
"We are set with some starters, that's a given. But the thing of it, there's so many different packages that you play and different guys could be a starter in a certain package," Pees said. "We know what the packages are [but] it's who do we want to plug into those. … That's the truth. We might start the game in nickel defense, which might be two outsider 'backers. We might start it in Raven defense, which is two other outside 'backers. We might start in sub, which is five [defensive backs] and all three DBs that got introduced are all playing. We have an idea of the top guys for the most part. But how they fit into those packages is still yet to be determined and that's always a week-to-week thing anyhow."
Caldwell said tight end Ed Dickson, who has been practicing for about a week now after tearing his hamstring earlier in training camp, looks as explosive as he did before he was injured. "He's running well, he's catching the ball well. That's coming along well," Caldwell said. … Acquired last Wednesday, running back Delone Carter is expected to get some playing Thursday, though how much he plays will likely depend on how quickly he learns the offense. … Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis and his family watched the Ravens' practice Monday. … A group of nuns also visited practice and shook hands with coaches and players afterward, prompting Pees to say, "All the help we can get. We'll use everybody."