The competition for the final couple of wide receiver spots was the most intriguing Ravens storyline heading into their final preseason game and nothing that happened during the team’s 24-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams last night changed that perception.
With the three roster locks at the position -- Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley -- being held out of the game by Ravens coach John Harbaugh, the opportunity shifted to Tandon Doss, Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown -- and all three responded.
Doss, the veteran of the group in his third NFL season, had five catches for 75 yards. Mellette, a seventh-round pick out of Elon, nearly equaled him with five catches for 70 yards. And Brown, an undrafted rookie from Georgia, pitched in with four catches for 79 yards, and for the second straight week, he got in the end zone -- this time on a 50-yard catch and run.
LaQuan Williams, the third-year receiver from Baltimore who is also battling for a spot, was used almost exclusively on special teams, limiting his chances to make plays.
“I thought the wide receivers all played pretty well,” Harbaugh said. “Tandon obviously played well. Marlon played well. LaQuan played well. They all played well. It’s a good group.”
But how many of them can the Ravens afford to keep? That question will be answered in the next 36 hours as the Ravens cut down their roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday’s 6 p.m. deadline.
The Ravens kept six wide receivers last year and if they follow that script this season, they’ll have to knock two guys off the roster depending on the status of Deonte Thompson.
Thompson, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last season and was expected to step into a bigger role this year, hasn’t practiced since he suffered a left foot injury in the Aug. 8 preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Ravens haven’t disclosed the specific nature of his injury, but it would obviously be tough to keep Thompson on the active roster if he is expected to miss an extended stretch of the regular season.
As things currently stand, Thompson, Doss, Williams, Brown and Mellette are probably battling for three or four spots.
Brown has made the boldest move up the depth chart since the start of training camp, and after last night’s performance, he leads the team with 10 preseason catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Mellete has also made a nice transition from a small school to the NFL, catching nine balls for 140 yards and two scores.
Doss, who would be used mostly in the slot, had just two catches for 9 yards heading into last night’s game, but his performance, which included connections with quarterback Caleb Hanie for gains of 20 and 40 yards, certainly helped his cause.
“I finally got some balls thrown my way,” Doss said. “I was able to get into a routine, and it felt good for the first time.”
Harbaugh said the Ravens could make some cuts as early as this morning and then other roster moves might not happen until much closer’s to tomorrow’s deadline. That figures to leave some anxious moment for many players, including a couple of the young receivers.
“I feel like I had a pretty good camp, had a couple of good preseason games,” Brown said. “Whatever happens, happens. It isn’t in my hands anymore. It’s in God’s hands.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun