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Ravens roster breakdown and position grades

QUARTERBACKS (2): Starter — Joe Flacco. Backup — Marc Bulger.

Flacco is starting his third straight season as the starter (only Kyle Boller has done that in Ravens' history). The hope is Flacco takes the step from a developing quarterback to a Pro Bowl one. He could throw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. Bulger is one of the top backups in the NFL and could be starting on other teams (like the Arizona Cardinals). The Ravens cut Troy Smith, which marks the first time since 2006 that the Ravens are carrying two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.


RUNNING BACKS (4): Starters — RB Ray Rice, FB Le'Ron McClain. Backups — Willis McGahee, Jalen Parmele, Matt Lawrence (PUP).

Rice is considered one of the top five running backs in the NFL, and McClain has gone to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. McGahee set career highs in touchdowns (14) and rushing average (5.0 yards per carry) last season. Parmele is the primary kickoff returner.


TIGHT ENDS (3): Starter — Todd Heap. Backups — Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta.

Heap's impressive performance this summer shows his career isn't over just yet. The Ravens drafted two tight ends (Dickson and Pitta) to provide the most depth at this position in years. Dickson is Oregon's all-time leader in every receiving category for tight ends, and Pitta finished as BYU's all-time leader in receptions.


WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Starters — Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason. Backups — Mark Clayton, Donte' Stallworth (injured), Marcus Smith, David Reed.

The Ravens' biggest move this offseason was trading for Boldin, who then signed a new four-year, $28 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) with the team. Mason, who led the Ravens in receptions in three of the past five seasons, is still a major target on third downs. Clayton solidified his spot as the No. 3 wide receiver long before Stallworth (broken foot) was sidelined for seven weeks. Smith and Reed made the cut over Demetrius Williams because of their impact on special teams.


OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Starters — LT Michael Oher, LG Ben Grubbs, C Matt Birk, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Jared Gaither (injured). Backups — C-G Chris Chester, OT Oniel Cousins, OT Tony Moll.

The biggest question mark is Gaither, who could miss the first couple games of the season with a back injury. Before the injury, the Ravens flipped Oher to the left side and Gaither to the right because Oher is more reliable. Cousins would replace Gaither if he can overcome a concussion. Grubbs and Yanda are two of the most physical interior linemen in the NFL. Birk, 34, is the only starter over the age of 26.


DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Starters—- LDE Cory Redding, NT Kelly Gregg, RDT Haloti Ngata. Backups — NT Terrence Cody (injured), DE Trevor Pryce, DE Paul Kruger, DT Arthur Jones, DT Brandon McKinney, DT Lamar Divens.

Ngata is not only considered one of the top defensive linemen but one of the best players in the NFL regardless of position. The only new addition to the starting front seven is Redding, who replaces Dwan Edwards (signed with Buffalo in free agency). Gregg, one of more underrated players in team history, is beginning his eighth season as the team's starting nose tackle. The Ravens drafted Gregg's eventual replacement in Cody, the second-round pick who is dealing with a knee injury and likely will miss the season opener. Pryce has led the Ravens in sacks in two of his four seasons with the team.


LINEBACKERS (9): Starters — LOLB Jarret Johnson, LILB Ray Lewis, RILB Jameel McClain, ROLB Terrell Suggs. Backups — ILB Dannell Ellerbe, ILB Tavares Gooden, OLB Edgar Jones, OLB Prescott Burgess, ILB Jason Phillips, ILB Brendon Ayanbadejo (PUP), OLB Sergio Kindle (injured-unsigned).

This is the most loaded position on the team. Lewis remains the constant for a defense that has ranked in the top six the past seven seasons. Suggs has worked hard after recording a career-low 4½ sacks. Johnson is playing at a Pro Bowl level. And McClain looks to have beaten out Ellerbe and Gooden for the other starting job.


DEFENSIVE BACKS (9): Starters — LCB Fabian Washington, RCB Lardarius Webb, SS Dawan Landry, FS Tom Zbikowski. Backups — CB Josh Wilson, CB Chris Carr, S Haruki Nakamura, S Ken Hamlin, CB Bryan McCann, CB Cary Williams (suspended for two games), S Ed Reed (PUP).

The Ravens start the season without half of their starting secondary from last season. Reed (hip) will miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season, and cornerback Domonique Foxworth (knee) is out for the season. The Ravens replaced Foxworth's void by trading a conditional fifth-round pick to Seattle for Josh Wilson. If Webb (knee) is healthy enough to start immediately, Wilson will play nickel back. If Webb isn't ready, Wilson should have the chance to start. Zbikowski has done a more-than-respectable job filling in for Reed this preseason. Carr is expected to return punts for the Ravens. McCann was claimed off waivers after being cut by the Dallas Cowboys.


SPECIAL TEAMS (3): K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, LS Morgan Cox.

Cundiff delivered the upset, beating out Shayne Graham in the kicking battle. The incumbent was perfect on field goals this preseason and was extremely impressive kicking off. Koch continued to look like a Pro Bowl punter this preseason. The Ravens made a bold move when they gave the long-snapper job to Cox, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee, and cut Matt Katula, their long-snapper for the past five years.


Notes: Players on PUP don't count on 53-man roster until they are activated after Week 6. Cornerback Cary Williams won't count until his two-game suspension is over.

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