ATLANTA — The next 40 hours or so will be anxious times for the Ravens who happen to be on the roster bubble. Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that the organization has some tough decisions to make to get its roster down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Harbaugh singled out running back, wide receiver, defensive line and cornerback as positions where difficult calls need to be made. There's also the not-so small matter of settling on a returner, a task that didn't become any easier during the Ravens' preseason finale, a 20-19 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
Cornerback Asa Jackson, who has been the team's primary returner throughout the preseason, showed his big-play ability by fielding a punt at the Ravens' 10-yard line early in the second quarter and bursting through the middle. With only the punter to beat, Jackson turned his ankle and fell at the Falcons' 37. The tumble came five days after Jackson appeared set to score on a kickoff return against the Washington Redskins, only to get caught from behind and tackled at the 2-yard line.
"I'm just trying to make plays, and stuff happens sometimes," Jackson said.
What Jackson can't have happen are fumbles. He botched a third-quarter punt against Atlanta, the second consecutive week in which Jackson fumbled a punt, leaving Harbaugh and the coaching staff to balance the cornerback's explosiveness with his far-too-often mistakes.
Jackson is clearly the Ravens' most gifted returner, but can the Ravens trust him?
"It's out of my hands now," Jackson said. "I've always been a player that has a lot of confidence to make plays. Sometimes being aggressive and doing that, that's the result sometimes. It's something that's not OK."
At running back, with Lorenzo Taliaferro sidelined by a knee injury, neither Fitzgerald Toussaint (six carries for 20 yards) nor Terrence Magee (nine carries for 37 yards) gained any separation in the battle for the No. 3 running back job. Magee, though, outplayed Taliaferro throughout the preseason.
"I don't want to be anywhere else," Magee said. "This is a business. Whatever happens, happens, but I would love and stay here and be a Raven."
The wide receiver picture doesn't look complicated. If the Ravens go with five wideouts, they will be Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and Breshad Perriman. If they take six, the next in line most likely will be Jeremy Butler, who had three catches for 16 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. Daniel Brown, who blocked a punt and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the Ravens' late comeback attempt, is a practice squad candidate, according to Harbaugh.
Along the defensive line, the Ravens have Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis and Lawrence Guy. That might leave one spot for Kapron Lewis-Moore, DeAngelo Tyson and Christo Bilukidi to fill.
After missing his first two NFL seasons because of injury, Lewis-Moore said he's not exactly sweating the decision.
"To be honest with you, going through my injuries and stuff, I'm just happy that the Ravens gave me a chance to come out here and show my stuff," Lewis-Moore said. "I'm forever grateful for them drafting me a couple of years ago."
At cornerback, the Ravens' top five players are Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Rashaan Melvin, Kyle Arrington and rookie Tray Walker. There is probably room for one more from a group that includes Jackson, Cassius Vaughn and Quinton Pointer.
“I felt like I was knocking on the door for a long time,” Jackson said. “I think it’s my time to just be consistent all the time and just kick the door down. It’s that time for me. It’s frustrating because I feel like I prepare myself to be in that position, and then some things end up happening. But all I can do is keep preparing and doing everything I can. Hopefully, I’ll still be here on this team and keep progressing as an NFL football player — not only as a corner but also as a returner, and hopefully help the Ravens.”