The grind of training camp has a way of sorting out roster competitions. When camp started about 3 ½ weeks ago, the focus was on all the potential position battles. Several still remain, but suspensions, injuries, and performance have conspired to lessen some of the intrigue.
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro landing and staying on the physically unable to perform list takes away one of the questions at running back. Injuries to Kaelin Clay and Chris Matthews (he's returned, but is there enough time?), and the struggles of rookie Keenan Reynolds may have made decisions a little easier at wide receiver.
The suspensions of tight ends Darren Waller and Nick Boyle buy time before the Ravens have to make decisions on them. Rookie Bronson Kaufusi's likely season-ending ankle fracture might allow the Ravens to carry one more defensive lineman, and injuries sustained by Kyle Arrington (concussion) and Matt Elam (knee) will likely take two "bubble" guys out of the conversation for jobs in the secondary.
The Ravens have to get down to a 75-man roster by Aug. 30, and then set their 53-man roster by Sept. 3. Decisions could get a little less daunting considering the Ravens have two guys who will likely go to injured reserve (Elam, Kaufusi), one (Taliaferro) who could go on the regular-season PUP list , two who will start on the reserve-suspended list (Waller, Boyle) and others who might get injured in the final two preseason games. The Ravens also have about 15 guys who are more camp bodies than legitimate candidates to make the team.
I misspoke, or I should say mis-tweeted, early Monday when I mentioned that Elam, who will get arthroscopic knee surgery, is a candidate for injured reserve with a designation to return. That designation no longer exists following a rule change this offseason. After six weeks, the Ravens could activate one of the players on injured reserve to the active roster. They don't have to designate that player now, though. Given that they're only able to do it with one player, I doubt it would be Elam, a reserve safety, but it's too early to tell.
Still believe it's Mallett: Harbaugh made some waves after Saturday's game when he said Josh Johnson is in competition with Ryan Mallett for the backup quarterback role. Johnson has had a solid camp and he played well against the Indianapolis Colts. But what did you expect Harbaugh to say, that Johnson, a well-traveled and well respected veteran who played under Jim Harbaugh in both college and the pros, has no chance to make the team?
John Harbaugh values competition at every spot and the Ravens want to continue to push Mallett. To his credit, Johnson is doing just that. Johnson is handling himself with the poise and experience you'd expect from a 30-year-old who has been in seven different organizations. He has been good for the young receivers and his elusiveness and speed has provided a different look for the Ravens' defense in training camp practices.
I'm not taking anything away from Johnson. However, I'm also not yet buying that Mallett's roster spot is in significant jeopardy. Mallett has recent starting experience, while Johnson hasn't thrown a pass in an NFL regular-season game since 2011. Mallett's size and arm strength are also a better fit for the offense the Ravens want to have with Joe Flacco at the helm. Mallett has also been solid in the two preseason games, completing 17-of-23 passing attempts for 138 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, which wasn't his fault.
Johnson, though, sure would be a nice resource to have on the team as the Ravens prepare for former teammate Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. You watch Johnson run around and lead the offense, while wearing the No. 2 which Taylor wore with the Ravens, and it takes you back to when Taylor was on the team.
By the way, something I did not know about Josh Johnson but learned in the Ravens' media guide: His cousin is former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
Ravens taking it slowly with Will Davis: I've gotten a lot of questions about why Will Davis, and not Shareece Wright, isn't getting an opportunity to start at cornerback opposite Jimmy Smith. Remember, in the past 20 months, Davis has torn the ACL in each of his knees. He's done well to return to the field as quickly as he has, but he's still not 100 percent back yet.
In an interview last week after his best practice all summer, Davis admitted he doesn't feel like himself yet, but he's getting there. The more he progresses, the more he'll be on the field, whether it's in place of Wright or struggling nickel back Jerraud Powers.
These preseason snaps are huge for Davis, who hasn't played a lot of football. He's played 17 games over the past three seasons. The Ravens are doing the right thing with Davis. Let him keep getting snaps, knocking off rust and gaining more confidence in his knee. The better he looks and the more comfortable he gets, the bigger role he'll have. The Ravens think he has a bright future if he stays healthy.
Nowhere to put Ochi: It shouldn't be all that surprising that undrafted free agent outside linebacker/defensive end Victor Ochi has gotten so few snaps in the first two preseason games. Ochi plays with great effort and toughness, but he also plays a position where the Ravens are loaded with numbers.
At outside linebacker, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za'Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matthew Judon and possibly even Chris Carter are ahead of Ochi. At defensive end, he's behind Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore. Ochi is caught in a numbers game.
Perhaps, the Ravens feel that in not playing Ochi much in the preseason, they might be able to sneak him through waivers and onto their practice squad. I'm not sure that's going to work because teams are obsessed with finding pass rushers and Ochi was a highly sought-after college free agent. However, it's probably worth a try because it's hard to find a roster spot for Ochi even if he played really well this preseason.
Butler at their service: Can Jeremy Butler still make the team if the team's presumed top six receivers (Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro and Chris Moore) are all healthy and on the regular-season roster? He sure can. As I've written in this space before, the Ravens fill the back end of their roster with special teams in mind. The position the guys who are in contention for the final couple of roster spots play isn't usually the deciding factor. Special teams play is, which is why you see Butler playing more and more special teams this summer.