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Roster breakdown: Initial thoughts after the Ravens cut their roster to 53 players and fill up practice squad

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaks with reporters on Saturday afternoon.

The Ravens announced a slew of cuts to bring their roster to 53 players as 4 p.m. arrived Saturday without much fanfare. Despite questions about whether they would make the team, quarterback Trace McSorley and guard Ben Powers, two 2019 picks who had uneven training camps, survived.

No undrafted free agents made the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster, putting the team’s 16-year streak of having at least one on its Week 1 roster in jeopardy. But much could change before the team opens its 2020 season at home against the Cleveland Browns.

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The Ravens on Sunday announced their 16-man practice squad, composed entirely of players who spent the summer with them in training camp. New injured reserve rules allow players to return after three games, giving teams the flexibility to make subtle roster tweaks before Week 1.

Here’s a breakdown of the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster:

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Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) stands between Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley during practice Tuesday. McSorley beat out rookie Tyler Huntley for a roster spot. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff)
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) stands between Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley during practice Tuesday. McSorley beat out rookie Tyler Huntley for a roster spot. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Offense

Quarterbacks (3): Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley

The Ravens were expected to keep three quarterbacks on the roster for the third consecutive season and the team did just that, with McSorley getting the edge over undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley. While Huntley outplayed McSorley through stretches of training camp that were open to the media, the 2019 first-team All-Pac 12 Conference standout was one of the players who were hurt the most by a lack of preseason games. Huntley was later signed to the practice squad.

Running backs (4): Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill

The running back room was essentially set the minute the team entered training camp. How offensive coordinator Greg Roman uses each of the backs will be something to monitor. The team will begin the season with Ingram as the starter, but coach John Harbaugh said Dobbins will likely have a “significant role” as a rookie.

Harbaugh also expressed confidence in Edwards, who is less heralded but was one of the league’s most efficient runners last season. Hill missed multiple practices leading up to roster cutdown, but the team still sees value in the 2019 fourth-round pick as a receiving back and kick returner.

Wide receivers (6): Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead IV, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Chris Moore

With multiple returning players at the position and two rookies, there wasn’t much competition for a spot at wideout. The fact that Moore missed all the padded practices and still made the team speaks to his value within the organization as a special teams contributor. It was a strong training camp for the position group, which could be used in more sets featuring three or four wideouts as the Ravens head into the year with just two true tight ends.

Tight ends/fullback (3): Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Patrick Ricard

After much debate as to who would win the competition for the third tight end spot, the Ravens opted to go with just two true tight ends. Ricard is primed to expand his responsibilities this season, as he worked at tight end extensively during training camp. New game-week roster rules allow teams to bring up to two players from the practice squad to the active roster every week. The Ravens could designate an extra tight end for game days, depending on the matchup. The team signed two tight ends to the practice squad, Jerell Adams and Eli Wolf.

Offensive line (9): Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman, D.J. Fluker, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari, Tyre Phillips, Ben Bredeson, Ben Powers

Despite a shaky showing at times, Powers made the roster ahead of players such as Parker Ehinger and Will Holden. The team didn’t keep a true swing tackle on its initial roster and looks poised to use Fluker in that role. That would likely result in Phillips, a third-round pick in April’s draft, starting at right guard. Harbaugh said the team is close to settling on a starting offensive line, so things could change before next Sunday.

Ravens defensive end Derek Wolfe (95), defensive end Calais Campbell (93) and defensive end Jihad Ward (53) are pictured at practice Thursday. 09-03-20
Ravens defensive end Derek Wolfe (95), defensive end Calais Campbell (93) and defensive end Jihad Ward (53) are pictured at practice Thursday. 09-03-20 (Ulysses Muñoz)

Defense

Defensive line (7): Calais Campbell, Jihad Ward, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Justin Ellis

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The Ravens will enter the season with a tremendously revamped defensive line: four of the players on the initial roster are newcomers. Ellis, who was signed midseason last year, provides depth at nose tackle behind Williams, and rookies Madubuike and Washington also fill out reserve roles. Madubuike’s availability for the season opener is in question after Harbaugh said he was “week-to-week” following an injury in the team’s scrimmage. If the team thinks he’ll be out multiple weeks, it could place him on the injured reserve and create a roster opening.

Outside linebackers (4): Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, Jaylon Ferguson

This is another position group that didn’t have much uncertainty in training camp. The Ravens will look for improvements from young linebackers Bowser and Ferguson, as well as a healthy season from McPhee. Ward, while listed as a defensive end, provides flexibility as a player who can also line up as an outside linebacker. Judon, who is playing on the franchise tag, looks to build off a Pro Bowl season last year.

Inside linebackers (5): Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, L.J. Fort, Chris Board, Otaro Alaka

The Ravens defense last season played out of its base package at a lower rate than any other team, substituting inside linebackers for extra defensive backs. Alaka, who made the team’s 53-man roster last year before ending up on IR, had another strong training camp and landed as the fifth inside linebacker. Due to the team’s affinity for defensive back-heavy packages and the lack of depth at other positions, the numbers here could fluctuate over the next couple of weeks.

Cornerbacks (5): Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett

Averett’s spot as the team’s fifth corner was solidified by Iman Marshall’s season-ending knee injury. With the return of Young, who looked healthy and was active in training camp, Humphrey returns to his natural position at outside corner, pairing with Peters as one of the top tandems in the league. Smith is expected to get more playing time this year at safety, à la Brandon Carr last season.

Safety (4): Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine Sr., Geno Stone

The release of Earl Thomas III seemed to open an opportunity for another safety to make the roster, but the Ravens went with just four at the position. Special teams contributor Jordan Richards was cut, as was undrafted rookie Nigel Warrior, who made a strong case for the roster. Both players were later signed to the practice squad.

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Behind starters Clark and Elliott, the team doesn’t have much experience. Levine has typically played closer to the line of scrimmage in a defensive back-linebacker hybrid role, and Stone is a seventh-round pick from the 2020 draft. Smith will be an option at safety in certain packages, but the team could also look to add another safety to the 53-man roster.

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Specialists (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

The Wolfpack heads into Year 9 as one of the most, if not the most, consistent special teams trios in the league.

Season opener

BROWNS@RAVENS

Next Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 1090 AM, 980 FM

Line: Ravens by 8

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