With the Ravens a week away from winnowing their roster to the final 53, the 2018 team is both set at most core spots and hard to nail down around the fringes.
With a large draft class on hand, coach John Harbaugh and the front office will have to make difficult decisions on a number of young players, and they’ll have to answer philosophical questions about how many quarterbacks they want to keep and how much they value special teams.
The final two preseason games, Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins and Thursday night against the Washington Redskins, might also decide a few of the remaining battles.
Against that backdrop, here’s a look at the roster, with each position group divided into sure things, bubble candidates and players with little chance.
Sure things: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
Bubble: Robert Griffin III
Little chance: Josh Woodrum
The question of what to do with Griffin is a fascinating one, and Harbaugh has said it will likely come down to the last moment. Griffin has impressed the Ravens with both his play and his outlook, and he would be the team’s best backup since Tyrod Taylor. That said, Harbaugh does not like to carry a third quarterback, knowing that player would likely be inactive most weeks. And he might figure that if Flacco gets hurt, it would be time to throw Jackson into the fire regardless. The guess here is Griffin will not be on the team, but there’s really no easy answer.
Sure things: Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Patrick Ricard (fullback)
Bubble: Gus Edwards
Little chance: Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner
Dixon isn’t as safe as Collins or Allen, but given the promise he showed two years ago and his production when he finally returned to the field Monday, he’s in good position. The Ravens obviously like the hard-running Edwards, given the amount of work they’ve given him in the preseason. They might also keep an eye out for a speedier runner from elsewhere. Ricard seems likely to make the roster because of his ability to play both offense and defense.
Sure things: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore
Bubble: Jordan Lasley, Janarian Grant, Jaleel Scott, Breshad Perriman, Tim White
Little shot: Andre Levrone, DeVier Posey
Physically unable to perform: Quincy Adeboyejo
Beyond the top four, this is one of the most difficult groups to sort, in part because none of the players have asserted themselves as must-keeps. Perriman has outproduced the rookies, Scott and Lasley, but do the Ravens really want another go-round with the former first-round draft pick, who brings little value on special teams? We’d normally presume Scott to be safe because he was a fourth-round pick, but he’s done little to secure a spot. Lasley has made more impressive plays, but drops too many passes. Grant and White have been the top options at kick returner, but they both fumbled Monday. The last two preseason games could make a big difference here.
Sure things: Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews
Bubble: Maxx Williams, Darren Waller, Vince Mayle
Little chance: Nick Keizer
This is another interesting situation past the top three. You have to wonder if the Ravens regret the Andrews pick at all. They won’t cut a rookie third-rounder, but injuries have kept him off the field, and he hasn’t stood out when he has played. Waller, back from a season-long suspension, remains an impressive physical talent. The Ravens might try to give themselves more evaluation time by stashing him on the practice squad. Mayle’s case comes down to the value the Ravens place on front-line special teams players. But it would be difficult for them to keep both him and Williams, who’s more readily playable at tight end than anyone but Boyle or Hurst.
Sure things: Ronnie Stanley, Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, James Hurst, Orlando Brown Jr.
Bubble: Nico Siragusa, Jermaine Eluemunor, Greg Senat, Bradley Bozeman
Little chance: Randin Crecelius, Justin Evans, Andrew Donnal, Cameron Lee, Maurquice Shakir
Other than Brown, a potential starter at right tackle, the projected reserves have not distinguished themselves. So don’t be surprised if the Ravens go hunting for another lineman or two as other teams make their final roster decisions. Senat will get a major audition at left tackle Saturday as Stanley recovers from a knee strain. As a former fourth-round pick, Siragusa will probably get a season-long chance to prove his surgically repaired knee can hold up. Eluemunor is at least a known entity. Bozeman, a 2018 sixth-round pick who needs time to develop into a playable center, seems a logical candidate for the practice squad.
Sure things: Brandon Williams, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Carl Davis, Chris Wormley
Bubble: Zach Sieler, Bronson Kaufusi
Little chance: Myles Humphrey, Christian LaCouture
Davis might not be an obvious lock, but his versatility benefits him as the coaches look beyond the top four in this group. Sieler, a hulking, powerful rookie, could be another practice squad candidate. Kaufusi has probably produced his best summer with the Ravens, but it’s not clear he’s done enough to push aside anyone here or among the outside linebackers.
Sure things: Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
Bubble: Kamalei Correa
Little chance: none
Smith didn’t seem like a lock at the beginning of camp, but he’s played well enough to change that, and he’s the best inside rusher of the group. Williams has been one of the breakout stars of preseason. And Correa, who frustrated Ravens coaches last year when he failed to win a starting job at weak-side linebacker, has revived his chances with improved play on the outside.
Sure things: C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Albert McClellan
Bubble: Chris Board
Little chance: Alvin Jones
Physically unable to perform: Bam Bradley
McClellan was perceived as a bubble guy coming into camp, but between his special teams acumen and the thinness at this position, the veteran is in good shape. Young, the mobile rookie from UCLA, will push Onwuasor for playing time.
Sure things: Jimmy Smith (suspended first four games), Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
Bubble: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Physically unable to perform: Jaylen Hill
Little chance: Darious Williams, Jackson Porter
With Smith suspended to start the season, Jean-Baptiste stands a good chance to make the roster unless the Ravens go looking for an outside solution.
Sure things: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine Sr., DeShon Elliott
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Little chance: Kai Nacua, Bennett Jackson
This is probably the most settled group other than the specialists. Expect Clark to play a lot, especially if Jefferson’s hamstring troubles linger.
Sure things: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Little chance: Kaare Vedvik, Trent Sieg
This is one of the most secure groups in the NFL. But Vedvik has turned a lot of heads with the sheer power of his leg, both as a kicker and a punter. He could be the latest Ravens camp invitee to become someone else’s full-time kicker.