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Projecting the Ravens roster as cut to 53 looms: Sure things, bubble guys and players with little chance

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.

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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.

Quarterbacks

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.

Running backs

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.

Wide receivers

Sure things: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore

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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.

Tight ends

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.

Offensive linemen

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.

Defensive linemen

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.

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.

Inside linebackers

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.

Cornerbacks

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

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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.

Safeties

Sure things: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine Sr., DeShon Elliott

Bubble: none

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.

Specialists

Sure things: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

Bubble: none

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.

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