Baltimore Sun’s BEST party in 2 weeks

Five roster battles to watch as the Ravens prepare for Thursday's preseason finale

With the starters on the sideline and the regular-season playbook safely hidden from view, the Ravens' preseason finale Thursday won't give much clue as to how the team will look when the real games begin.

If there's intrigue to be found, it flows from competition for the last few spots on the 53-man roster, which will be determined by 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Ravens entered training camp with relatively few positions unsettled. But a four-game suspension for cornerback Jimmy Smith, injuries to tight end Hayden Hurst and defensive tackle Willie Henry and the trade of linebacker Kamalei Correa have clouded the picture around the fringes.

With that in mind, here are the five job battles to watch as the Ravens host the Washington Redskins.

Tim White vs. Janarion Grant vs. Breshad Perriman vs. Jordan Lasley

The Ravens’ first four receivers are set, and the competition for the last one or two spots grew a little less crowded when they shuffled fourth-round draft pick Jaleel Scott to injured reserve.

But that still leaves a cluster of notable names trying to make one last impression against the Redskins.

Perriman, the team’s 2015 first-round pick, is already a bust to most fans and analysts after he regressed badly in 2017. But the team opted to give him another training camp to change the narrative. Perriman has at least stayed on the field and has played well at times. It’s just not clear he’s done enough to push aside younger players with more open-ended futures.

One of those is Lasley, the fifth-round pick out of UCLA who has demonstrated some big-play sizzle while also scaring coaches with his unreliable hands. If the Ravens were confident they could move Lasley to their practice squad without losing him, they might do so. But he’ll likely stick around as a developmental prospect.

That leaves White and Grant, who’ve battled all summer for the kick returner job. White entered training camp as the presumed favorite because of his sprinter’s speed, but Grant, an undrafted free agent, seemed to surpass him in the past two preseason games. White then complicated things by playing his best game as a receiver Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens also have Chris Moore and Willie Snead IV as potential returners, so it’s not certain they’ll keep either White or Grant.

Chris Board vs. Albert McClellan

McClellan, the former undrafted free agent who turned himself into a versatile linebacker and special teams stalwart, is one of the best-liked people in the organization. But he’s 32 and lost all of last season to a torn ACL.

Though it would sting the front office to cut McClellan, the Ravens might feel they have a younger, cheaper version of him in Board, an undrafted free agent out of North Dakota State.

The Ravens usually keep several undrafted rookies, and they take pride in developing young special teams standouts. Board would fit on both counts and has built momentum over the past few weeks.

Carl Davis vs. Zach Sieler

Davis is entering the last year of his rookie deal and has never stepped forward to demand a starting role. So he’s vulnerable to the roster crunch. That said, the Ravens know they can plug him in anywhere along the defensive line, and with Henry out a few weeks because of hernia surgery, such versatility is handy.

Sieler, a seventh-round pick out of Ferris State, is less ready to step in immediately. But the Ravens would risk losing him if they try to sneak him onto the practice squad, partly because other teams respect their eye for defensive line prospects. Not to mention the 6-foot-6 Sieler is a mobile powerhouse.

Given Henry’s injury and the Correa trade, it’s also possible the Ravens keep both Davis and Sieler to start the season.

Nico Siragusa vs. Jermaine Eluemunor vs. Bradley Bozeman

The Ravens are set on their top six offensive linemen, but will likely keep two more. Not one of the candidates has jumped forward to seize a spot, and a lack of offensive line depth ranks among the team’s greatest worries as the regular season looms.

Eluemunor saw game action last season, and the Ravens at least know what they’re getting when they plug him in at guard. But he looked overmatched when he was forced to play left tackle against the Dolphins on Saturday. The Ravens might end up looking outside the current roster for a lineman who could handle the edge if Ronnie Stanley gets hurt, though James Hurst has filled in at left tackle before.

Siragusa was a fourth-round pick in 2017, but has not fully regained his mobility after a serious knee surgery before last season. The Ravens could give the second-year guard another season to recover on injured reserve if they’re not convinced he can help on Sundays.

Bozeman, meanwhile, has impressed coaches with his fundamental skills at center. But the 2018 sixth-round pick has struggled to hold his ground against NFL interior defenders. Ravens coach John Harbaugh spoke positively about him this week, and he seems likely to make the team as a developmental prospect behind starter Matt Skura.

Rookie tackle Greg Senat is also a roster possibility, but he won’t play Thursday because of turf toe and could be headed for injured reserve.

Robert Griffin III vs. depth at other positions

Based on what Harbaugh and his assistants have said, it seems Griffin has already convinced them he’d be worth keeping in a perfect world. Another solid performance against the Redskins likely won’t change much.

The question is whether the Ravens will sacrifice depth at another position to keep a third quarterback behind Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson. They haven’t opened a season with three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster since 2009, so Griffin’s odds have always seemed long. They perhaps grew longer when Jackson played his best game of the preseason against the Dolphins.

But because of Griffin’s stature as a former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Rookie of the Year and because of the positive impression he’s made in Baltimore, this decision will be the headliner when the Ravens submit their final roster.

Griffin is also a potential trade target for the many teams seeking better solutions at backup quarterback.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ChildsWalker

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
59°