Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaks with reporters on Saturday afternoon.
Quarterback Trace McSorley and guard Ben Powers, second-year players who struggled at times through a condensed training camp, will start the year on the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster, the team announced Saturday.
In trimming their roster, the Ravens released 23 players, including their 12 remaining undrafted rookies. At least one such player had made the team’s initial roster for 16 straight years, a source of pride in Baltimore, and rookies like quarterback Tyler Huntley and safety Nigel Warrior had made strong cases.
But the Ravens’ decisions on McSorley and Powers were among the most scrutinized on a day otherwise lacking in drama. Powers, a fourth-round draft pick in 2019, appeared in just one game last season and showed limited versatility along the interior in camp. Guard D.J. Fluker, a free-agent signing, and rookie Tyre Phillips, a third-round pick, have emerged as the top contenders to replace Marshal Yanda at right guard.
At quarterback, Huntley was more accurate over the two weeks of camp open to reporters. But McSorley, the former Penn State star and sixth-round pick, has a year in the Ravens’ system and flashed his ability as a rookie in the preseason. With Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III atop the depth chart, this marks the third straight year the team has had three quarterbacks on its initial 53-man roster.
The Ravens’ thinning of their tight end room — Jerell Adams, Charles Scarff and Eli Wolf were all released — was more surprising. The offense used two-tight-end formations on over a third of its plays last season, one of the NFL’s highest rates. But with Hayden Hurst’s trade to the Atlanta Falcons, Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard transitioning to a hybrid role, and the growth of the Ravens’ wide receivers, their philosophy could change.
Wide receiver Jaleel Scott and safety Jordan Richards, a special teams fixture after signing with the Ravens in October, were the most notable returners released. The lack of a preseason especially hurt Scott, who’d stood out there before his second season with the Ravens. Scott’s growth on special teams was not enough to unseat wide receiver Chris Moore, the fifth-year ace who missed most of camp with a finger injury.
The Ravens’ decisions elsewhere signaled their preference for familiarity. Of the team’s 18 draft picks over the past two years, only one player — defensive tackle Daylon Mack, waived Aug. 1 — didn’t make the 53-man roster. At inside linebacker, the Ravens retained third- and second-year players Chris Board and Otaro Alaka, respectively, at the expense of promising undrafted rookie Kristian Welch.
“You want to keep the best 53, no question about that, but you still have to have enough numbers at each position,” coach John Harbaugh said in a video conference call Saturday. “So, you have to balance those two things out, make sure you have what you need and then try to balance out with the best players as possible.”
On offense, 11 players total were cut: running backs Ty’Son Wiliams and Kenjon Barner, wide receiver Jaylon Moore, offensive linemen Parker Ehinger and Will Holden, center Trystan Colon-Castillo, Huntley, Scott and the three tight ends.
In addition to Warrior, Richards and Welch, seven defenders were released: defensive tackle Aaron Crawford; outside linebackers Chauncey Rivers, Marcus Willoughby and Aaron Adeoye; and cornerbacks Terrell Bonds, Khalil Dorsey and Josh Nurse. Punter Johnny Townsend and long snapper Nick Moore also were cut.
More roster moves could be imminent. Harbaugh confirmed Saturday that the team was trying out former Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore, who last played in 2016. Harbaugh also acknowledged that the Ravens could place players on injured reserve in the coming days; under new rules for this season, a contributor like center Matt Skura (knee) could return as soon as Week 4.
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But because of a lack of preseason film, Harbaugh was skeptical that many teams would claim relative unknowns off the waiver wire. Practice squads, which have expanded to 16 players this year, can be assembled beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday. Given the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, Harbaugh said he’s already discussed the importance of preparation with his team.
“We talk to them about being ready if they make it to the practice squad — being ready to actually not just work on developing their game and improving and earning a spot on the roster, but actually being prepared to play the game that week,” he said. “That’s definitely something that they’re going to have to think about.”