With starting safety Kendrick Lewis sidelined by a bone bruise in his knee and reserve Terrence Brooks out with a thumb injury, longtime special teamer Brynden Trawick was rewarded with his most extensive defensive snaps to date on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, and could see his role expand Monday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg confirmed on Thursday that Steve Smith Sr. will remain the Ravens' primary punt returner, maintaining that the wide receiver is the team's best option in that role.
In his first comments since the Ravens trimmed their roster to the 53-man group they essentially began the week with, coach John Harbaugh said there were several positions where the team had tough decisions to make.
In getting down to a 53-man roster Saturday, the Ravens showed a willingness to move on from their draft picks, the importance that they place on special teams and how much they value having defensive depth.
Wide receivers Daniel Brown, who caught a touchdown and blocked a punt in Thursday night's preseason-closing loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and Tom Nelson, offensive tackle Blaine Clausell, inside linebacker Andrew Bose and cornerback Quinton Pointer were all let go. Their releases leave the Ravens with 70 players, meaning that they'll have to make 17 more moves by 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The Ravens were already living on the edge when they signed strong safety Will Hill to a contract last July. They moved even closer after Matt Elam tore his biceps during the first week of the 2015 training camp, forcing him to miss the entire season.
With safety Matt Elam, the Ravens' 2013 first-round NFL draft, pick headed for injured reserve, the team must count on players like Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry, Anthony Levine, and perhaps Terrence Brooks to push projected starters Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill.
Nick Perry, a safety, and Trey DePriest, an inside linebacker, are products of the University of Alabama, the alma mater of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and a frequent source of Ravens defensive talent. They play positions where undrafted players frequently stick on the Ravens roster.
The Ravens shuffled their lineup for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans at M&T Bank Stadium, deactivating defensive end DeAngelo Tyson and safety Brynden Trawick for the first time this season.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh on Monday explained the decision to slot second-year safety Matt Elam in at the nickel cornerback slot in Thursday's 26-6 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, which he said allows the team to take advantage of its safety depth and added a run nickel package to its future plans.
The Ravens pared their roster down to the NFL's required 53-player limit Saturday, choosing to keep two quarterbacks and seven wide receivers and leaving themselves thin at cornerback and along the offensive and defensive lines.
Before they left the visiting locker room at AT&T Stadium late Saturday night, the Ravens defense had reached a consensus in their evaluation of what had transpired over the previous three hours. The defenders believed that they had done some good things, but they also recognized that their play was nowhere near good enough.