Friday, September 30, 2022

Sizing up the 2022 Ravens roster after the preseason opener

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

The Ravens won’t have to trim their roster to 53 players until Aug. 30, but cuts begin this week and the remainder of the preseason schedule will offer a better idea of what the team will look like entering the 2022 season.

The current 53-man roster projection still weighs track record, contract status, draft standing, and positional need in addition to what we’ve witnessed over the first few weeks of training camp and in the preseason opener. For now, I estimate 47 players to be comfortably on the roster, leaving six spots to fill. However, the status of injured players such as rookie tight end Charlie Kolar complicates matters as anyone wanting to remain eligible for a designation to return from injured reserve must be on the initial 53-man roster before going on IR. This has led to Baltimore making the occasional handshake agreement to open a temporary spot by releasing a veteran not subject to waivers and re-signing that individual a day or two later after the roster dust settles. Players on the active physically unable to perform list may be placed on the reserve PUP list without needing to be on the initial 53.

We’ll gain a better idea of where players stand based on the rep distribution over the final two preseason games. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain position groups lacking depth and others enjoying so much talent that the numbers game will likely victimize a few players deserving of an NFL roster spot. Though general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to arbitrarily pinpoint a certain number of wide receivers or outside linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens prefer reserves who will contribute on special teams, so they’ll look carefully at other attributes in addition to what players bring to their individual positions when formulating the back of the roster.

The number in parentheses indicates how many players from each position group are projected to be on the 53-man roster entering Week 1.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Anthony Brown, Brett Hundley
Skinny: Anthony Brown has flashed enough to be a reasonable candidate for the practice squad, but there are too many other roster needs to justify carrying an undrafted rookie or a 29-year-old now on his fifth NFL team on the 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (5)
IN: J.K. Dobbins, Patrick Ricard, Mike Davis, Justice Hill, Tyler Badie
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Corey Clement
LONG SHOT: Nate McCrary, Ben Mason
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Gus Edwards
Skinny: The biggest question remains whether Dobbins will be ready to play — and play effectively — by Week 1 with his status clouding a running back competition that’s looked rather pedestrian this summer. Davis, Hill, and Badie were the three running backs to receive carries in the first half against Tennessee while Edwards appears destined for the reserve PUP list with the Ravens already acknowledging he’s further behind Dobbins and unlikely to be ready for Week 1.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
IN: Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Tylan Wallace, Shemar Bridges
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Jaylon Moore, Makai Polk, Binjimen Victor
LONG SHOT: Raleigh Webb, Slade Bolden, Bailey Gaither
Skinny: Health has been a concern for this group, which isn’t helping the perception that DeCosta hasn’t done enough to address the position since trading former No. 1 wide receiver Marquise Brown on the first night of the draft. Bridges shined brightest in the preseason opener and brings a size factor that someone like Moore doesn’t it, but the battle for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots is far from over with no guarantee that the Ravens will even carry five receivers for their unconventional offense. Of course, a veteran addition would instantly change the complexion of this group.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Isaiah Likely
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Josh Oliver
LONG SHOT: Tony Poljan
INJURED: Charlie Kolar
Skinny: Though Kolar undergoing sports hernia surgery — and most likely beginning the season on IR — and Boyle still working his way back to full strength are factors that could still alter this group’s early-season makeup, Oliver is probably closer to being a long shot than having a real chance to make the 53-man roster despite appearing in 14 games last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
IN: Ronnie Stanley, Tyler Linderbaum, Kevin Zeitler, Morgan Moses, Patrick Mekari, Daniel Faalele, Ben Powers, Ja’Wuan James, Ben Cleveland, Tyre Phillips
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Trystan Colon
LONG SHOT: David Sharpe, Jaryd Jones-Smith, Jimmy Murray, Kahlil McKenzie
Skinny: The Ravens have expressed confidence that Linderbaum’s injured foot will be ready in time for Week 1, but the effort to give Powers reps at center behind top backup Mekari speaks to some concern and doesn’t paint an encouraging roster outlook for Colon, a third-year center who’s made three career starts. An injury to Sharpe has hurt his chances to win the swing tackle job, especially with James looking capable serving as Stanley’s understudy at left tackle. Of course, the health of Stanley’s left ankle remains pivotal to both the floor and ceiling of this revamped offensive line.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)
IN: Calais Campbell, Michael Pierce, Justin Madubuike, Travis Jones, Broderick Washington, Brent Urban
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Rayshad Nichols, Isaiah Mack, Aaron Crawford
Skinny: Fair questions persist about the unit’s pass-rushing ability, but there is good depth here with even the long shots showing ability in both practices and the preseason opener. Though Urban is among the veteran candidates who could be part of the aforementioned roster gymnastics during final cuts, his 6-foot-7, 300-pound frame provides 5-technique insurance behind Campbell.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: Patrick Queen, Josh Bynes, Malik Harrison, Kristian Welch
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Josh Ross
LONG SHOT: Diego Fagot, Zakoby McClain
Skinny: Though Welch hasn’t taken the step forward coaches hoped to see a year ago, his special-teams ability and the lack of depth here should keep him in good roster shape. If anyone challenges him, it will probably be Ross, who’s been the best of the undrafted rookies at this position. Bynes is another veteran you could envision being part of the initial roster cut-down maneuvering if necessary.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, Justin Houston, Daelin Hayes
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Steven Means, Trent Harris
LONG SHOT: Jeremiah Moon, Chuck Wiley
INJURED: David Ojabo
Skinny: Given the uncertainty surrounding Bowser’s early-season status and the expectation that Ojabo won’t be available until later in the year, carrying four outside linebackers appears unlikely. However, simply adding more inventory than quality depth isn’t the answer, meaning it’s tough not to expect a more meaningful addition to this group in the coming weeks. The younger Hayes may have more upside and value than Means on paper, but the 31-year-old has outplayed him so far this summer and could quickly rejoin the roster if he doesn’t make the initial 53.

CORNERBACKS (6)
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion Williams, Kyle Fuller
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Kevon Seymour, David Vereen
LONG SHOT: Robert Jackson, Daryl Worley
Skinny: As long as Peters looks right in his return to the practice field later this month, the Ravens can probably go with six cornerbacks since they figure to use more three- and even four-safety looks to take advantage of their deep depth there. Vereen, a Newberry product, has been one of the more impressive rookie free agents in camp and would be an ideal fit for the practice squad.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Marcus Williams, Chuck Clark, Kyle Hamilton, Geno Stone, Tony Jefferson
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: none
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Ar’Darius Washington
Skinny: If the Ravens only find room for four safeties, Stone deserves the nod as the younger option who could also fill Anthony Levine’s old responsibilities on special teams. But given how popular Jefferson is in the locker room and how healthy he’s looked since returning late last season, the Ravens will want to find room for him even if he’s left off the initial 53-man roster to allow for other moves. There’s always the possibility of a Clark trade being revisited, but DeCosta shouldn’t make a deal for the sake of doing it either. With no clear path to a roster spot and the health of his foot still unclear, Washington seems like a candidate to stash on the reserve PUP list as a depth option for later in the season.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Justin Tucker, Jordan Stout, Nick Moore
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: With the Ravens not even bringing another kicker or long snapper to training camp to share in the reps, there’s nothing to see here.

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