Twelve Ravens thoughts counting down to final roster cuts

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With the Ravens needing to trim their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The preseason opener usually comes two weeks after the first full-squad practice, but we’re instead days away from final cuts and less than two weeks from Week 1 against Cleveland. Continuity gives the Ravens a major advantage over much of the league, but the timing remains so weird.

2. The practice squad is usually all about developmental talent, but the NFL extending the capacity to 16 players with six spots having no limit for accrued seasons means we could see more fringe veterans to account for potential COVID-19 outbreaks. I’m curious to see Eric DeCosta’s approach.

3. Greg Roman said coaches have begun pondering the impact of diminished crowd noise on in-game communication such as huddling or audibles at the line. My guess is it won’t be dramatic due to the plan for artificial ambient crowd noise, but it’s strange thinking about home-field advantage being neutralized.

4. Wink Martindale made clear he wants DeShon Elliott to play to his responsibilities and not try to do too much at safety. Something to watch will be his angles to the football, which has been a point of emphasis for a talented youngster with limited NFL playing experience.

5. We’ve talked much about Jimmy Smith, but his play feels like a big key in the secondary being special as opposed to merely really good. In addition to backing up Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, his ability to move around in sub packages could create headaches for opponents.

6. Without an established swing tackle, the offensive line may elect to shuffle multiple spots if there’s an injury to Ronnie Stanley or Orlando Brown Jr. The Ravens have made that strategy work before with guys like Michael Oher, Kelechi Osemele, and Marshal Yanda, but you’d rather not do that.

7. An early injury has led to a quiet camp for Jaylon Ferguson, but Martindale said it’s a matter of “getting him greased back up.” Like Smith, the 2019 third-round pick seems to be another determining factor in the defense’s ability to hit an elite level.

8. The number of times Lamar Jackson will run remains a popular question, so Roman offered this: “That’s just something that we can have available every week. Do a little bit more of it this week, a little less of it the next week.” It’s the straw that stirs the drink.

9. Chris Moore has missed all of open training camp with a broken finger, but special teams coordinator Chris Horton says he doesn’t “have any reservations about where Chris is when the time is right and he’s ready to play.” That’s a strong endorsement even if Moore isn’t a roster lock.

10. Justice Hill returned to practice Monday and remains a candidate to return kicks, but he feels like a distant fourth behind Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards. Even in this offense, being the No. 4 running back is a tenuous spot if injuries mount elsewhere early in the season.

11. I’m sure continuing a streak of 16 straight years with at least one rookie free agent making the 53-man roster is important to the organization, but keeping as much game-ready depth as possible should be prioritized with the pandemic. Quarterback Tyler Huntley may be the strongest bet right now.

12. After making three trades in August last year, DeCosta has yet to pull off a swap this summer. Seeing one between now and Sept. 13 wouldn’t surprise me, especially if the Ravens can add offensive tackle depth, another tight end, or an edge rusher at a reasonable cost.