With the Ravens forming their 53-man roster and practice squad ahead of the start of the 2023 regular season next week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Aside from the additions of Jadeveon Clowney and Ronald Darby, you wouldn’t have been that surprised if someone had shown you the current 53-man roster at the start of training camp. Concerns with the pass rush and cornerback persist, but Baltimore avoiding any major long-term injuries is what mattered most.
2. Some debate over the backup quarterback competition will apparently last a little longer, but let’s hope there’s no reason to even mention Tyler Huntley or Josh Johnson beginning next week. There’s plenty of excitement surrounding this team, but realizing that potential begins with Lamar Jackson staying on the field.
3. While Keaton Mitchell was all but a roster lock by month’s end, fellow undrafted rookie and City College product Malik Hamm making the team is an awesome story. He began flashing in the spring, so we’ll see if he works his way into the game-day conversation after returning from injury.
4. How a player performs in preseason games is only part of the overall summer evaluation, but David Ojabo playing into the third quarter of the final preseason game wasn’t a great sign of where coaches view him in his development. You certainly would have liked to see more from him.
5.There were signs Kyu Kelly wasn’t on great footing despite overall concerns at cornerback, and the fifth round has served as the line of demarcation for when Baltimore is willing to cut a rookie draft pick. The Ravens waived fullback Ben Mason in 2021 and guard Robert Myers in 2015.
6. Given the discussion throughout the offseason over whether the Ravens had enough depth at cornerback, Eric DeCosta cutting the only corner he drafted isn’t the best look. The general manager clearly needs Rock Ya-Sin and Darby to step up until Marlon Humphrey returns from foot surgery.
7. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu struggling so dramatically in the preseason finale clinched a roster spot for Ben Cleveland, who will probably be the primary backup to starting guards John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler. To Cleveland’s credit, he didn’t miss a day of summer practice, which wasn’t the case the previous two years.
8. Few would have ever believed Brent Urban would be entering his 10th NFL season after playing just six games over his first two years and 25 over his first four seasons because of injuries. He’s also getting used to handshake agreements to help out with the Ravens’ roster gymnastics.
9. Fifteen of the 16 spots on the initial practice squad going to players who were with the Ravens over the summer reminds how much the angst about waiving players is usually overblown. Retaining backup center Sam Mustipher, rookie guard Tashawn Manning, and safety Jeremy Lucien were among my favorite moves.
10. Many have talked about Roquan Smith being a force multiplier in his first full season in Baltimore, but I’m looking for Kyle Hamilton to be an X factor who can help ease some of the early defensive concerns. Whether blitzing, tackling, or covering, Hamilton can make a significant impact.
11. I remain intrigued to see how involved Justice Hill is in this offense to the point where I’m not convinced he isn’t the No. 2 back behind J.K. Dobbins. That’s not to say Gus Edwards won’t have a role, but Hill looks like the better fit for this system.
12. I enjoy summer observations and highlights as much as the next guy, but I try to remind as much as possible how little all that means in the big picture beyond teams putting in the necessary work to get ready. I’m glad we’re about to kick things off for real.