The Baltimore Ravens will be making a series of tough decisions over the next 28 hours as they cut their roster down to 53 players ahead of the NFL’s 4 p.m. Eastern time deadline on Tuesday, August 31.
The lead-up to the regular season has yielded mixed results for the Ravens, with injuries overshadowing an undefeated preseason that has featured several breakout players in Baltimore, most recently running back J.K. Dobbins’ season-ending torn ACL.
The NFL will retain the flexible roster rules it implemented last season to account for the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Ravens will have some latitude when deciding which players to keep on the roster, place on injured reserve and retain on the practice squad.
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Without further ado, here are Heavy on Ravens’ final 53-man roster predictions!
Offense Marred by Injuries
Quarterback (2): Lamar Jackson will start for the Ravens for the third Week 1 in a row, with preseason star Tyler Huntley backing up the 2019 MVP. The real question here is what the Ravens will do with Trace McSorley, who returned to practice today after a back injury held him out for a few weeks. He’ll likely be waived and re-signed to the practice squad as an insurance policy in case COVID or injuries affect either Jackson or Huntley.
Running back/fullback (3): Before Dobbins’ injury on Saturday, Ty’Son Williams and Justice Hill were competing for the third running back spot on the Ravens’ roster behind Dobbins and Gus Edwards. With the Ohio State product out for the year, Williams and Hill will both make the roster, with undrafted rookie Nate McCrary joining the practice squad. Patrick Ricard will start at FB for the fifth consecutive season, while rookie Ben Mason is likely on the chopping block with too much talent at other positions to justify keeping a second fullback. Mason could catch on with another team that needs a fullback, but the Ravens would certainly love to keep him on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Tight end (3): Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle will return to the team, with newcomer Josh Oliver earning a roster spot after an impressive preseason. Undrafted rookie Tony Poljan is a candidate to make the practice squad, as is veteran Eric Tomlinson. The only wrinkle here is Boyle’s status as he recovers from last season’s knee injury. If he’s still a few weeks from being fully recovered, he could go on short-term injured reserve, allowing the team to have a handshake deal with Tomlinson that would see him return to the team this week.
Wide receiver (6): Injuries have heavily impacted this group, with Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Miles Boykin all struggling with their health to start the season. Brown appears to be almost fully recovered and will join Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace on the roster. Bateman could be moved to short-term IR after 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, holding him out until Week 4 and opening up a spot for either Binjimen Victor or Jaylon Moore to fill out the Ravens’ WR depth for the first few weeks of the season if they clear waivers. Boykin’s injury complicates matters, as he was likely to be cut, so the team will likely have to pursue an injury settlement to keep him from taking up a roster spot.
Offensive line (9): Ronnie Stanley, Ben Powers, Bradley Bozeman, Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva will form the Ravens’ starting offensive line (LT to RT, in order), with Patrick Mekari, Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland and Trystan Colon providing depth. Ja’Wuan James will be placed on season-ending injured reserve after his Achilles tear in May, and Michael Schofield, Ben Bredeson, Foster Sarrell and Adrian Ealy will all be cut. The Ravens are thin at tackle, so they will take a hard look at any OTs cut before Tuesday’s deadline as well.
Toughest Decisions in Secondary
Defensive line (5): Veterans Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Brandon Williams will all make the team, along with breakout candidate Justin Madubuike. Broderick Washington had a solid preseason, so he will likely make the team over Justin Ellis, Aaron Crawford and Jovan Swann.
Outside linebacker (6): Jaylon Ferguson was thought to be on the roster bubble after the signing of Justin Houston, but his stellar preseason play will likely keep him on the team alongside veterans Houston, Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser and rookies Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes. Chris Smith had a decent preseason, but there are too many talented players ahead of him to justify his inclusion on the final roster.
Inside linebacker (4): Sophomore duo Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison will start at ILB for the Ravens, with Chris Board serving as the primary backup following L.J. Fort’s season-ending injury against the Carolina Panthers. Kristian Welch will likely win the last spot over Otaro Alaka, who has struggled with injuries for the last two years.
Cornerback (7): All-Pros Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters will anchor an extremely talented cornerback group, with Tavon Young starting in the slot. Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith are both locks to make the team, with Chris Westry’s standout preseason likely earning him a roster spot. Nigel Warrior was a special teams starter against Washington and made a number of open-field tackles this preseason, two highly-valued qualities in Baltimore, so the Ravens may opt to keep him as well.
Safeties (4): Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott will start at safety for the Ravens this year, backed up by Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington, two versatile rookies with strong preseasons. They will edge out Geno Stone and Anthony Levine Sr. for roster spots, despite Stone’s two interceptions against the Saints and Levine’s veteran status on the team. Jimmy Smith’s injury is likely to keep him out a bit longer, so he could be placed on short-term IR this week, clearing the path for Levine to have a handshake deal with the Ravens for his return.
Special teams (3): Kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch and long-snapper Nick Moore will make up the Ravens’ core special teams unit in 2021.