Baltimore Ravens Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions
NFL Training Camps are firmly in swing, meaning all around the league, teams are looking to trim their rosters from 90 to 53.
In Baltimore, the Ravens have a sense of optimism around them. A veteran core on both sides of the ball combined with exciting young talent has the Ravens thinking Super Bowl this year.
Some players will clearly be a part of that throughout the season. At least 40 of the Ravens' 53 roster spots are firmly filled. That leaves only about a dozen spots for camp surprises, undrafted free agents and other players on the bubble.
Though certain players are essentially guaranteed roster spots, there are still numerous questions surrounding them that remain to be answered.
Ultimately, the first question to be answered is what the final roster will look like. In the following slides will be predictions on who will make the team and what the depth chart will be.
From there, we can make analysis on the strength of each positional unit. Every positional unit in the following slides will include a season outlook and any questions that remain to be answered.
Read on to see who will make the Ravens' final roster and how the Ravens look heading into the 2012 season.
Final 53 Man Roster
Here is the Ravens' final roster according to CBSSports.com.
QB (2) -- Joe Flacco (5th year, Delaware), Tyrod Taylor (2nd year, Virginia Tech)
RB (4) -- Ray Rice (5th year, Rutgers), Bernard Pierce (rookie, 3rd round, Temple), Bobby Rainey (rookie, undrafted, Western Kentucky), Vonta Leach (9th year, East Carolina)
WR (6) -- Anquan Boldin (10th year, Florida State), Torrey Smith (2nd year, Maryland), Jacoby Jones (6th year, Lane),LaQuan Williams (2nd year, Maryland), Tandon Doss (2nd year, Indiana), Deonte Thompson (rookie, undrafted, Florida)
TE (3) -- Ed Dickson (3rd year, Oregon), Dennis Pitta (3rd year, BYU), Billy Bajema (8th year, Oklahoma State)
OL (9) -- Michael Oher (4th year, Ole Miss), Marshal Yanda (6th year, Iowa), Matt Birk (15th year, Harvard), Bobbie Williams (13th year, Arkansas), Bryant McKinnie (11th year, Miami), Kelechi Osemele (rookie, 2nd round, Iowa State),Jah Reid (2nd year, Central Florida), Gino Gradkowski (rookie, 4th round, Delaware), Ramon Harewood (3rd year, Morehouse)
DL (7) -- Haloti Ngata (7th year, Oregon), Ma'ake Kemoeatu (10th year, Utah), Pernell McPhee (2nd year, Mississippi State), Terrence Cody (3rd year, Alabama), Arthur Jones (3rd year, Syracuse), Bryan Hall (2nd year, Arkansas State)DeAngelo Tyson (rookie, 7th round, Georgia)
LB (8) -- Ray Lewis (17th year, Miami), Jameel McClain (5th year, Syracuse), Paul Kruger (4th year, Utah), Albert McClellan (3rd year, Marshall), Courtney Upshaw (rookie, 2nd round, Alabama), Brendon Ayanbadejo (10th year, UCLA), Dannell Ellerbe (4th year, Georgia), Sergio Kindle (3rd year, 2nd round, Texas)
DB (11) -- Ed Reed (11th year, Miami), Bernard Pollard (7th year, Purdue), Lardarius Webb (4th year, Nicholls State),Cary Williams (5th year, Washburn), Jimmy Smith (2nd year, Colorado), Corey Graham (6th year, New Hampshire),Sean Considine (8th year, Iowa), Asa Jackson (rookie, 5h round, Cal Poly), Danny Gorrer (3rd year, Texas A&M),Christian Thompson (rookie, 4th round, South Carolina State), Chykie Brown (2nd year, Texas)
Specialists (3) -- Justin Tucker (rookie, undrafted, Texas), Sam Koch (7th year, Nebraska), Morgan Cox (3rd year, Tennessee)
August 31 Cuts
The Ravens have waived the following players:
RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech
S Omar Brown, Marshall
LB Josh Bynes, Auburn
LB Nigel Carr, Alabama State
G/T Jack Cornell, Illinos
WR Dorian Graham, Syracuse
G/T Cord Howard, Georgia Tech
NT Nicholas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor
NT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Kent State
G Antoine McClain, Clemson
DE Terrence Moore, Nebraska
QB Curtis Painter, Purdue
WR Logan Payne, Minnesota
S Cyhl Quarles, Wake Forest
OLB Chavis Williams, Alabama
G Tony Wragge, New Mexico
The Ravens have placed the following players on injured reserve:
TE Matt Balasavage, Temple (ankle)
RB Damien Berry, Miami (neck/shoulder)
G/C Justin Boren, Ohio State (foot)
LB Ricky Brown, Boston (head)
TE Bruce Figgins, Georgia (shoulder)
WR Tommy Streeter, Miami (foot)
August 28 Cuts
The first round of cuts is done with few surprises, save one notable exception.
That exception is Billy Cundiff. That the Ravens would let a proven veteran go in favor of an untested rookie was unfathomable when the Ravens signed Justin Tucker. Few thought Tucker even was fighting a fair battle. Unless Cundiff completely blew it this offseason, it appeared to be his job to lose.
Tucker was just so good, though, that the Ravens were able to make the right decision. Tucker has worlds of potential, while Cundiff will never really be consistently better than the 75% accuracy he's displayed throughout his career.
Davon Drew has been on the bubble throughout his career. This time, he finally was on the wrong end of it. Drew had exhausted his practice squad eligibility, so he needed to prove he was one of the top tight ends on the roster. He simply didn't do enough to show that he should make the roster.
Devin Goda was a camp body who was among the last receivers to get reps. He has talent, but playing at division II Slippery Rock simply didn't prepare him for the NFL sufficiently.
What kept Lawrence from making the roster is a lack of upside and versatility. The Ravens will ultimately keep around eight offensive linemen, meaning that any player who will make the team must display versatility. Lawrence never really showed that he can be anything more than a serviceable tackle, so he was the first offensive linemen to go.
Jordin Mabin displayed some talent in Baltimore, but the Ravens have a logjam at cornerback that guaranteed he would not make the roster. He could catch on elsewhere, though.
When Cecil Newton blew a snap against the Lions, only to see Gino Gradkowski come back into the game to replace him, he had to know his career with the Ravens was over. The talent was there, but the Ravens simply have better players at the position. Newton is another play who could catch on elsewhere.
Scales did a fine job throughout training camp, but there was no reason for the Ravens to make a change from current long snapper Morgan Cox.
There was no conceivable way that Chester Stewart could have made the roster. He could be an excellent practice squad addition, since he has a similar skill set to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.
Patrick Williams, like Goda, never ascended the pecking order at receiver. He didn't do much to stand out, and the Ravens were deep at receiver, making this an easy decision.
Some players also were put on the Physically Unable to Perform list or Injured Reserve.
The Ravens put Suggs on the PUP list, meaning we won't be seeing him for at least the first six weeks of the season. At least he's not on IR.
Reed was also put on the PUP list. His recovery has been slower than was expected, but he would have had trouble making the team anyway. This way, he's still part of the organization at least.
Baggs was dealing with a leg injury that kept him from having a chance to make the active roster. At least he will get a chance to be in the Ravens organization for the year.
Losing Blackstock is a blow, since the Ravens needed all the outside linebacking depth they could get. Unfortunately, his leg injury was to severe to allow Blackstock to fill a role this year.
Emmanuel Cook broke his leg against the Jaguars, which will keep him out for the season.
Ryan McBean had ankle surgery that will keep him out for the season.
Latest Roster Moves
All of the Ravens' latest roster moves will be tracked right here. Keep up to date on all the happenings coming from Baltimore.
The Ravens have added have released offensive lineman Paul Madsen, replacing him on the roster with linebacker Stevie Baggs.
Baggs is a former CFL star, but he is a longshot to make the roster. He's worth the risk, though, as the Miami Dolphins' Cameron Wake has shown that CFL players are worth a shot.
The Baltimore Ravens have released QB John Brantley and replaced him on the roster with TE Billy Bajema. Brantley was a fun prospect to speculate on as a high-profile college QB, but he wasn't a serious contender for a roster spot.
Bajema is a solid veteran who could contribute, but the Ravens already have a solid two-deep at tight end. He's still a long-shot, but he could play a role similar to Kris Wilson last year.
The Ravens signed ILB Ricky Brown and OLB Darryl Blackstock. This move shows that the Ravens aren't completely confident in their linebackers. Brown and Blackstock have a good shot at making the final roster.
Ray Rice signed five-year, $40 million contract with $24 million guaranteed. This might be old news, but it's the biggest news from the Ravens' offseason. Signing Rice gives the offense some real stability and ensures they have their best playmaker for the foreseeable future.
Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart
QB (2): Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
RB (3): Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen
FB (1): Vonta Leach
WR (7): Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter
TE (2): Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta
OT (3): Bryant McKinnie, Michael Oher, Jah Reid
OG (4): Bobbie Williams, Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Justin Boren
C (2): Matt Birk, Gino Gradkowski
DE (2): Pernell McPhee, Art Jones
DT (2): Haloti Ngata, Ryan McBean
NT (2): Terrence Cody, Ma'ake Kemoatu
OLB (5): Paul Kruger, Courtney Upshaw, Sergio Kindle, Darryl Blackstock, Terrell Suggs
ILB (4): Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, Albert McClellan, Brendon Ayanbadejo
CB (6): Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Corey Graham, Danny Gorrer, Asa Jackson
FS (3): Ed Reed, Christian Thompson, Emmanuel Cook
SS (1): Bernard Pollard
K (1): Billy Cundiff
P (1): Sam Koch
LS (1): Morgan Cox
5 on the Roster Bubble
WR Tommy Streeter is tremendously raw, and the Ravens probably don't want to use a roster spot on someone who won't contribute immediately. If they waive him and try to add him to the practice squad, they will almost certainly lose him. The Ravens will probably keep him on the roster and keep him inactive for most games.
G Justin Boren is a player the Ravens like a lot, but he doesn't seem to be a future starter at either guard or center. What could keep him on the roster, though, is his versatility. He very well could be the primary backup at center or guard. His hard-nosed play also helps his cause.
WR LaQuan Williams is a player the Ravens like a lot, but with so many young, talented receivers on the roster, Williams could be the odd-man out. He lacks the upside of Deonte Thompson and Streeter, so he will have to show he is well ahead of them to make the team. The Ravens love him enough to keep him around for the time being.
CB Danny Gorrer was a great contributor last year, but his roster spot is in jeopardy because of the many young players the Ravens have at his position. Corey Graham is a veteran who will likely beat out Gorrer, and Asa Jackson is a player the Ravens will want to keep. If the Ravens are going to keep Gorrer, then, they'll need to keep six corners. Gorrer will have to prove he's worth doing that.
WR Deonte Thompson was never expected to seriously vie for a roster spot, but he's been so dynamic that he's inserted himself into the conversation. His speed would cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses, so if he shows that he's ready to contribute, he could easily make the team as one of the last players in.
Last 5 Cut
QB John Brantley was released on 8/1/2012. Brantley was the victim of a logjam at quarterback. That Brantley was cut before QB Chester Stewart is somewhat of a surprise, though.
FB Jamison Berryhill was released on 7/26/2012 to make room for WR Logan Payne. Vonta Leach had a stranglehold on the position anyway, so cutting Berryhill in favor of an extra receiver makes sense.
G Howard Barbieri was cut on 7/23/2012. The Ravens have several young guards they like, so Barbieri had an uphill battle to make the team. He didn't really figure into their plans.
WR Rodney Bradley and LB Cody Glenn were cut on 6/13/2012. Glenn was a player the Ravens liked, but the Ravens have too many talented linebackers to use an extra roster spot on him. Bradley, meanwhile, battled injuries that may have led to his release.
QBs on roster: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Curtis Painter, Chester Stewart
Projected starter: Joe Flacco
Offseason additions: Curtis Painter, Chester Stewart
Projected final roster: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
Even though the Ravens are carrying four quarterbacks right now, only two are expected to make the roster. Unless something changes dramatically, those two will be Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor.
Flacco is heading into the year with a huge chip on his shoulder. He and the Ravens are adamant that he will break out this year. If he is ever going to break out, this is the season for him to do it.
This is the best receiving corps Flacco has ever had, with incredible speed, good size and excellent depth. If one or two of the young players steps up, this could be one of the best groups in the NFL.
If everything settles into place in the receiving corps, Flacco will have no excuses. Expect a rebound from last year's subpar performance.
As for the backups, Tyrod Taylor has the edge on Curtis Painter and Chester Stewart. Taylor knows the offense better and brings a unique element to the offense.
Painter was signed in the offseason, but his presence might just be to help the quarterbacks acclimate to new QB coach Jim Caldwell.
Finally, Stewart could be a nice practice squad candidate. He's athletic and has a solid arm, but he wasn't exactly a world beater in college. He has some upside. He would be valuable as a guy to emulate Ben Roethlisberger in practice, since they have comparable athleticism and strength.
The key addition here was really Caldwell. The Ravens sorely missed having a real QB coach last year, so adding one was a top priority this offseason. Caldwell's mellow personality meshes well with Flacco's, which should yield excellent results.
All in all, Ravens fans can feel very excited about Flacco's progression this year. Meanwhile, any angst about the backup situation is misplaced. Tyrod Taylor is more than ready to play if need be.
RBs on roster: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen, Damien Berry, Bobby Rainey, Vonta Leach
Projected starter: Ray Rice, Vonta Leach
Offseason additions: Bernard Pierce, Bobby Rainey
Projected final roster: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen, Vonta Leach
When Ray Rice signed his big contract extension, he guaranteed that the Ravens would be set at running back for years.
With Rice in the backfield, the Ravens have a reliable handcuff in the passing game. More importantly, Rice can break out for a big run at any point.
Last year was a bit of a resurgence for Rice, who had the lowest yards per carry in his career in 2010. He received better blocking last year, which helped his confidence and got him more opportunities for big runs.
Unfortunately, when Rice doesn't get great blocking, he's simply ordinary. He has a tendency to duck his head and not use his vision when the blocking breaks down. As long as the offensive line gets Rice into the open field, though, Rice is elite.
As for the backup situation, Bernard Pierce seems to be the front-runner for that job. Pierce is powerful and is a great fit for the zone-blocking scheme the Ravens have been implementing. He is decisive and explosive through the hole, which could help him get some goal-line carries.
Anthony Allen is also very powerful and has underrated speed. Allen was a preseason hero last year, but he hasn't stood out in camp yet. Allen should still be in line for some more carries, as the Ravens want to develop a running game that's less reliant on Rice.
At fullback, Vonta Leach will be a mainstay for years. He helped open up holes for Rice last year and did some decent work catching the ball as well. Leach is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL, and the Ravens like to use him to show that the fullback position is not dead.
The Ravens running back situation is very solid, but the production starts with the offensive line. With good blocking, the Ravens could be in the top-five in the NFL in rushing.
WRs on roster: Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter, David Reed, Logan Payne, Patrick Williams, Devin Goda, Dorian Graham
Projected starter: Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith
Offseason additions: Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter, Logan Payne, Patrick Williams, Devin Goda, Dorian Graham
Projected final roster: Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter
Every year seems to bring promises of an improved receiving corps in Baltimore, but every year ends in disappointment in that regard. Could this be year that this trend changes?
All signs indicate yes.
Anquan Boldin is back and confident. Despite his lack of speed, Boldin can still use his ball skills to make incredible catches. If the Ravens learn to use him better in the short passing game, he could have his best season as a Raven.
The real reason for confidence, though, is Torrey Smith. The second-year receiver had the best rookie season in franchise history. Smith is a tremendously hard worker, and all indications are that his hard work has paid off so far. Smith is having a great training camp, showcasing improved hands and route-running.
Behind the starters the situation is less clear, but still exciting. The Ravens have a lot of speed among this group, with Jacoby Jones, Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson all having 4.4 speed. No matter who plays, the Ravens can be assured they will have some speed mismatches to prey on.
A few other backups do their best work as possession receivers, such as LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss. Williams was a surprise last year as he made the roster, but he disappointed in real action. Doss will have every chance to see the field this year in his place, and he seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.
The biggest surprise at this position has been the play of Deonte Thompson. Though raw, Thompson has shown breakway speed and playmaking ability. He was a dark-horse candidate to make the roster, but now he has seemingly earned his place on the roster.
With this groups combination of size, speed and youth, this could be the best Ravens receiving corps in years. The future looks bright for the Ravens' passing game.
TEs on roster: Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Billy Bajema, Bruce Figgins, Matt Balsavage, Davon Drew
Projected starter: Ed Dickson
Offseason additions: Billy Bajema, Bruce Figgins, Matt Balsavage
Projected final roster: Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta
What the Ravens lack in numbers they make up for in talent at the tight end position. They only have five on the roster, but Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are one of the better combinations in the league.
Dickson is an excellent option down the seam and has a knack for getting open. The Ravens must use his athleticism more to create mismatches. Unfortunately, his hands were suspect last year, so hopefully that will improve in 2012.
Dennis Pitta, meanwhile, has perhaps the best hands on the team. He has incredibly strong hands that the Ravens like to take advantage of in key situations. Pitta does his best work on third down, consistently making key catches to move the chains.
Behind Pitta and Dickson, the situation is unclear. The Ravens just added Billy Bajema, but he seems to be a longshot to make the roster. If he does make the roster, it will be as a blocker and special teamer.
The Ravens also have two rookies in Bruce Figgins and Matt Balsavage. Balsavage is a good receiver while Figgins is a solid blocker. Both seem to be longshots to make the roster, however.
Worth noting is that Pitta is dealing with a broken hand, which could help Balsavage, Figgins or Bajema in the short term.
The Ravens want Pitta back as soon as possible though, as he is half of what could be an excellent duo of tight ends.
OTs on roster: Bryant McKinnie, Michael Oher, Jah Reid, Addison Lawrence, Cord Howard, Jack Cornell, Ramon Harewood
Projected starter: Bryant McKinnie, Michael Oher
Offseason additions: Addison Lawrence, Jack Cornell, Paul Madsen
Roster cuts: Paul Madsen
Projected final roster: Bryant McKinnie, Michael Oher, Jah Reid
If the Ravens have a weakness, it's at offensive tackle. Neither Bryant McKinnie nor Michael Oher were anything special last year, and they lack great depth at the position.
Oher and McKinnie struggled the most in pass protection. Oher produced ten penalties and allowed six sacks, while McKinnie eight and a half sacks. Allowing over 14 sacks between the top tackles is simply unacceptable, and that has to change this year.
Fortunately, Oher and McKinnie were more successful in run-blocking. Oher was especially dominant, as the Ravens constantly ran effectively on the right side of the line.
If Oher can cut down on the penalties and get more comfortable at the right tackle position, he could have a breakout season.
McKinnie probably won't improve at this point in his career, but he is a serviceable starter in the short-term.
Behind the starters, Jah Reid is the main backup. Reid is a mauler with good athleticism, but he is still raw.
Undrafted rookie Jack Cornell has a real chance to make the roster after performing well at multiple positions. He was taking reps with the first team at the beginning of camp, and he seems to be a coaching-staff favorite.
Cornell might have to hone his game on the practice squad, but he's a name to watch.
The tackles might be the key to the Ravens season. If Oher and McKinnie show real improvement, the Ravens could have one of the league's top offense. If Flacco is constantly under pressure, however, the Ravens will barely be a playoff team.
OGs on roster: Marshal Yanda, Bobbie Williams, Kelechi Osemele, Justin Boren, Tony Wragge, Antoine McClain
Projected starter: Marshal Yanda, Bobbie Williams
Offseason additions: Bobbie Williams, Kelechi Osemel, Tony Wragge, Antoine McClain
Projected final roster: Marshal Yanda, Bobbie Williams, Kelechi Osemele, Justin Boren
After losing guard Ben Grubbs to free agency, this looked to be a potential weakness. However, Bobbie Williams and Kelechi Osemele have drawn rave reviews, and the guard positions look to be in good hands.
On the right side is Marshal Yanda, one of the top guards in the NFL. Yanda is a hardnosed football player who also has a nice level of refinement to his game. His technique and footwork is superb, which helps him as a pass blocker and a run blocker.
On the left side, Bobbie Williams seems to be the starter, and he could actually be an upgrade from Ben Grubbs. Williams is a mauler of a run blocker, and his pass blocking has impressed in camp.
Kelechi Osemele is the heir to Williams and has a similar style of play. Osemele uses his elite size and strength to push people around, and his pass blocking is underrated. He can also play tackle.
Justin Boren is another player the Ravens like a lot. He is versatile and tough, and could be an elite backup for a long time.
These four will probably make the roster and give the Ravens solid depth on the inside.
Cs on roster: Matt Birk, Gino Gradkowski, Cecil Newton
Projected starter: Matt Birk
Offseason additions: Gino Gradkowski
Projected final roster: Matt Birk, Gino Gradkowski
This was another position that the Ravens were not confident in, but there is now reason for optimism.
First of all, Matt Birk is back and healthy. The Ravens are wisely limiting his reps and keeping him fresh for the season, which should help him immensely.
Birk is no longer the physical specimen he once was, but he is smart enough to handle most defensive tackles well. His leadership is also valuable.
Gino Gradkowski is the heir-apparent. Gradkowski is a tough small-school rookie who is versatile and smart. He will be an excellent option when he gets his chance.
Unfortunately, that leaves Cecil Newton as the odd man out. The Ravens like Newton, but they can't justify having three centers on the team, especially considering Justin Boren can also play center if necessary.
Matt Birk and Gino Gradkowski make up a solid duo, so the Ravens have nothing to worry about on the interior of their offensive line.
DEs on roster: Pernell McPhee, Art Jones, DeAngelo Tyson, Terrence Moore
Projected starter: Pernell McPhee
Offseason additions: DeAngelo Tyson, Terrence Moore
Projected final roster: Pernell McPhee, Art Jones
The battle between Pernell McPhee and Art Jones is one of the most intense in the organization. Both have equal claim to the role, but both are very different players.
Jones is a run-stuffer and a physical monster. He can maul opposing tackles and completely stuff plays that come to his side. Unfortunately, he is not a particularly explosive player, which can limit the defense in passing situations.
McPhee is much smaller than Jones and much more explosive. McPhee was second on the team in sacks last year, and he seems to have unlimited potential.
The injury to Terrell Suggs probably helped McPhee's chances to claim the starting job. Without Suggs rushing the passer, the defense will need more explosion, which McPhee offers.
Regardless, Jones and McPhee will receive plenty of playing time, and both will be solid.
Behind them, the situation is unclear. DeAngelo Tyson was drafted in the seventh round, but how he fits on the roster is unclear. A stint on the practice squad could benefit him and help him make the roster as an injury replacement.
The duo of McPhee and Jones should be enough for the Ravens to be solid at defensive end for the season.
DTs on roster: Haloti Ngata, Ryan McBean, Bryan Hall, Terrence Cody, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste
Projected starter: Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody
Offseason additions: Ryan McBean, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste
Projected final roster: Haloti Ngata, Ryan McBean, Terrence Cody, Ma'ake Kemoeatu
The Ravens' pure size at this position is remarkable. Starters Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody weigh almost 700 pounds between them, and backups Ryan McBean and Ma'ake Kemoeatu are also enormous.
The headliner here is definitely Ngata. Named as one of the top-ten NFL players, Ngata is an immovable object at defensive tackle. He never gets pushed around, and he also has enough athleticism to make incredible plays. He even drops into coverage from time to time.
At nose tackle, Terrence Cody may be one of the most underrated players on the roster. The Ravens' run defense always starts with the nose tackle. and Cody didn't disappoint. In his first year as the starter, he helped the defense regain its former glory. As he matures as a player and athlete, Cody will continue to improve. He might have some of the highest upside on the team.
Behind the starters are Ryan McBean and Ma'ake Kemoeatu, both free agent additions.
McBean will be suspended to start the season, but he was excellent last year and will definitely find time in the Ravens' rotation.
Kemoeatu is a former Raven who's size and strength allow him to swallow up running plays.
The Ravens also have a few young prospects to look out for. Ishmaa'ily Kitchen is a popular player with the Ravens' decision makers, so he could be a candidate for the practice squad.
All in all, the Ravens biggest unit is also one of its best, and that guarantees another solid run-defense in 2012.
OLBs on roster: Paul Kruger, Courtney Upshaw, Terrell Suggs, Sergio Kindle, Darryl Blackstock, Chavis Williams, Stevie Baggs
Projected starter: Paul Kruger, Courtney Upshaw
Offseason additions: Darryl Blackstock, Stevie Baggs
Projected final roster: Paul Kruger, Courtney Upshaw, Sergio Kindle, Darryl Blackstock, Terrell Suggs
This is the biggest question mark on the defense, as Terrell Suggs' injury robbed the Ravens of their only proven pass-rusher.
That means the starters will be Paul Kruger and top draft-pick Courtney Upshaw.
Kruger started to come on last season as a pass-rusher, but he will need to show marked improvement to be worthy of a starting role for an extended period of time.
Upshaw, on the other hand, looks to be a part of the Ravens long-term plans. While the Ravens wanted to use him in a similar run-stuffing role as Jarrett Johnson last year, Upshaw's development as a pass-rusher will be hurried because of Suggs' injury.
Sergio Kindle could still vie for a starting role as well. He might be the most explosive pass-rusher on the roster, but he has yet to show it in live action. Kindle is the biggest boom-or-bust player on the entire roster.
Finally, Darryl Blackstock looks to be a favorite to make the roster as a free agent addition. He would provide good depth, but little more.
The key to this group will be how fast Suggs can come back. The Ravens need him back as soon as possible to field a fearsome defense. In the meantime, the Ravens will get a good hard look at their young talent at the position.
ILBs on roster: Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, Albert McClellan, Brendan Ayanbadejo, Dannell Ellerbe, Nigel Carr, Josh Bynes, Ricky Brown
Projected starter: Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain
Offseason additions: Nigel Carr, Ricky Brown
Projected final roster: Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, Albert McClellan, Brendan Ayanbadejo
The starters at the inside linebacker position are set in stone, as Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain are entrenched as the top-two.
Lewis remains amazing with his level of play in his old age. After losing some weight in the off-season, he could be even more explosive in 2012.
McClain also lost some weight, but he should still continue his role of keeping blockers off Lewis. When Lewis was injured for two games last season, McClain stepped up in a big way to keep the defense humming.
Behind the starters, though, who makes the roster is anybody's guess. Brendan Ayanbadejo has a good chance considering his special teams prowess.
Albert McClellan, Dannell Ellerbe, Nigel Carr and Ricky Brown are all candidates to make the roster as well.
Ellerbe is a former starter who never blossomed as the Ravens expected. He could have run out of chances in Baltimore.
Carr, on the other hand, is a rookie free-agent the Ravens like. He could be an excellent practice squad candidate who will eventually contribute on the main roster.
At this point, McClellan should be the favorite to make the roster out of this group. He started last year in place of an injured Ray Lewis and was excellent. He can take on blockers well and also offers a bit of a pass rush.
No matter who makes the roster, the Ravens can feel confident that they will once again field one of the top groups of linebackers in the NFL.
CBs on roster: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Corey Graham, Danny Gorrer, Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, Jordin Maybin
Projected starter: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith
Offseason additions: Corey Graham, Asa Jackson, Jordin Maybin
Projected final roster: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Corey Graham, Danny Gorrer, Asa Jackson
The Ravens are absolutely stacked at cornerback. They have the best depth in the NFL, and they also have excellent talent at the top.
The top cover corner is Lardarius Webb, who played at an elite level last season. He shut down multiple top receivers, with his best game coming against Wes Welker in the AFC Championship Game. Webb also excels at creating turnovers, with five interceptions last year.
Opposite Webb will be either Jimmy Smith or Cary Williams. Williams was the starter last year. While he was solid, Williams lacks upside and struggled against top receivers. Smith has better upside and should be the starter this year.
Corey Graham, Danny Gorrer, Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown will all compete for reps in dime packages.
Gorrer was a revelation last year, but the numbers game could keep him from even making the roster. Gorrer is probably too talented to not make the roster, but reps could be hard to come by.
Corey Graham will probably get the most reps in the dime packages. He has been superb in camp, and he is also an elite special teams ace.
Asa Jackson might not see defensive reps right away, but he will contribute on special teams and could work as a return man as well.
Chykie Brown seems to be a longshot to make the roster at this point. He just hasn't shown enough to justify using a roster spot on him.
The Ravens have five cornerbacks who could start in the NFL. That level of depth is unparalleled and guarantees that the Ravens will be solid in pass-defense in 2012.
Safeties on roster: Ed Reed, Christian Thompson, Bernard Pollard, Emmanuel Cook, Sean Considine, Omar Brown, Cyhl Quarles
Projected starter: Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard
Offseason additions: Christian Thompson, Sean Considine, Omar Brown, Cyhl Quarles
Projected final roster: Ed Reed, Christian Thompson, Bernard Pollard, Emmanuel Cook
This group always hinges on Ed Reed, and with his return to the Ravens, they can be confident that this will be a hard-hitting, playmaking group.
Reed is aging and gives up a few plays, but when he's on his game, he is the best safety in the NFL. His game against the Houston Texans in the playoffs was legendary.
Bernard Pollard is the other starter, and he complements Reed perfectly. Pollard is a down-hill thumper who plays the run and short passes exceedingly well. He was a perfect fit for the Ravens last year.
Behind the starters is some serious uncertainty, however. Rookie Christian Thompson was viewed as a reach by many, and Emmanuel Cook is the only returning player behind the starters.
Cook is a developing player who the Ravens like, so he has a good shot to make the roster.
He will be competing with Sean Considine. Cook is a better defender, but Considine is an excellent special teams ace.
The Ravens could look to add some depth here, but in the meantime, the starters are more than capable of handling the load. Should an injury occur, though, the Ravens could be in trouble.
Kicking Specialists on roster: Billy Cundiff, Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Patrick Scales
Projected starter: Billy Cundiff, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Offseason additions: Justin Tucker
Projected final roster: Billy Cundiff, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
To start with the positives, Sam Koch is a solid punter and Morgan Cox is generally flawless as a long-snapper.
On the other hand, the Ravens have some serious uncertainty at kicker.
Billy Cundiff was simply not good last season, and he cemented his season to forget with a key miss in the AFC Championship Game.
The Ravens added rookie free agent Justin Tucker, who has actually out-performed Cundiff so far in camp.
Tucker will need to be perfect, though, to beat out Cundiff. The Ravens are intent on keeping Cundiff as the starter, quite likely to the detriment of the team.
If Tucker makes the team, there will be some uncertainty, but the upside is tremendous. He is worth the risk, and he would complete an otherwise solid group of specialists.
Return Specialists on roster: Jacoby Jones, David Reed, Asa Jackson, Lardarius Webb
Projected starter: Jacoby Jones
Offseason additions: Jacoby Jones, Asa Jackson
Projected final roster: Jacoby Jones, Asa Jackson, Lardarius Webb
Other than Jacoby Jones, the Ravens don't have a single player who they would feel comfortable with using as a returner.
David Reed is fumble-prone, Asa Jackson is a rookie with limited experience as a returner and Lardarius Webb is too valuable on defense to use as a returner.
That leaves Jones as the top option.
While Jones is occasionally dynamic, he also has a tendency towards fumbles and bone-headed plays.
The Ravens would probably feel more comfortable having another player to seriously threaten Jones, but for now, Jones seems to be the starter.
At the very least, he seems to be an upgrade over last year's returners, David Reed and Tom Zbikowski.