Early Projections for the Baltimore Ravens' Final 53-Man Roster
NFL rosters are nearly 70 percent larger right now (90 players) than they will be when the final cut is made (53 players).
Now that the draft is over, coaches can begin studying their personnel in earnest. Free agents, draft picks and veterans from last year will compete for one of the precious 53 roster spots.
It's no surprise the Baltimore Ravens wanted to get younger and more athletic, particularly on defense. Although that's a good goal to have, that goal comes with no guarantee a prospect will deliver.
On offense, the Ravens are pretty much intact. They traded Anquan Boldin, but locked up Joe Flacco on a long-term teal. They were also able to re-sign left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who can be very effective when he's "on."
Thanks to ourlads.com, we're able to get a peak at the Ravens' current depth chart. Although the final cuts are likely to be made on Aug. 30 (the day after the final preseason games are played), these next 116 days will pass easier with banter about who will make it and who won't.
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The Ravens have been going with just two quarterbacks for a few years now, and with good reason. Flacco has yet to miss a start and Tyrod Taylor is an adequate backup.
There really isn't much to say here because of Flacco's impressive durability. Baltimore may keep four quarterbacks in camp, but don't expect more than two to be kept after the final cut.
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Ray Rice (running back)
Bernard Piece (running back)
Anthony Allen (running back)
Vonta Leach (fullback)
Kyle Juszczyk (fullback)
You know about Ray Rice and Vonta Leach, and you should know about Bernard Pierce. As a third-round pick last season, Pierce spelled Rice and gained an average of 4.9 yards per carry. He rarely (if ever) went down after first contact and always maximized yardage.
Anthony Allen is a key special teams player, as evidenced by his blocks on Jacoby Jones' kick returns for touchdowns. He can also tote the rock in a pinch.
Kyle Juszczyk isn't a normal rookie fullback. He can play in the slot or as an H-back. Having him on the roster this year is wise due to the fact Leach is a free agent after the 2013 season.
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No longer can Baltimore fans complain about their receivers not being fast enough or not being deep threats.
Torrey Smith is the No. 1 starter. Jacoby Jones would be the second starter if not for the fact the Ravens would like to keep him fresh for returning kicks and punts.
Six receivers is a lot, but since Boldin is gone and since there may only be two tight ends kept, the extra wide receiver could come in handy.
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Flacco and Dennis Pitta have developed quite a rapport, and Ed Dickson is no slouch himself.
The Ravens' tight ends have to be tough, versatile and solid pass-blockers. They aren't called upon to be game breakers, but they must also be dependable when their time comes, and Pitta and Dickson are just that.
It'll be interesting to see how this situation plays out, because after the 2013 season, both of these players will become unrestricted free agents.
In other words, there's a fair chance this will be the last season both Pitta and Dickson are Ravens.
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If you watched the Ravens in the playoffs, you saw Flacco become a superstar and you saw his offensive line absolutely shine.
Led by nasty guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, Baltimore's run game and pass game went to another level in the postseason, when the ideal offensive line was configured.
Michael Oher is a very good right tackle, but has struggled on the left side, which is why it was key the Ravens retained Bryant McKinnie.
Gino Gradkowski takes over for Matt Birk at center, and from all indications, he looks to be taking everything in stride.
Ramon Harewood is 6'6", 340 pounds and started five games last season. He's still an inexperienced player who needs to get reps. Jack Cornell, Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen are in the same boat, as they look like they have what it takes to make the team, but just need some in-game experience.
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Baltimore's run defense was flat out bad last year. It ranked 20th. That also caused the defense to lose the time of possession battle in most games, which caused it to burn more energy than it should have.
Brandon Williams was drafted to play the nose tackle and control the point of attack, which he did very well at Missouri Southern State.
In my opinion, Haloti Ngata's best position is defensive tackle. I also think he's the best defensive lineman in football, so obviously he's capable of playing the other two positions (nose tackle, defensive end) well.
Between Ngata, Arthur Jones, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears and DeAngelo Tyson, they could probably all play each of the three positions on the defensive line.
To label Baltimore defensive linemen is relative. Each player can play multiple positions, even though they are just listed as one position on a depth chart.
Ravens coaches may want to add one more defensive lineman, but seven seems like a good number, especially given the versatility of this group.
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After a fax snafu and a shrewd trade in the draft, this group of linebackers doesn't look so bad, does it?
Terrell Suggs will presumably be 100 percent healthy by the time training camp starts. Elvis Dumervil is a Pro Bowler and was a first-team All-Pro in 2009.
Courtney Upshaw was a huge "get" in the draft last year and got better each game. Arthur Brown shows signs of being a special player and more importantly a strong leader.
Jameel McClain is a good player, but let's hope his neck is fully healed before he gets on the field again. If he's good to go, McClain will likely be the captain of the defense.
Albert McClellan, John Simon and Josh Bynes are really athletic players who work hard. The Ravens will need their toughness and determination this year.
Michael McAdoo is a 6'7", 245-pound outside linebacker who looks more like a tight end in person. If he can get healthy, he can become what Dan Cody and Sergio Kindle weren't: an explosive pass-rusher who made it after a long period of injury and doubt.
The key for McAdoo may be his mental strength. He hasn't played football in three years (2010: suspension, 2011: injured reserve (knee), 2012: injured reserve (Achilles)).
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Assuming Lardarius Webb is fully healed, the Ravens should be fine at this position.
From training camp through the Super Bowl, Corey Graham blanketed receivers and showcased impressive intuition in multiple big games (including two interceptions in the AFC Divisional Game at Denver).
Jimmy Smith may even move to safety (not permanently, not yet) in order to allow the most dynamic combination of defensive backs on the field at the same time.
Chykie Brown played in every game last season, which helped him a lot. He's no longer just a special teams player.
Chris Johnson and Asa Jackson provide good depth on special teams and in third-down situations.
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Baltimore is going to ask a lot of its first-round pick, Matt Elam, this season. He looks to be the starter at free safety eventually. Thankfully, he will get to first learn from eight-year veteran Michael Huff.
James Ihedigbo is the only safety on this list who has started for the Ravens before (three starts in 2012). But as mentioned, Huff is a veteran and Elam is a star in the making.
Omar Brown is 24 and made some plays last year but is still learning. The Ravens won't likely keep more than four safeties, and after those first three, I think Brown has the strongest bid to be the fourth.
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Similar to the quarterbacks, these special teams players have clearly defined roles. Justin Tucker, Sam Koch and Morgan Cox are all excellent in what they do, and they get along really well to boot.
2012 was another successful year for Koch, as he averaged the seventh-best net-yards-per-punt mark in the league.
Tucker was a tremendous player for the Ravens last season. He was an undrafted free agent and shined in practice every day during camp. That momentum carried over to the regular season, as he converted 90.9 percent (30-of-33) of his field-goal attempts.
Tucker also had 49 touchbacks in 2012 (fifth-best in the league).
In other words, this group is pretty much set in stone.