7 Ravens Veterans Whose Jobs Are on the Line Entering Training Camp
Training camp is where the final Baltimore Ravens roster spots will be decided, but it’s also a chance for young players to impress the coaching staff and earn more playing time.
The NFL is a cutthroat business, however, and increased playing time for one player means fewer snaps for a teammate. This slideshow is about the players who could get the short end of that stick after training camp.
All seven Ravens discussed here (presented from safest to most precarious) are veterans who could lose playing time, a starting role or even a roster spot depending on the performance of their younger competition.
Chris Canty is by far the safest player on this list, but there is a chance we could see him relegated to being a backup—as well as an extreme worst-case scenario where he wouldn’t even make the final roster.
After losing Arthur Jones this offseason, it seems very unlikely the Ravens would move forward without another veteran defensive lineman. Nevertheless, there is so much young talent at the position that Canty will definitely have competition for playing.
An improved Brandon Williams and a strong rookie year from Timmy Jernigan could cost Canty his starting job. On top of that, the likes of DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban could use an impressive training camp to leapfrog Canty in the defensive line rotation.
ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley addressed this issue in one of his Ravens chats earlier in the summer and summarized it concisely:
There's no guarantee that defensive end Chris Canty makes this team. He was a disappointment last year, and the Ravens can create cap room by cutting him ($2 million this year and $2.6 million in 2015). The Ravens, though, need to make sure someone is ready to step up in his spot.
Kapron Lewis-Moore and rookie Brent Urban are the ones who play Canty's position, so they have to convince the Ravens in the preseason that they're ready. I'm not saying Canty will get cut. If the Ravens do, it will be at the final major cutdown.
In all likelihood, Canty will start Week 1 (and the rest of the season) at defensive end. It would not, however, be completely shocking to see his role in the defense decrease a little.
If there were no questions about the running backs on the roster, Justin Forsett would be in significantly more danger of not surviving the final cutdown. But the fact remains there are plenty of questions about the backs, so Forsett seems likely to stick around on the team—at least initially.
We still don’t know how many games Ray Rice is going to miss as a result of his looming suspension. Bernard Pierce is the No. 2, but he hasn’t even practiced yet this offseason (although training camp is his targeted return date). Furthermore, both Rice and Pierce compiled very disappointing 2013 seasons and need to bounce back in a big way.
Lorenzo Taliaferro rounds out the rest of the running backs, but he’s a rookie, and it’s hard to rely on a fourth-round pick to carry the rushing load if it comes to that.
That uncertainty, combined with Forsett’s versatility and experience under Gary Kubiak, is a factor working in Forsett’s favor.
But if Rice’s suspension is only for two games and the duo of Pierce and Taliaferro put together a stellar camp, the front office may choose to roll the dice for those two games and give Forsett’s roster spot to a player at another position.
Two years ago, the Ravens brought in an undrafted special teams player to push Billy Cundiff after the veteran had a disappointing 2011 season. That undrafted free agent went on to outplay Cundiff throughout the offseason and replaced him on the roster.
The modern-day situation is slightly different, but it was clearly a warning shot to Sam Koch when the Ravens signed UDFA Richie Leone to push him in camp.
Koch has been an underrated star for the Ravens over his career, but his performance was erratic last year—especially for the first half of the season.
Leone will need to be noticeably better (i.e. more power, more hang time and more consistency) than Koch to supplant him on the roster. But the financial implications of releasing Koch mean that the vet will need to be on top of his game to ensure that he remains in Baltimore.
Now we’re getting into the territory of players who are fighting for their Baltimore careers, and Terrence Cody should be sweating right now because of the talented duo of Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. Both players are suited to playing inside at the nose tackle, which could shove Cody out of the rotation.
Cody has the edge on them thanks to his gargantuan frame, but it doesn’t really help him remain stout in the middle and take on double-teams. And without that his size is somewhat nullified.
Cody’s roster spot will be determined by the shuffling that happens across the defensive line and how the depth chart shapes up.
For example, if Kapron Lewis-Moore or DeAngelo Tyson is good enough to step into Arthur Jones’ shoes, William/Jernigan/Ngata should be able to lock down all the nose tackle reps, making Cody expendable.
On the other hand, if Ngata/Williams/Jernigan need to take on more responsibility at defensive end, that would free up a spot for Cody as a backup nose tackle.
Ultimately, the Ravens know what they’re going to get from Terrence Cody, which is why they re-signed him to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal. His fate is out of his hands and will be decided by the other young defensive linemen on the team.
Deonte Thompson is still a relatively young receiver, but he’s had opportunities to earn more playing time, and he hasn’t taken full advantage of them.
Thompson is competing with LaQuan Williams, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler and the rest of the UDFAs for the remaining one or two receiver spots, and his place on the team is very much up in the air right now.
Thompson has the benefit of his blazing speed which gives him the ability to stretch the field and make plays in the return game, but his spot on the roster is likely to be the result of his competition not stepping up as opposed to Thompson truly wowing the coaching staff.
Jah Reid and A.Q. Shipley
This list ends with two offensive linemen because the duo is really 1A and 1B in terms of being the players most in danger of losing their jobs—with their orders in constant flux.
Jah Reid has fallen out of favor in Baltimore and was passed over on multiple occasions last season (in favor of Rick Wagner and A.Q. Shipley).
Reid has starting experience, but his current role on the team would be as a utility backup capable of swinging between tackle and guard.
The coaching staff may want to keep Reid around because he’s the only tackle other than Eugene Monroe with any significant playing experience in the NFL, but it’s clear the Ravens aren’t expecting major contributions from the UCF product.
At the very least, Reid is capable of playing tackle, and there aren’t many players who can say that on the roster.
For A.Q. Shipley, however, there are a ton of interior linemen pushing him for playing time.
The O-line is undergoing a youth movement of sorts, and both Reid and Shipley could be squeezed out as a result of it.