Making the Call on Baltimore Ravens' Hardest Remaining Cuts
Training camp is now over for the Baltimore Ravens as they enter Week 3 of the NFL preseason. With a full camp and two preseason games under their belts, we've now gotten a good look at most of the players currently on the 90-man roster.
Over the next two weeks, the Ravens must trim their roster down to just 53 players. There will be several players on the bubble who could either make the team or get cut. Over the ensuing slides, I'll look at which players will be the hardest to determine whether they make the 53-man roster.
Some of these players have had great training camps and played well in the preseason, allowing them to go from likely being cut to potentially making the roster if final cuts were made now.
On the other hand, some of these players have had poor camps and preseasons, causing them to go from likely making the roster, to possibly failing to make the 53-man roster.
CB Tramain Jacobs
The Ravens came into training camp with a need for someone to step up at cornerback. That need was amplified when Aaron Ross tore his Achilles, meaning he'll miss the entire 2014 NFL season.
Backup cornerback Asa Jackson has also missed a good chunk of the preseason with an ankle injury. Having all of these injuries has led to Tramain Jacobs getting a lot of playing time.
An undrafted free agent rookie out of Texas A&M, Jacobs played in 26 games in two seasons with the Aggies after two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He recorded 55 tackles, 39 solos, two interceptions and 13 pass deflections during his time with the Aggies.
Jacobs was signed by Baltimore after he went undrafted this past May, but he's been making some noise in the preseason. He's done so to the point Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees is publicly praising Jacobs, via the team's website:
A really good, young talent who just needs to see it live more and more. I think the upside on this guy is great. Is he there yet? No. He has a ways to go. But usually you can tell whether a guy has a ways to go and can get there or [if] a guy has got a ways to go and there’s always going to be a ways to go. He has got a ways to go, but he’s going to get there.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jacobs' 2.0 grade is the third best of any Ravens defensive back this preseason. He's played in 54 snaps and has allowed just four catches for 41 yards.
He's played well enough to this point that he should be on the final 53-man roster.
WR Jeremy Butler
Jeremy Butler has emerged as a potential undrafted wide receiver to make the final roster.
Signed out of Tennessee-Martin after the 2014 NFL draft ended, Butler has made a strong case this preseason to make the 53-man roster.
The 6'2", 224-pound Butler caught 90 passes for 1,203 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior this past season. At UTM's pro day, Butler ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, had a 36" vertical jump and a 9'6" broad jump. He is a big, physical receiver who could earn a spot on the Ravens roster as a nice red-zone target.
In Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers, Butler had two catches for 16 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown catch. He then caught one pass for 10 yards in Baltimore's Week 2 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
That gives him three catches for 26 and a TD in just 22 offensive snaps this preseason. That's a good production rate, but he needs to get on the field more while also making a bigger impact on special teams.
If Butler does make the final roster, he'd likely be the sixth or seventh WR on the team. After watching Butler in training camp and in the preseason, the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec believes the sixth and final WR spot could come down to Butler or Kamar Aiken. I agree with this, though I believe Baltimore only keeps five WRs.
WR Deonte Thompson
Wide receiver is an area Baltimore struggled to get good production from in 2013. Outside of Torrey Smith, no other receiver had more than 524 receiving yards, and Deonte Thompson was expected to produce at that position.
He failed to do so, catching just 10 passes for 96 yards while appearing in just seven games. Making matters worse is that he was arrested and charged with suspicion of possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia during the offseason.
The charges were eventually dropped, though it was just another strike against Thompson in terms of his chances to be on the 53-man roster this year.
For his career, Thompson has played in just 13 games and caught 13 passes for 147 yards. He also has 22 career kickoff returns for 590 yards.
This preseason, Thompson has one catch for 15 yards but does have four kickoff returns for 208 yards, including a 108-yard for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 of the preseason.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Thompson "made a statement" with that return. Because of his return ability, Thompson should be able to make the final 53-man roster.
After his Week 2 performance, I believe Thompson will be the fifth and final WR to make the roster.
OT James Hurst
Offensive tackle was a position Baltimore needed to upgrade this offseason, yet it didn't sign or draft anyone of note at that position. Starting right tackle Michael Oher left in free agency, leaving the unproven Ricky Wagner as the only true right tackle.
Baltimore has since moved offensive guard Jah Reid to RT, and he sits second on the most recent Ravens depth chart.
One other OT Baltimore did get after the draft was North Carolina's James Hurst.
Though he went undrafted this past May, Hurst entered his final collegiate game projected as high as a first-round pick in this year's draft.
However, in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati, Hurst broke his leg, killing his draft stock before the offseason even began. Hurst hasn't let that slow him down though.
He worked hard to rehab the injury, and has earned a lot of playing time in the preseason. Hurst has played in 69 offensive snaps through two preseason games, allowing just two QB hurries. He's been solid in protection and looks like an NFL lineman.
Ultimately, it's probably going to come down to Hurst or Reid for that final OT spot. I see the veteran Reid earning the spot and Hurst goes on to sign with Baltimore's practice squad.