Baltimore Ravens: Breaking Down Final Roster and Week 1 Starters

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor ISeptember 7, 2015

Baltimore Ravens: Breaking Down Final Roster and Week 1 Starters

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    For the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL regular season is upon them, and the final roster is locked in. Every team in the NFL has cut down to its final 53-man roster and is in the process of filling its 10-man practice squad.

    It’s important to keep in mind as we break this roster down that there could still be changes between now and when the Ravens kick off against the Denver Broncos on September 13.

    Some of the names on this final roster are currently injured, and their status for the first regular season game is still in question. That means Baltimore still has the option to shuffle a player or two in order to have requisite depth for the first game.

    The current depth chart used for this analysis is coming from OurLads.com, as the Ravens website hasn’t posted it yet. Any stats used in this article are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.

Quarterbacks

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    Starter: Joe Flacco

    Backup: Matt Schaub

    Baltimore opted to take the route of only carrying two quarterbacks on its active roster this season. Some teams opt for three, often deactivating them on gameday to allow for a different position to suit up. Keep in mind that while a team’s roster is 53, league rules stipulate that only 46 of those players can dress for each game.

    There was never any doubt that starting quarterback Joe Flacco would make the team. Flacco has been the undisputed leader of the Ravens offense since he was drafted in 2008. In fact, Flacco hasn’t missed a single game in his seven-year career. Flacco had career highs in passing yards (3,986) and passing touchdowns (27). The offense will once again run through him.

    This leaves veteran Matt Schaub as Flacco’s backup, and the rookie Bryn Renner has been relegated to the practice squad. This is a calculated risk, as the NFL is a dearth of quarterback talent, and Renner showed a lot of potential in preseason.

    Players on the practice squad are somewhat exposed, so don’t be shocked if a team doesn’t try and snatch him up at some point in the season. Nevertheless, Baltimore decided that the stability and veteran leadership of Schaub were more valuable at this point. 

Running Backs

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    Starter: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk (FB)

    Backups: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Javorius Allen

    One of the best surprises of the 2014 season for Baltimore was the emergence of running back Justin Forsett. After spending his first six seasons as a part-time player, Forsett found a starting job in his first season with the Ravens. Forsett ended up with 14 starts and 1,266 yards rushing.

    With Forsett back as the starter, it is all about sorting out his backups. The Ravens opted to keep Lorenzo Taliaferro and rookie Javorius Allen. This is most interesting because according to Ravens writer Garrett Downing, Taliaferro is still on the mend from an MCL sprain, and this could carry over into the regular season.

    That means the Ravens would go into the first game of the season with the rookie Allen as Forsett’s primary and only backup. Baltimore could add a veteran free-agent back between now and then, simply deactivating Taliaferro for the game. However, Allen does stand to get plenty of reps at the start of the season.

    The Ravens also kept fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The third-year pro doesn’t have an NFL carry but did catch 19 passes in 2014. Nevertheless, Juszczyk is a punishing blocker and will be an integral part of the rushing game, regardless of who he is blocking for.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Starters: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Crockett Gillmore (TE)

    Backups: Breshad Perriman, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Darren Waller, Maxx Williams (TE), Nick Boyle (TE)

    The wide receiver situation of the Ravens was a bit of a dumpster fire for most of the preseason. Injuries had the Ravens coaches shuffling lineups and playing wait-and-see with players expected to contribute. So, when the dust settled and the final cuts were made, the names might not have surprised, but their position on the depth chart did.

    Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of players missing time is starting wide receiver Kamar Aiken. If you would have looked at this group at the start of the offseason, it is no stretch to have labeled Aiken a bubble player. Guys like Marlon Brown, Breshad Perriman and Michael Campanaro all looked to be ahead of him.

    However, Aiken made the most of his opportunities and, most of all, stayed healthy. Truth be told, once Perriman is back to full speed, he and the other two mentioned will push Aiken hard for targets opposite Steven Smith. But it’s a good problem to have, when there are that many competent guys on the roster.

    As far as tight end goes, if there’s a sleeper on this roster to blow up, it is tight end Crockett Gillmore. The second-year tight end out of Colorado State has looked quite imposing this preseason. And that isn’t just because he is a 6’6”, 270-pound behemoth that blots out the sun when he gets downfield. Gillmore is a balanced and athletic tight end who should be able to easily replace any production this team lost in the offseason.

    In addition, rookie Maxx Williams gets the nod as backup, but with the way the Ravens run their offense, should be lined up on the field at the same time as Gillmore plenty. Williams is less blocker and more athlete, and he should be the red-zone guy who uses his speed and quickness to overwhelm linebackers.

Offensive Line

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    Starters:  Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshall Yanda, Ricky Wagner

    Backups: James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, John Urschel

    No big surprises here for the Ravens. Starting tackles will be Eugene Monroe on the left and Ricky Wagner on the right. Guards will be Kelechi Osemele and Marshall Yanda and starting center is Jeremy Zuttah. Assuming this group can maintain its health, it should be among the very elite in all of the NFL. So goes this group, so goes the Baltimore offense.

    The Ravens opted to keep three additional linemen, very specific to their positions. James Hurt can back up either tackle spot, John Urschel can swing between guard spots and Ryan Jensen is a center that can kick to guard in a pinch. This is the one position the Ravens could have kept one more guy just to be safe. Baltimore does have offensive linemen Kaleb Johnson and De’Ondre Wesley on the practice squad, should they need a player to fill in for injury.

Defensive Line

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    Starters: Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams, Chris Canty

    Backups: Carl Lewis, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Guy Lawrence, Christo Bilukidi, Brent Urban

    No real shocks here along the defensive line. Baltimore has a load of talent inside and outside and should be able to rotate five or six guys through all year long. This line is anchored by massive nose tackle Brandon Williams. Stepping in for longtime Raven Haloti Ngata, he is huge and powerful and commands a double team on every snap.

    Flanking Williams will be defensive ends Chris Canty and Timmy Jernigan. Both are huge, disruptive players and can move up and down the defensive line in multiple fronts. However, the name to watch on this list is defensive tackle Carl Davis. A rookie out of Iowa, no lineman popped on film more than him in the preseason. Possessing great length and violent hands, he is going to push Canty hard all season for a starting spot.

    The rest of the guys are “fit” players. All of them fall between 6’4” and 6’7” and all four check in at almost exactly 300 pounds. This gives the Ravens a tremendous amount of flexibility to sub in and out quickly, and not letting fatigue impact this group.

Linebackers

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Starters: Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Daryl Smith, Courtney Upshaw

    Backups: Elvis Dumervil, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan, Za’Darius Smith, Zach Orr

    It seems that every year the Ravens have one of the deepest and most talented groups of linebackers in the league. 2015 is no different, as Baltimore will once again put a group on the field that can give the defense gobs of productivity and offers lots of scheme versatility.

    On the outside Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw are listed as the starters. However, Elvis Dumervil is an elite pass-rush specialist (17 sacks in 2014) and will sub in for Upshaw in passing situations. Behind Suggs is rookie Za’Darius Smith, who has flashed some serious pass-rushing potential this preseason as well. But it is a statement about the talent of a group when a team can rotate in a player like Dumervil without concern for a drop in play.

    On the inside, C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will anchor this group. However, both Albert McClellan and Arthur Brown are riding strong performances in the preseason in hopes of getting starter reps this year and contend for Smith’s job next season.

Defensive Backs

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Starters: Lardarius Webb (CB), Jimmy Smith (CB), Will Hill (SS), Kendrick Lewis (FS)

    Backups, Kyle Arrington, Rashaan Melvin, Tray Walker, Brynden Trawick, Anthony Levine, Terrence Brooks

    This is an interesting group for a couple of reasons. There are no surprises at all in terms of starters. Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are high-talent players who could be elite with the talent Baltimore has assembled in front of them. The safeties are also set with Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis as interchangeable parts at strong and free safety.

    However, the inclusion of a fifth safety is something of a surprise. Best guess? The team is holding onto an extra safety until they are confident that Terrence Brooks is back to full speed, and then they'll cut one loose. Also, the release of cornerback Asa Jackson is something of a surprise.

    It looked like Jackson would make the roster as a return specialist if nothing else. However, it looks as if the Ravens felt like Rashaan Melvin offered the better coverage player, and they will find a kick and punt returner elsewhere.

Special Teams

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Starters: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Michael Campanaro

    It’s business as usual as the Ravens will roll with kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox. This trio is solid and steady, and, in particular, Tucker is rock solid in the clutch. The kick and punt return situation is up in the air with the release of cornerback Asa Jackson.

    OurLads lists wide receiver Michael Campanaro as both the punt and kick returner, but it’s hard to say. Campanaro is the only player left on the roster who had any returns in preseason, so he could get it by default. However, Baltimore might want to keep Campanaro healthy and try wide receiver Darren Waller back there at some point.

Practice Squad

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Per ESPN writer Jamison Hensley, here is the Ravens current practice squad.

    Bryan Renner, QB

    Charles James, CB

    Jeremy Butler, WR

    Kaleb Johnson, G

    Nick Perry, S

    Konrad Reuland, TE

    De’Ondre Wesley, OT

    Brennen Beyer, LB

    Daniel Brown, WR

    Baltimore has one more spot that should be filled rather quickly once waiver claims are done. No real surprises here beyond Baltimore leaving rookie quarterback Bryn Renner exposed to be signed by another team. Of all the guys on this list, former Alabama safety Nick Perry and linebacker Brennen Beyer might be the most enticing to another squad.

    In terms of being pulled to the Baltimore active roster, offensive linemen De’Ondre Wesley and Kalen Johnson are a go at any moment and tight end Konrad Reuland could be active sooner rather than later. Additionally, don’t be shocked if it is wide receiver Daniel Brown and not Jeremy Butler as the first wide receiver into the game if there is a need.