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Baltimore Ravens 53 man roster: Key observations on cut day

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have trimmed their roster to 53 players. While the Ravens technically have reached their final round of roster cuts, there is nothing final about this 53 man roster. Several players will be going to Injured reserve tomorrow and a couple of players or even a handful could come back. The practice squad is another avenue for technically keeping cut and waived players.

There’s nothing horribly shocking about the 53 man roster that Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh have put on display today. The biggest surprise is that Miles Boykin survived roster cuts. Boykin, who was basically a non-factor in training camp due to injury could be heading for IR. One way or another the Ravens aren’t giving up on the 6’4″ receiver just yet.

It was debatable what the Ravens would do at inside linebacker. The Ravens chose to keep Kristian Welch. It’s still one of the thinnest position groups, though having a fourth inside linebacker means that Ravens don’t have to schematically and strategically make up for just having three interior linebackers.

Were there several position groups the Ravens could have gone a different way with? Sure. Were there any decisions that were big surprises? No. The Ravens cut Pernell McPhee. That almost counts as a big surprise, though it seems likely that he’ll end up back on the roster for the regular season.

Our roster projection at PBN came out before the Shaun Wade trade and the J.K. Dobbins injury. We still got 49 spots on the 53 man roster right. The main point is that the Ravens had a very defined group of players we knew mattered coming into training camp. Some players scratched their way onto the team during camp and preseason action, but Baltimore had less to figure out than a lot of teams.

9 offensive linemen + 11 defensive backs = Correct priorities

The Ravens knew what they absolutely needed when it came to depth. The Baltimore Ravens kept a high number of offensive linemen and defensive backs. This makes sense because of the importance of these position groups and the overall competition at these positions.

The starting left guard job is still arguably up for grabs. At the moment it looks like the nod is going to Ben Powers, though Ben Cleveland could end up with the job. The depth on the offensive line is strong. Tyre Phillips and Pat Mekari can play multiple positions. The tackle depth is a little shakey, however the number of viable interior linemen they have is truly impressive.

This preseason it was thought that the last defensive back spot could be a battle between Geno Stone and Ar’Darius Washington. Both made the 53 man roster. Each of the young safeties offer value and, keeping both players is a refreshing commitment to the backend of the defense. Both players should be able to chip in on special teams and offer more range than the starting safeties. Sub-packages have options in Baltimore.

Whether or not this is the year that Tavon Young finally stays healthy, cornerback is the strength of the roster. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters remain the best duo in the NFL. Jimmy Smith is a very trusted veteran in Don Martindale’s defense. Anthony Averett has grown up and become a solid corner. Chris Westry has very sound cover skills that round out the group. Ideally, the team stays healthy at their best position, though they clearly have a lot of good options.

The offensive line needs to be supported by numbers and competition. The defensive backs are where the Ravens have the most surplus talent. Baltimore chose to keep that surplus as strong as possible.

The defensive line is the only questionably thin area on the Baltimore Ravens roster:

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t keep Aaron Crawford or Justin Ellis. This leaves the Ravens with only five defensive linemen on the roster. Brandon Williams is 32 years old and Calais Campbell turns 35 tomorrow (HAPPY BIRTHDAY Calais). Justin Madubiuke and Broderick Washington are young players but five players are thin even for a 3-4 defense. This is why it wouldn’t be shocking if Justin Ellis came back to the team after some roster juggling.

The pass defense has been prioritized with this 53 man roster. The Ravens didn’t keep Pernell McPhee who is strongest against the run and is one of their best defenders against the run. Justin Ellis is a notable cut for sure, though he didn’t contribute much as somebody who could push the pocket. One thing is for sure, young Ravens defensive players are going to have to do a lot this year.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 5 preseason performers

There’s plenty more coverage headed your way on the Ravens 53 man roster. These are the key initial thoughts and observations on the roster as it stands after cut day.

 

 

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: Three Big Questions at the Wide Receiver Position

By: Ashley Anderson


Last year, the Ravens had the worst passing attack in the NFL. It was clearly an area where they needed an infusion of talent, so they set to work adding pieces in free agency and the Draft. Now, Baltimore has a plethora of receivers, and the future looks bright. There are also some crucial questions about the group.

3.) Can Sammy Watkins stay healthy?

Selected fourth overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 NFL Draft, Sammy Watkins exploded onto the scene with 982 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. Unfortunately, after topping 1,000 yards in his second season, things got off track for Watkins due to injuries. Since then, he has never topped 700 yards or played a complete season.

Knowing this, the Baltimore Ravens signed Watkins to a modest one-year, $6 million deal looking to add veteran insurance to a relatively young receiving core. Still, Watkins has more than enough ability to disrupt a defense. He just turned 28-years old and has the frame to play on the outside at 6-foot-1, 211-pounds.

Baltimore desperately needs a guy who can take some attention off Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Watkins looks to be the perfect person to fill that role if he can stay on the field. The Ravens are known for having an excellent strength and conditioning program, and Watkins seems to have a renewed dedication to taking care of his body. Now, only time will tell if Watkins can hold up for an expanded 17-game season.

 

2.) Will Marquise Brown (or someone else) top 1,000 receiving yards?

Third-year man Marquise Brown is clearly Baltimore’s top receiver, and he has tremendous chemistry with Lamar Jackson. However, he struggled to find success at times, mostly because the Ravens lacked diversity in their receiving core. After getting a makeover this offseason, the anticipated receivers heading into 2021 should be greatly improved.

Brown, along with tight end Mark Andrews, will likely continue to be Jackson’s go-to targets. Still, with other reliable receivers to spread the ball around to, some of the pressure should be alleviated from Brown. He already showed growth from year one to two, and he could make an even bigger leap in year three.

The last time a Ravens receiver topped 1,000 yards was Mike Wallace in 2016. Joe Flacco was still Baltimore’s starting quarterback, Jackson was a sophomore at Louisville, and Brown was fighting to get noticed at College of the Canyons. Brown will benefit from a 17th game on the regular-season schedule, and he managed nearly 800 yards in 2020. If Brown can build on his performance from last year, it will go a long way to helping the Ravens stay competitive in an extremely challenging AFC North.

Another scenario is that someone other than Brown emerges from the pack. The clear favorite would be Watkins, but as previously mentioned, he has not topped 700 yards since his second season. Will any Ravens receiver top the grand mark in 2021?

 

1.) How many receivers will the Baltimore Ravens keep, and who will they be?

This is a big two-part question to round out this segment. Last year, Baltimore rolled with six receivers on their initial roster, but they shuffled things a bit throughout the season. Chris Moore, Dez Bryant, and Willie Snead all left this offseason. The Ravens then added Sammy Watkins in free agency and Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the Draft.

If the Ravens stick to six receivers, there are a few locks: Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, and Rashod Bateman. After that, Baltimore is all but guaranteed to keep second-year man Devin Duvernay and rookie Tylan Wallace. Duvernay excelled on special teams in his rookie campaign and is looking to take over the slot role vacated by Snead. Wallace is a fourth-round pick, so the Ravens will have a hard time stashing him on the practice squad.

Beyond those five is where things get murky. Entering his third season, Miles Boykin is the best blocking receiver the Ravens have. However, he has yet to emerge from the pack as a true receiving threat despite his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. His primary competition comes from James Proche. Though he had a modest rookie season, coaches are excited by Proche’s sure hands and could keep him based on sheer potential.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions at the Running Back Position

Should the Ravens choose to keep all seven receivers, they would have to make a sacrifice elsewhere on the roster. Could Proche sneak onto the practice squad? It is a possibility, but then they risk losing him to a receiver-needy team. Before you ask, it seems highly unlikely Boykin converts to tight end. This is a large question looming over a talented group that will ultimately impact the entire roster composition.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Ferguson or Boykin who steps up?

The Baltimore Ravens have a few players that need to start holding up their end of the bargain. Two players in particular are Jaylon Ferguson and Miles Boykin. Which one steps up in 2021?

The Case for Ferguson

The Baltimore Ravens have seen that with outside linebackers, it often takes a while before the lights fully come on. Za’Darius Smith is a great example of this. Raw edge rushers have to develop at the NFL level. It’s not instant ramen soup at this position; you actually have to do the work and boil the water.

Ferguson is 6-5 and has traits that got him his shot with the Ravens. At Louisiana Tech he earned the nickname of “Sack Daddy.” In fact, he was the NCAA sack leader when he jumped into the NFL.

In the NFL, Ferguson couldn’t bully his way to the quarterback. He was no longer the big, bad wolf. He went from Superman under a yellow sun to Superman with a red sun. Ferguson was no longer the best athlete on the field, his big advantage was taken away.

Ferguson has a shot out of pure opportunity. The Ravens still haven’t added a veteran pass rusher. If the Baltimore Ravens don’t bring in Justin Houston or Melvin Ingram, Ferguson should be able to carve out playing time if he earns it.

Odafe Oweh is a rookie who has to compete in a 17 game regular season. When you’re used to playing 13 or 14 games a year, that’s going to take some getting used to.

Tyus Bowser can’t play every down on the field. Pernell McPhee is probably on a snap count. If the Ravens add the veteran pass rusher it would put Ferguson on the roster bubble. Without a move in free agency, Ferguson should be part of the rotation.

There’s a lot of buzz about Ferguson right now. If the light comes on and his pass rush moves feature an improved menu, that buzz could come into fruition. Ferguson has to prove it, but it’s possible. At the bare minimum, he has to stay ahead of Daelin Hayes, a fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame.

The Case For Miles Boykin

Miles Boykin has size that didn’t go away just because he was an unproductive wide receiver. Boykin is only entering his third season in the NFL. Being a 6-4 wide receiver with decent speed isn’t going to go out of style in the league.

Boykin is going to get a chance to put it all together. Remember, even Breshad Perriman got another couple of shots after his forgettable time with the Ravens. As long as you show some flashes and have the things that you can’t coach you have a little bit of staying power. Boykin wasn’t a first round pick, so the Ravens may be willing to work with him a little bit more.

Boykin has had some nice moments with the Ravens. In the Seattle Seahawks game in 2019, Lamar Jackson found him for a deep shot on the first drive. He had a nice touchdown grab against the Dallas Cowboys this past season, and he’s found the end zone seven times in his career.

Boykin hasn’t exactly been in a high-flying passing offense. The Ravens had the fewest passing yards in the NFL in the 2020 season. Boykin may have only gotten 32 receptions over the past two seasons, but it’s not like there was a surplus of receptions to go around. Boykin’s career average gain per reception is 14.5 yards.

Boykin hasn’t been overly impressive, but he hasn’t been egregiously bad either. You can argue that Boykin needs to do more with his chances, yet you can’t say he’s been in an ideal spot as a receiver. The Ravens adding Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, and Tylan Wallace this offseason didn’t help his chances.

The Bottom Line for the Baltimore Ravens

It’s too early to write either player off. This is the time of year where everybody seemingly gets the coaching staff excited. That’s why it’s important to remember that no matter what you hear, these two players have to make it happen quickly.

NEXT POST: What’s changed when Lamar Jackson drops back to pass

The one thing that is for sure is that the Ravens aren’t going to hopelessly wait for it. The Ravens added three wide receivers to the roster this offseason. They drafted two players for the edge positions. This is a make or break year for both players.