Ravens 53-Man Roster Set, Some Mainstays, Surprises Throughout
There are the usual cast members but also some surprising additions with depth that will be able to find their niche and contribute on special teams for the Ravens.
Let’s take a look at the roster by position:
Quarterbacks – Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
No surprise here as the Ravens decided to keep two quarterbacks on the active roster. This is the third consecutive season the Ravens have gone with Taylor as the backup. The concern over possible concussion symptoms from Taylor may be eased with the team carrying just two signal callers.
Running Backs – Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce
This was a bit of a surprise here as it seemed Bobby Rainey had survived the cuts and made the active roster as a third running back. Anthony Allen had previously been the Ravens #3 running back the last two seasons, but did not survive cuts. Rainey, buoyed by a very solid camp and pre-season, much like last season, ultimately was cut as the Ravens gambled in trying to bring him back. He was then picked up by the Cleveland Browns.
This is also a position the Ravens feel confident in keeping two players, where they can receive special teams contributions from other positions of need.
The team keeps two fullbacks here as Leach will be the traditional blocking starter and Juszczyk will be a moveable chess piece for Jim Caldwell’s offense. The injury to TE Dennis Pitta necessitates the need to move “Juice” all around. He blocked, saw time in the slot, and can help out on dump offs and showed good hands throughout camp. He struggled in his blocking at times, that’s why the team ultimately brought Leach back. The Ravens are set here.
Wide Receivers – Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Brandon Stokley, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Mellette, Marlon Brown
The top three wideouts have been set for quite some time. The signing of Stokley will help the Ravens move the chains on third downs and be the slot receiver they need after losing Anquan Boldin and Pitta.
The battle elsewhere at WR was one of the most hotly contested battles in all of camp. The play from rookies, Mellette and Brown, spelled the end for David Reed (traded) and former fourth-round pick Tandon Doss (cut). Mellette and Brown both have nice size and caught meaningful passes during the four preseason games. Brown may have even jumped Mellette on the depth chart, coming into his own in the final two games of preseason.
Brown at 6’5″ provides nice red zone potential after catching ten passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. Maybe its the vibes or possibly just out of necessity, but I think both Mellette and Brown will have meaningful contributions to the offense in 2013.
Tight Ends – Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Dallas Clark
One of the biggest strengths coming into the 2013 season was the tight end position, with Joe Flacco’s favorite target Dennis Pitta expected to pick up the slack left behind from the departure of Anquan Boldin. Pitta then fractured his right hip during practice early in camp and that dramatically changed the offense. Pitta will likely start the season on the injured-reserve designated to return list, and amazingly has an outside shot of returning later this season. I say later because a fractured hip isn’t exactly the quickest injury to recover quickly from.
Once the designation becomes official, that will allow the Ravens to sign someone and beef up another area they are thin in (offensive line and cornerback). Ed Dickson assumes the starting role and will be helped out by late FA signing, Dallas Clark. Clark has been slow to fit into the offense so far, but knows Caldwell’s system from their days together in Indianapolis and is quite dependable with his hands.
Offensive Line – Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley, Ricky Wagner, Ryan Jensen
When the offensive line has a healthy Marshal Yanda at right guard, he solidifies the line, which helps Flacco, which helps the running game. See the theme here? I’ve said it all camp long, Yanda is the one Raven you absolutely cannot afford to lose to injury. Without him, the offense looks off-balance.
Overall, the vibes here are still a bit shaky, especially with the depth behind the starters. Gino Gradkowski beat A.Q. Shipley out for the starting center position. The team likes Ricky Wagner, as he has the flexibility to play both tackle positions. Jensen, an interior lineman, is hurt with a foot injury, but stays on the active roster. Jah Reid struggled again this pre-season and hasn’t done much to improve upon last season.
This unit could benefit from picking up someone off the scrap heap as teams continue to make cuts before the season begins. An injury to any of the starters could really be problematic for the Ravens.
Defensive Line – Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Brandon Williams, Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones, DeAngelo Tyson
Haloti Ngata looks completely healthy for the first time in two seasons which means trouble for offensive lines and quarterbacks everywhere in the NFL. The organization beefed up the middle, snagging Canty and Spears in FA. Canty looks like an absolute steal. Playing alongside Ngata will allow him to get after the quarterback. Great depth will give defensive coordinator Dean Pees the opportunity to rotate and keep players fresh. Spears will see a lot of time in run situations.
Rookie Brandon Williams has a right foot injury and currently sports a walking boot. Terrence Cody’s camp was an important one to keep a roster spot, which he did and he’ll see some time off the bench with Williams injury. One of the surprises of camp was the play of DeAngelo Tyson as the former seventh-round pick played well enough to secure a roster spot.
Linebackers – Daryl Smith, Josh Bynes, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Pernell McPhee, Courtney Upshaw, John Simon, Robert James
The first four of this group and James will make up the inside linebacking corp. Daryl Smith assumes the middle linebacker spot and, out of all the FA signings for Baltimore, appears to be the best and maybe one of the best in the NFL this season. He was underrated in Jacksonville, showing his smarts and the ability to chase down ball carriers all pre-season.
Josh Bynes takes the weak side linebacker position while Jameel McClain continues to rehab from his injury. Bynes understands the defense, and is physical. Harbaugh raves about him and has proved him right by his play throughout camp. McClellan moves to inside linebacker and will be an important member on special teams. Brown, the rookie from Kansas State, looked good in camp and will be worked in rotation slowly, seeing time in nickle packages.
Right now, its hard to imagine a more formidable duo at the bookends in recent Ravens history, at least on paper, than Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Second year player, Courtney Upshaw has spent time in rush situations during camp, spelling Dumervil who has been focused on rushing the quarterback.
Pernell McPhee is another guy who moves from his original position who now will be focused on rushing the quarterback in 2013. McPhee dealt with nagging injuries all last season, but started 16 games in 2011, his rookie season. From all reports, he could be a hybrid, bouncing from linebacker/end to inside on the line, lining up at nose tackle. He’ll be an interesting one to watch as the season goes.
The Ravens added Robert Smith, whom they claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons. He brings experience to the special teams unit, primarily the reason he was brought in. He’ll also be a backup at inside linebacker for Baltimore. James, 28, recorded ten special teams tackles for the Falcons last season.
Cornerbacks – Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown
The Ravens are very thin at cornerback, only keeping four, all of which saw significant time in 2012. This is a possible area the Ravens look for depth, finding someone off the scrap heap. Webb returns from injury, fully healthy and ready to go. He was brought along slowly, playing extensively in the team’s third preseason tilt against Carolina. Opposite Webb is last season’s starter, Corey Graham who recorded two huge interceptions in the playoff win at Denver. Jimmy Smith didn’t build on the end of last season, struggling through camp and will see time in nickel situations.
Safety – Michael Huff, Matt Elam, James Ihedigbo, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick
What I see from this unit is a lot of flexibility. Huff will be a starter at free safety but can also play at corner back in need as well. James Ihedigbo gets the nod to start at strong safety, but it won’t be before too long where the talented rookie Elam finds his way into the lineup. Regardless, Elam is too damn talented to be on the sidelines, so he’ll see the field.
The other surprise to survive cut downs was Brynden Trawick, a rookie from Troy who displayed some hard-hitting abilities during pre-season games. He’s got nice size at 6’2″, 215 lbs and stood out on tape, blocking a punt during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Both Levine and Trawick will factor into special teams this season.
Kicker – Justin Tucker/ Punter – Sam Koch/ Long Snapper – Morgan Cox
These three mainstays of last season’s championship went all camp without looking over their shoulder, having no competition during camp. It was a quiet camp for Tucker, which means he’s ready to go, connecting on all five field goal attempts and eleven extra point attempts.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.