Eight Ravens On The Bubble As Final Cuts NearPosted on August 27, 2013
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- Five receivers or six? Three tight ends or four? How many offensive linemen? How many running backs?
These are just some of the questions the Ravens must answer during their final preseason game of the year, Aug. 29 in St. Louis, because final cuts must be made before the clock strikes 6 p.m. Aug. 31.
"We're set with some starters," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "That's a given. The thing is, there are so many different packages you can play, and different guys can be a starter in a different package."
Right now, the only package the bubble players care about is the one that comes gift wrapped with a roster spot inside. It might take one singular moment in the Gateway City to make or break someone's fate.
"A couple guys, perhaps, if they play really, really well, they can play their way onto the roster," head coach John Harbaugh said, "or they can play their way off."
There are 22 players the Ravens must let go of or place on various injury lists to get the roster down to the 53-man limit, and we have selected eight players for which the St. Louis game is vital to their survival as Ravens:
1. RB BOBBY RAINEY
As is the case with a lot of players, special teams will hold the key for Rainey, a 5-foot-8 fireball, to make the roster. The team doesn't need another smallish running back; it has one in Ray Rice. But Rainey's 20.8-yard punt-return average and 34-yard rate on kick runbacks, not to mention his outstanding cutting ability, could earn him the job and help Jacoby Jones concentrate on helping the wideout corps.
2. TE MATT FURSTENBURG
The Ravens usually keep three tight ends, two to contribute on offense and one as an extra blocker for bulk. That third role has gone to players such as Kris Wilson and Billy Bajema in the past, but if the team wants another receiving option, Furstenburg (four catches, 13.5-yard average) has been steady in the middle of the field and could also be a valuable special-teams blocker.
3. C A.Q. SHIPLEY
Even though the race for the center position has been a push for most of the preseason period, Shipley fell behind with his two-penalty game against Atlanta, while Gradkowski seemed steady against the Panthers. Rookie draft pick Ryan Jensen should be back around midseason, so the winner of the center battle should have clear sailing until then, and possibly beyond.
4. WR LAQUAN WILLIAMS
Deonte Thompson's foot injury certainly helps the cause of Williams, a lanky speedster who went to Poly and Maryland, and also has a year in the system. But if both seventh-rounder Aaron Mellette and undrafted Marlon Brown make the team because of their offensive contributions, not even Williams' special-teams tenacity will be enough to help him. Jones, Torrey Smith and Brandon Stokley are locks for the team, which could leave only two spots open.
5. S ANTHONY LEVINE
Last year, the Ravens kept 11 defensive backs after final cuts; they had 13 as of the morning of Aug. 27. The Christian Thompson suspension does help young safeties such as Levine and Brynden Trawick, but Omar Brown had most of the momentum at the end of last season and the beginning of this year's camp. Levine has eight preseason tackles and one more on special teams, and he's definitely in the mix.
6. DE DEANGELO TYSON
Seven might be the magic number on the revamped defensive line, one that is deeper and faster than any in recent Ravens history. Rookie sixth-round pick Kapron Lewis-Moore (Non-Football Injury list) won't play this year because of a knee injury, which will lower the number from nine to eight. Ostensibly, that puts Tyson in line with undrafted rookie defensive tackle Cody Larsen for the last spot on the line. Despite Tyson's status as a draft pick last year, he has had a quiet month.
7. CB MARC ANTHONY
Although it's certainly true that no team can have enough cover corners in today's pass-happy league, there are already five players listed as cornerbacks on the roster besides Anthony, this year's seventh-round pick. But one of them in Asa Jackson, who has an eight-game suspension looming to start the regular season. Anthony has been inconsistent in his play, but a strong showing against the speedy Rams would help.
8. LB NIGEL CARR
The energetic Carr, who is rarely at a loss for words, is one of seven inside linebackers on the roster and 13 total. It's a position unit that turned out to be deeper and better than was first thought five months ago. Carr hasn't broken through as one of the team's best, but with Jameel McClain going on the PUP list, costing him the season's first six weeks, could give Carr the break he needs.
Posted Aug. 27, 2013