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Five Roster Questions Ahead Of Ravens' Preseason Game Vs. Eagles

August 22, 2019
After two joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens face the Eagles in their third preseason game Aug. 22, which will be the final preseason action for most, if not all, Ravens projected starters. As is customary, the Ravens will hold out virtually every starter in the preseason finale next week against the Washington Redskins.

That gives those on the roster bubble just two more games to state their case for a roster spot, and truth be told, probably all but a few roster decisions have been made. Injuries always can complicate things, and the Ravens are dealing with a few such situations.

With two games remaining, here are five key questions that could factor in the final roster decisions, and the players most affected by them:

Do the Ravens keep three quarterbacks?
On the bubble: Trace McSorley

The question of whether the Ravens will keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster is something of an annual tradition in Baltimore, but before last season, they had not done so since 2009. Trace McSorley has made progress this summer, with increased reps in light of the thumb injury sustained by backup Robert Griffin III. The Ravens, though, expect Griffin to be ready for Week 1, and his health will have the most bearing on this question. 

McSorley's role as a quarterback would be limited, but he has been doing some work on special teams, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman hinted that there could be other ways McSorley sees the field. 

The Ravens, though, would need to weigh the contribution McSorley might make against needs elsewhere, and whether they want to risk losing him via waivers if they try to move him to the practice squad.

Who is the return specialist?
On the bubble: Tyler Ervin

Cyrus Jones entered camp as the favorite to win the punt return job, and the Ravens also have given him a look as a kick returner, something he has little experience with at the NFL level (nine career returns). In two preseason games this year, Jones has not had any kick returns and has fair catches on his only punt return chances. 

After playing just five defensive snaps for the Ravens last year, Jones has had a strong training camp and could see an expanded role as a nickel back with Tavon Young sidelined for an extended period because of a neck injury. That could open the door for Ervin, who has averaged 11.3 yards on four punt returns and 21.3 yards on three kick returns this year. 

Ervin, a fourth-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2016, has three years of return experience in the NFL. If the Ravens do keep Ervin, he would serve as a backup running back, which could cost Kenneth Dixon or De'Lance Turner a potential roster spot. 

How many offensive linemen make the roster?
On the bubble: Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari, Greg Senat

The Ravens have spent five weeks trying to find a left guard and they are still looking. Alex Lewis was traded away, and Jermaine Eluemunor has failed to seize the job when given the chance. He is likely to make the team, especially if the Ravens feel he could fill in at left tackle, but his lack of conditioning and inability to decisively win the job haven't won over many in the Castle.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Matt Skura, guard Marshal Yanda, right tackle Orlando Brown, versatile James Hurst and rookie fourth-round pick Ben Powers are all locks to make the team. Eluemunor is close to a lock as well despite the underwhelming summer. If the Ravens keep just eight offensive linemen, which is what they did last year, then just one of those three on the bubble will stay. 

The best bet to stick is Bozeman. Mekari will probably land on the practice squad, and Senat's undisclosed injury has hurt his chances to make the team as a backup tackle.

It's also possible that a lineman on the initial 53-man roster isn't even on the team; two years ago, the Ravens traded for reserve linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko in the final two days before the 53-man roster had to be set. Might current general manager Eric DeCosta make a similar move?

Do the Ravens keep just three inside linebackers?
On the bubble: Otaro Alaka, Donald Payne

Inside linebacker has been the Ravens thinnest position group all summer with just three players returning from last year -- Patrick Onwuasor and second-year players Chris Board and Kenny Young. An additional defensive back such as Anthony Levine frequently spells one inside linebacker in dime situations, minimizing the need for an additional true inside linebacker.

But Board has been sidelined by a concussion sustained in the Week 2 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, leaving the position further short-handed. Alaka, an undrafted rookie from Texas A&M, has been the best of the three undrafted rookies, and the Ravens' history of grooming undrafted inside linebackers is well documented. Alaka was banged up in the joint practices this week, and his status for the Eagles game is unclear.

Payne, an undrafted rookie in Ravens camp in 2017, was re-signed by the team last week after Board's injury. He has played the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

How does Young's injury affect the roster?
On the bubble: Maurice Canady, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

Tavon Young figures to begin the year on injured reserve, which will open up a roster spot. However, if the Ravens want to designate Young to return later in the year -- which will depend largely on whether Young opts for season-ending surgery -- then he will need to begin the season on the 53-man roster as a procedural move. 

Regardless, Young's injury means the Ravens will keep an additional defensive back, and Canady is the most likely candidate.

Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett and Brandon Carr all began the summer as roster locks, and Cyrus Jones has played his way into that status. In addition, Justin Bethel is limited as a defensive back but is a special teams ace. Rookie fourth-round pick Iman Marshall would make the roster as well, but he's been sidelined most of the month and could be headed to injured reserve alongside Young.

That creates opportunity for Canady, who himself has struggled to stay on the field. He has been on injured reserve in all three of his NFL seasons, appearing in 19 of 48 games during the past three years. He's been healthy this summer and could be one of many candidates at nickel back in Young's absence. Jean-Baptiste was probably on his way to making the roster last year before suffering a broken arm in the preseason finale. 

In many previous years, Canady and Jean-Baptiste would be strong candidates to make the team, but the depth of the secondary this year, even after Young's injury, changes that equation. 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox