Ravens: Five thoughts on the 53-man roster

BALTIMORE — The NFL’s roster deadline has passed, and the Baltimore Ravens have trimmed their team down to 53 players. The 53 guys the Ravens retained will continue their work at the castle to prepare for next Sunday’s season opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.

Between Friday and Saturday, the Ravens waived 27 players and placed four on the injured reserve list. The Ravens also shipped Kamalei Correa to the Tennessee Titans last week for a sixth-round draft pick. This year’s roster cuts saw a different trend than previous seasons, as a handful of high-round draft picks were either released or traded.

Now that the roster cuts are finalized, here are five thoughts.

1. Keeping three quarterbacks was the right move

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Ravens’ 53-man roster is Baltimore’s decision to keep three quarterbacks – Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson, and Robert Griffin III. The Ravens have not done so since 2009, when they kept Flacco, Troy Smith, and John Beck.

After watching both Griffin and Jackson throughout the preseason, this was the right call. Even though Jackson looked much better in the final two preseason games than he did in the first two, his arm is still very raw and he still needs to learn when and when not to put his body on the line and absorb hits.

RGIII spent a whole season out of football after a five-year run in the NFL, much of which was spent on injured reserve. Several of Griffin’s injuries were a direct result of taking too many hits. In the preseason, Griffin was willing to throw from the pocket and only run when absolutely necessary. He even displayed an ability to slide, a skill that Griffin said he picked up during his time out of the NFL.

Without a doubt, Flacco is the Ravens’ starting quarterback, and Jackson will likely back him up. Just because the Ravens have three quarterbacks on the roster does not mean that all three will be active on every single gameday. That sounds like a waste, but keeping Griffin in the fold will pay off huge dividends for Jackson’s development. Who knows, if the Ravens get to October or November and feel like Jackson has made huge strides, maybe they shop Griffin around and see if a team in need of a quarterback would consider a trade.

And in the event that Flacco goes down, they already have a Plan B with two quarterbacks and won’t need to sign a backup.

2. Breshad Perriman is officially the Ravens’ biggest draft bust

It’s never fun to point something like this out, especially considering how genuine a guy like Breshad Perriman is, but now that he’s been cut he is now the Ravens’ biggest draft bust in franchise history.

Perriman never got going during his time in Baltimore. After being drafted 26th overall in the 2015 Draft, Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a PCL sprain. Then in a 2016 minicamp practice, he suffered a partially-torn ACL and did not return until late in training camp. He also missed the entire 2017 preseason with a strained hamstring.

This summer,  Perriman participated in the entire offseason program for the first time in his career. Although reporters say that this offseason was Perriman’s best, the problems that have plagued Perriman in the past – drops leading to interceptions, lack of aggressiveness on 50/50 passes – continued during preseason games. He did catch a 32-yard touchdown pass from RGIII in the Ravens’ 33-7 win over the Rams on Aug. 9, but that was Perriman’s one shining moment. The rest just was not good enough.

Perriman finishes his Ravens career with 43 receptions for 576 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, he failed to reach 100 reception yards with 77 yards on just 10 receptions. No touchdowns.

Prior to Perriman, Sergio Kindle held the honor as the Ravens’ biggest draft bust. After the Ravens took him in the second round (43rd overall) in the 2010 Draft, Kindle fell down two flights of stairs in the summer and fractured his skull. He played in three games over two seasons for the Ravens with one career tackle. But considering he was a second-round pick, Perriman takes the cake as Baltimore’s biggest bust.

The Ravens and many close to the team will hope for nothing but the best for Perriman. Hopefully he receives (pun intended) an opportunity somewhere else and improves his game. It simply wasn’t working in Baltimore.

3. Keeping Janarion Grant takes Chris Moore and Willie Snead out of ‘danger zone’

After Janarion Grant and Tim White battled it out throughout camp at returner, the Ravens elected to keep Grant, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers. Both White and Grant coughed the ball up in the second preseason game against the Colts, but Grant rebounded to the point where the coaching staff felt comfortable enough to give him the returner job.

Over the last few weeks, it was rumored that if the Ravens were to cut both Grant and White, wide receivers Chris Moore and Willie Snead would handle the duties at returner. This scenario would have put Moore and Snead into the ‘danger zone’, meaning that running them out to return kicks and punts would increase their chances of suffering an injury.

Both Moore and Snead are expected to take on pivotal roles in the Ravens’ offense this season. Simply put, keeping five receivers with Moore and Snead handling additional return duties was not necessary, especially since Grant proved that he’s capable. Barring injuries, Grant will not see much time on offense. This allows him to put all of his efforts into being a returner.

The Ravens have lacked a consistent returner since Jacoby Jones was in town. Grant has a long way to go, but the Ravens may have found something in him.

4. Inside linebacker and tight end are team’s thinnest positions

For the most part, the Ravens’ roster is pretty stacked, but there are still weak areas. The two that stick out the most are inside linebacker and tight end. Both positions have four players listed, but only three are healthy.

At tight end, the Ravens will count on Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle to step up while Hayden Hurst recovers from a foot surgery. At inside linebacker, Kenny Young hurt his knee during the first half of Thursday’s game against the Redskins and was spotted on the sideline with a brace on the knee during the second half. If Young’s injury is a multi-week ailment, C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, and undrafted rookie Chris Board will carry the load.

Both Hurst and Young’s injuries are big blows. The Ravens drafted Hurst 25th overall and wanted to plug him into the offense right away. Now they likely won’t have him until October, and even then he will probably not be at full speed. Baltimore took Young in the fourth round and he challenged Onwuasor throughout camp, appearing to be one of the most athletic players on the roster. The status of Young’s knee is unknown, but Baltimore keeping him on the 53 probably means that the injury is not long-term.

The depth at tight end and inside linebacker will improve once Young and Hurst return. For now, and likely the first few weeks of the regular season, it’s definitely shaky.

5. Fingers crossed that Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown stay healthy

The Ravens offensive line, along with many other offensive lines in the NFL, struggled in the preseason. Injuries also took a toll, as starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley suffered a knee strain against the Colts and Greg Senat injured his foot against the Dolphins and sequentially went on injured reserve. Stanley returned to practice this past week and all signs point to him playing on September 9, but he’s already dealt with a handful of minor injuries in his short NFL career.

Orlando Brown Jr. held his own in his extended preseason action. He played more snaps than anyone on the team and will likely start at right tackle against Buffalo. His technique and footwork need to improve, but he makes up for it with his 6’8″, 345-pound frame.

The Ravens will cross their fingers that Stanley and Brown remain healthy throughout the season, because the backup options at tackle appear to be James Hurst and Jermaine Eluemunor. Hurst’s history at left tackle does not bode nearly as well as his time at left guard. Eluemunor has struggled at both tackle and guard in his playing time to-date. If any of Baltimore’s starting tackles, notably Stanley, suffers an injury and misses games, Joe Flacco may have to run for his life.

An interesting piece of news that came out on Saturday was the Colts releasing Austin Howard, who started 16 games at right tackle for the Ravens last year. Howard was worthy of starting last season, but nothing he did made you excited; he was average. His level of play went down further this preseason, and now he’s back on the free agent market.

Given the Ravens’ lack of serviceable depth at tackle, a reunion with Howard sounds intriguing. However, Howard being cut right before the regular season says a lot about what the Colts thought about his play. Remember when the Ravens re-signed Jeremy Zuttah last offseason and then cut him less than a month later?

The Ravens should certainly consider giving Howard a workout, but don’t count on them reaching for his services.

Image Credit: Scoopnest

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Ravens wrap up 2018 draft with five picks in last three rounds

Round 5 – pick #162 overall: Jordan Lasley – WR, UCLA

The Ravens were lined up to have the 152nd overall pick but traded back once again to give themselves an extra sixth round pick. Jordan Lasley joins Jaleel Scott as the newest members of the Ravens receiving core.

Lasley is a smaller target than Scott but has more speed. He spent all four years of his college career at UCLA but struggled to stay out of trouble while there. Lasley was arrested twice in 2016 for alcohol possession as a minor and presenting a fake I.D at a club. He also received a three game suspension in 2017 that put a damper on an otherwise impressive senior year. Lasley accumulated 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games.

The potential is certainly there but there are also concerns surrounding his hands. Lasley dropped 21 passes between his junior and senior year and struggles to haul in passes away from his body.

Round 6 – pick #190 overall: DeShon Elliott – S, Texas

The Ravens continued to add to their already strong secondary by selecting DeShone Elliot in the sixth round. Elliott is coming off of a spectacular junior season where he picked up 63 tackles, nine pass deflections and three forced fumbles. The numbers are good but Elliot also received a great deal of accolades in his first season as a starter, including a first team All-American and All-Big 12 honors.

The Ravens don’t have a desperate need for a safety but Elliot was projected by many to go somewhere in the fourth or fifth round. Scouts note his physicality and tackling ability but also credit his football IQ and on field leadership. While playing at Texas, Elliot often took charge and got the rest of the defense lined up properly.

His strengths will likely make him most useful against the run and in the zone. Elliott has had trouble in one-on-one coverage but rarely misses a play in front of him.

Round 6 – pick #212 overall: Greg Senat – OT, Wagner

If you didn’t know who Greg Senat was before the Ravens selected him in the sixth round, you’re not alone. The 23-year-old offensive tackle comes from Wagner College, a small private school in Staten Island. Prior to football, Senat was a basketball player at Wagner. He made the transition after two years and started all 11 games for the Seahawks in 2016 and 2017.

Scouts note Senat has a lot of raw talent but his size could be better. Adding some muscle over the next few years will be necessary though if he wants to stay in the league. Veterans on the Ravens line like Marshall Yanda and James Hurst will be great mentors for Senat as he prepares to transition to the next level.

Round 6 – pick #215 overall: Bradley Bozeman – C, Alabama

Selecting a center in the sixth round is about as least flashy as you can get with a pick but Bradley Bozeman is a strong blocker with a good amount of experience in one of the top programs in the country, Alabama. He spent his senior season as one of the anchors on the Crimson Tide’s line, helping them capture another national title earlier this year.

You probably recognize him as the guy who proposed to his girlfriend on the field after winning the national title in January. Don’t let that be the only thing you like about Bozeman though. The new Raven is NFL ready with good core strength and the ability to adjust mid-play.

Round 7 – pick #238 overall: Zach Sieler – DE, Ferris State

Ozzie Newsome’s final draft pick as the Ravens general manager came late Saturday afternoon. Zach Sieler was selected from a division II school in Michigan called Ferris State. When scouts look at division II players, they want above average physical traits that allow them to dominate against their small school competition. That certainly applies to Zach Sieler who started his college career as a walk on and now becomes the first player drafted out of the school in program history.

In his final two seasons with the Bulldogs, Sieler racked up over 50 tackles for a loss and 26.5 sacks. The only thing working against him is his lack of experience against top-tier competition. Sieler will have to prove himself among an aggressive Ravens defensive line ,but who better to learn from than guys like Brandon Williams and Terrell Suggs?

Photo credits: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images, Jay Janner / Austin American Statesman, @Wagner_Football on Twitter, Marvin Gentry / USA Today Sports, Ferris State Athletics

Round 4 recap: Ravens make first defensive selections

The Ravens entered the final day of the 2018 draft with a surplus of picks. After trading back four times between Thursday and Friday, Ozzie Newsome and company had stockpiled seven picks for the final three rounds, three of which came in the fourth round.

Pick #18 (#118 overall): Anthony Averett – CB, Alabama

Cue the Alabama jokes. It’s no secret that Ozzie loves defensive players from his alma mater, but Averett provides the Ravens secondary with even more depth. Last year Baltimore added Brandon Carr in free agency and drafted Marlon Humphrey from Alabama. Both pick ups helped bolster a secondary that suffered from injuries in previous seasons and allowed the defense to withstand the test of a full season. With Jimmy Smith likely sidelined for a portion of the 2018 season, this pick makes a lot of sense.

The Ravens dedicated their first four picks to helping the offense but ending the weekend with another unbalanced draft would not do the team any favors. We saw this last year when the Ravens went all in on the defense.

Averett did not see any play time in his first two years at Alabama due to a stacked depth chart and some injuries. When he finally made it on the field as a junior and senior, Averett showed good consistency. Scouts commend his athleticism but note that he could become a target for QB’s to pick on.

Fun fact: Averett is the nephew of Bryant McKinnie, the former Ravens left tackle who was a part of the 2012-13 super bowl run.

Pick #22 (#122 overall): Kenny Young – ILB, UCLA

Just a few picks later the Ravens added another defensive player. Kenny Young really started turning heads during his senior year when he led the Bruins with 110 tackles and was named a first-team All-Pac-12 linebacker.

The Ravens already have their anchor at the linebacker position with C.J. Mosley but Young could come in and compete with the likes of Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor and Kamalei Correa for play time. His speed and agility makes him a valuable defender against the run but scouts question his physicality.

Pick #32 (#132 overall): Jaleel Scott – WR, New Mexico St.

After missing out on and passing up some receivers in the first three rounds, the Ravens finally selected one in the fourth. Jaleel Scott is not a big name like D.J. Moore or Calvin Ridley but he will join a diverse receiving core with good veteran leadership and talent around him.

Scott struggled academically out of high school making him ineligible for many of the D1 schools that were recruiting him. After redshirting his first year at Ellsworth Community College, Scott made an immediate impact and finished with all conference honors in 2015. Scott was able to transfer to New Mexico State in 2016 and played his final two years there. Scouts started to take notice during his senior season when he racked up 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns on just 76 receptions.

The Ravens were likely attracted to Scott’s size and reach. Standing at 6’5″ and weighing 218 pounds, Scott is a physical receiver with the ability to battle defenders for the ball. He doesn’t shy away from contact but lacks the speed and route running ability of other receivers drafted before him.

Photo credits: Rick Scuteri / Associated Press, Harry How / Getty Images, Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports