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Projecting the Ravens’ 53-man roster: How injuries could affect the team’s final cuts

The Ravens know the kind of talent they have on their team. That doesn’t make general manager Eric DeCosta’s job over the next two-plus weeks any easier.

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Ravens will have to trim their active roster to 85 players. A week later, they’ll need to get down to 80. On Aug. 30, three days after the Ravens’ preseason finale against the Washington Commanders, they’ll finalize their initial 53-man roster.

Even then, DeCosta’s roster management won’t slow down. After making space for injured players who can return in 2022 — anyone placed on injured reserve by Aug. 30 is ineligible to play this season — the Ravens will have to make injured-reserve decisions, find short- and long-term replacements and assemble a practice squad.

It won’t take much to change DeCosta’s calculus. But with training camp winding down, here’s a look at how his 53-man roster could take shape.

Offense

Quarterback (2): Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley

Anthony Brown impressed in the second half Thursday, finishing 10-for-15 for 117 yards, but the Ravens can’t hold on to everyone. There are more pressing needs than keeping an undrafted rookie to back up one of the NFL’s best backup quarterbacks.

Running back (4): J.K. Dobbins, Mike Davis, Justice Hill, Tyler Badie

The Ravens are hoping for good news on Dobbins, who missed practice Saturday and Sunday for scheduled knee evaluations. Dobbins returned to practice last Monday, his first appearance since tearing his ACL last year, and is expected back Monday.

The Ravens’ next-best option, Gus Edwards, is on the physically-unable-to-perform list and considered doubtful for Week 1 as he recovers from his own season-ending knee injury. Coach John Harbaugh’s recent comments on Edwards’ timetable — “I think before the season’s over, he’s going to be rolling and ready to go” — suggest he’ll open the season on the reserve/PUP list, giving the Ravens another roster spot until Edwards is cleared for practice.

Thursday’s opener didn’t produce a breakout candidate at running back, but Davis’ work with the first-string offense won’t hurt his job security. Badie’s a sixth-round pick who hasn’t looked out of place in practice, which also bodes well. Even if Dobbins is on track for Week 1, the Ravens will likely look to keep three other healthy backs on their initial roster. Hill’s speed and special teams ability should give him an advantage over Nate McCrary and Corey Clement.

Wide receiver (5): Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, Tylan Wallace, Jaylon Moore

With Proche dealing with a soft-tissue injury and Wallace working his way back from a sprained knee, it’s impossible to know just what the Ravens will need at the end of the preseason. But Proche’s spot is safe, and Wallace’s likely is, too.

The front-office calculations after that are difficult: Would DeCosta be comfortable having just four receivers on the initial 53-man roster, then adding another before Week 1? What are the odds of a practice squad reunion with Moore, one of their better receivers in camp, if he hits the waiver wire? How attached are the Ravens to promising undrafted rookies Shemar Bridges and Makai Polk? And what if they want a free agent like Will Fuller V? There’s a lot to consider.

Tight end/fullback (5): Mark Andrews, Patrick Ricard, Nick Boyle, Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar

The Ravens’ depth means they can afford to be patient with Kolar, the fourth-round pick who’s recovering from sports hernia surgery. He’s a candidate to start the season on short-term IR, which would sideline him for at least the first four weeks. Tony Poljan, who spent his rookie season on the practice squad and has outplayed Josh Oliver in camp, could also help if injury strikes the position again this preseason.

Offensive tackle (4): Ronnie Stanley, Morgan Moses, Ja’Wuan James, Daniel Faalele

There’s optimism about Stanley’s recovery, and Harbaugh said recently that he could be ready for Week 1. But the Ravens will have to err on the side of caution. DeCosta blamed himself for believing Stanley would be available last year, and his ankle surgery left a house of cards in his wake at left tackle. If the Ravens keep James, who started at left tackle Thursday, they’d have six linemen who could line up at tackle if called upon: the four full-timers, plus Patrick Mekari and Tyre Phillips.

The biggest question mark is James, who’s played just three games since 2019 and would be owed a $2.5 million base salary this season — not a small sum for the salary cap-strapped Ravens.

Interior offensive line (6): Ben Powers, Tyler Linderbaum, Kevin Zeitler, Patrick Mekari, Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland

The Ravens appear committed to entering the season with 10 offensive linemen, even if they’ll activate only eight on game days. Versatility will be key. Powers entered preseason play with the edge over Phillips and Cleveland at left guard, and he played some center Thursday and held up well, Harbaugh said. Both Mekari and, to a lesser extent, Phillips can move out wide. Cleveland’s range is limited, but he boosted his preseason stock Thursday, and the Ravens are typically reluctant to part this early with Day 2 draft picks. Trystan Colon’s odds, meanwhile, appear to be fading.

Defense

Defensive line (6): Calais Campbell, Michael Pierce, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Brent Urban, Travis Jones

This position group has been among the Ravens’ most consistent, healthy and productive throughout camp. Isaiah Mack has shown enough flashes to make an NFL roster, but until he does, he’d be very useful on the Ravens’ practice squad. Aaron Crawford is another solid depth piece.

Outside linebacker (4): Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, Justin Houston, Daelin Hayes

Second-round pick David Ojabo, who told Harbaugh recently that he’s going to be back by midseason, “at the latest,” will likely start the season on the nonfootball injury list, opening a roster spot for another player. Bowser on Thursday declined to offer a timetable for his return from a torn Achilles tendon, but his optimism over his rehabilitation suggests he won’t be out for too long.

Vince Biegel’s season-ending Achilles injury should secure a spot for Hayes, who’s had a quiet camp, and open one for Stephen Means, a vested veteran (at least four years of accrued service time) who could bypass waivers and re-sign with the team after cut-down day. Undrafted rookie Jamario Moon is a dark-horse candidate to make the roster. Given the injury concerns at the position, the defense can’t afford to be short-staffed here.

Inside linebacker (4): Patrick Queen, Josh Bynes, Malik Harrison, Kristian Welch

Harrison missed a couple of tackles Thursday, his first extensive work at inside linebacker since a Halloween shooting interrupted his second season. He also forced a fumble and helped out on special teams, which never goes unnoticed in Baltimore. Welch’s spot is more tenuous; undrafted rookie Josh Ross, who played for defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald at Michigan, had a team-high-tying four tackles in just 22 defensive snaps Thursday. But to unseat the third-year veteran, he’ll need to show he can contribute elsewhere. Welch leads all returning Ravens in 2021 special teams snaps.

Cornerback (6): Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Brandon Stephens, Kyle Fuller, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion “Pepe” Williams

The Ravens are well stocked here. Of course, they were well stocked last summer, too, then watched one injury after another decimate the position. Peters, who’s recovering from a torn ACL, is expected to be ready for Week 1. Stephens, Armour-Davis and Williams are all recent draft picks who can contribute. Fuller didn’t play Thursday, suggesting his uneven camp hasn’t thrust him onto the roster bubble.

If Peters’ rehab drags into September or another injury cuts into the group’s depth, Kevon Seymour figures to be the next man up. The Ravens value his special teams contributions — “We know what he is, as a teamer,” Harbaugh said early in camp — and as a vested veteran, Seymour wouldn’t have to pass through waivers.

Safety (4): Marcus Williams, Chuck Clark, Kyle Hamilton, Geno Stone

Stone’s star turn in Thursday’s win all but assured him of a job here. There’s always a chance the Ravens trade Clark before they trim their roster, but the speculation has quieted since the offseason. With or without Clark, the Ravens probably want to keep Tony Jefferson in Baltimore, too, even if they can’t keep him on their initial roster. As another vested veteran, he could rejoin the team once an IR designation frees up a spot.

Special teams

Specialists (3): Justin Tucker, Jordan Stout, Nick Moore

No surprises here. Tucker, fresh off a contract extension, made all three of his field-goal attempts Thursday, while Stout averaged 47.8 yards and 43.8 net yards per punt. Sam Koch, his predecessor turned teacher, averaged 44.4 yards and 40.0 yards, respectively, in 2021.

Preseason, Week 2

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