After an unprecedented training camp that featured hundreds of COVID tests but no preseason games, the Ravens whittled their roster to 53 on Sept. 5 and will hope to re-sign most of the 23 players cut to the expanded 16-player practice squad.
Coming off a 14-2 season and with few significant injuries during training camp, the Ravens had few glaring holes on the roster, and the fact that the third quarterback and third tight end were among the most intriguing cutdown-day storylines speaks to the stability of the group that general manager Eric DeCosta has assembled.
At quarterback, the Ravens opted to keep Trace McSorley as the third quarterback over undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley, who had made a strong case for inclusion on the roster.
Huntley was considered one of the undrafted rookies with the best chance to stick with the team, but ultimately none made the final cut. That snapped a streak of 16 consecutive years in which the Ravens had kept at least one undrafted rookie on the initial 53-man roster.
Now that the initial roster has been set, players moved to injured reserve are eligible to return later in the season. This year, in a nod to how the pandemic can alter rosters, players on short-term IR can return after three weeks, as opposed to eight in previous years, and an unlimited number of players can return from IR, up from two last season.
The Ravens can assemble their practice squad beginning Sept. 6, after teams have had a chance to claim players via waivers.
Here is a closer look at the Ravens initial 53-man roster (rookies denoted with (R)):
QUARTERBACK (3): Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
One of the few big roster questions was whether the Ravens would keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the third straight year – head coach John Harbaugh suggested earlier this summer that they would like to — and if so, whether McSorley would hold off undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley.
To many observers, Huntley outplayed McSorley in camp in terms of accuracy and consistency, but McSorley already has a year in the Ravens’ system, which likely worked in his favor. Harbaugh said that last year, the Ravens worried about losing McSorley via waivers. Huntley, with no preseason game tape, might not draw similar waiver-wire interest and could land on the practice squad.
RUNNING BACK (4): Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins (R)
There was never much doubt that the Ravens would keep four running backs, given how prominent the run game features in the Ravens’ offense. Hill has missed extensive time in training camp and could be a candidate for short-term IR. Dobbins, the second-round draft pick, was one of the standouts of training camp. Undrafted rookie Ty’Son Williams, who was signed last week, showed well in the stadium scrimmage in his first day on the job and is a candidate for the practice squad.
TIGHT END (3): Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Patrick Ricard
The Ravens opted to go with two traditional tight ends plus the versatile Ricard, a Pro Bowl fullback last year, as the third tight end. Charles Scarff, Jerell Adams and undrafted rookie Eli Wolf all competed for that third tight end spot but ultimately none seized it. Wolf, who was touted earlier this summer as an undrafted rookie who could make the roster, missed considerable time in training camp with injuries.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore, Devin Duvernay (R), James Proche (R)
Two rookie draft picks join four returning players who have the reigning league Most Valubale Player throwing passes to them. Brown is fully healthy and added 20 pounds this year without losing any speed. Proche and Duvernay both could factor in the return game and during training camp showed the outstanding hands that put them on the Ravens’ radar to begin with.
Moore, one of the Ravens’ top special teams players, has been sidelined for most of training camp by a broken finger. If the Ravens still believe he’s a couple of weeks away, he could be placed on short-term injured reserve but needed to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible to return.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Matt Skura, D.J. Fluker, Orlando Brown Jr., Ben Powers, Patrick Mekari, Tyre Phillips (R), Ben Bredeson (R)
The Ravens opted to keep nine offensive linemen as they assess the readiness of center Matt Skura, who continues to rehab from a major knee injury. Harbaugh said he expected to know next week whether Skura would be able to play in Week 1.
It’s no surprise that two rookie draft picks made the team, and Phillips is a candidate to start right away at right guard. That would push Fluker to the backup swing tackle role, which might have cost Will Holden a roster spot. Powers was squarely on the roster bubble, but the Ravens’ fourth-round pick from a year ago might have attracted interest on the waiver wire and adds to their interior line depth. Center Trystan Colon-Castillo was a highly regarded undrafted rookie who didn’t make the cut, but the Ravens will hope to retain him.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Justin Ellis, Justin Madubuike (R), Broderick Washington (R)
Campbell and Wolfe are headline additions to this group, which has been revamped from last season, Madubuike, a promising third-round draft pick, is dealing with a knee injury that is “week to week,” Harbaugh said, so he could land on short-term injured reserve. That probably helped Ellis hold on to a roster spot. With Ricard focusing almost exclusively on offense this year, the Ravens don’t want to find themselves short up front.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5): Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, Jaylon Ferguson, Jihad Ward
After bypassing edge rushers in the draft and in free agency — although the whispers about the possible signing of Jadeveon Clowney have not yet ended — the Ravens ultimately stick with five outside linebackers from last season. Bowser is coming off a strong training camp as he begins a contract year, and the Ravens will hope Ferguson can take a step forward this year. McPhee is back at age 31 after missing the last half of last season with a torn triceps. He and Ward also give the Ravens versatility with their ability to play along the defensive line.
INSIDE LINEBACKER (5): L.J. Fort, Patrick Queen (R), Malik Harrison (R), Chris Board, Otaro Alaka
First-round draft pick Queen is a likely Week 1 starter, and third-round rookie Harrison was a roster lock. Many figured that Board and Alaka were competing for one roster spot, but in the end the Ravens opted to keep both. Board has showed well on defense this summer and is one of the Ravens’ top special teams players. Alaka, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year, adds a physical dimension. Undrafted rookie Kristian Welch nearly played his way onto the team and should land on the practice squad.
CORNERBACK (5): Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett
Former general manager Ozzie Newsome often said, “You can never have too many cornerbacks,” but the Ravens opted to keep just five at their most talented position group. Averett always had the inside track at the fifth cornerback spot once second-year corner Iman Marshall (knee) went on injured reserve.
With this group ahead of them, youngsters such as Josh Nurse, Terrell Bonds and Khalil Dorsey had a tough route to the roster, but each showed well in training camp and at least a couple of them should land on the practice squad.
SAFETY (4): Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine, Geno Stone (R)
The release of Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas was the biggest newsmaker of training camp, leaving this group thinner than the Ravens would like. Elliott has been anointed as the starter despite missing 26 of 32 games in his career with injuries. Levine remains the team’s de facto special teams captain, and Stone hangs on as a seventh-round draft pick. Undrafted rookie Nigel Warrior made some noise with a couple of interceptions and could be destined for the practice squad, and the Ravens will probably be tracking other cuts closely to see if veteran depth is available.
SPECIALISTS (3): Sam Koch, Justin Tucker, Morgan Cox
Nothing to see here, just the “Wolfpack” back for more, with a total of seven Pro Bowl trips in tow. There isn’t a more successful, cohesive specialist trio in the league.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox