The Ravens wrapped up two days of joint practices with the Carolina Panthers in Spartanburg, S.C., this week, and the teams will meet on Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. in the second of the Ravens’ three preseason games. And for those on the roster bubble, time is getting short; after the Panthers game, the Ravens will hold six full practices and one more preseason game — at Washington on Aug. 28 — before the roster must be cut to 53 on Aug. 31. (A cut from 85 to 80 must take place by Aug. 24.)
Here are three players on the roster bubble who could help themselves with a strong showing against the Panthers:
OLB JAYLON FERGUSON
Ferguson figured to be one of the big beneficiaries after the Ravens let Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue walk as free agents, but then they drafted Odafe Oweh (first round) and Daelin Hayes (fifth round) and signed free agent Justin Houston, changing that equation.
All three of those players are locks to make the team, as are veteran Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser. The Ravens historically have kept five outside linebackers on the initial 53-man roster, and Ferguson appears to be No. 6 in the pecking order right now.
Ferguson, a third-round draft pick in 2019, has yet to live up to the ‘Sack Daddy’ moniker he acquired at Louisiana Tech, when he set an NCAA record for career sacks with 45, breaking the record previously held by Terrell Suggs. Ferguson has 4.5 sacks in two NFL seasons and was a game day inactive in four of the final six games last year, including both postseason games.
Ferguson has been active in training camp and recorded four tackles and a half-sack in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints. But he played just two special teams snaps in that game and has never had much of a special teams role, which could hurt his roster chances. One thing that helps him: The Ravens will probably keep just two quarterbacks in light of Trace McSorley’s back injury, potentially opening up a roster spot elsewhere.
G BEN POWERS
Powers started the preseason opener at left guard, but the entire makeshift offensive line struggled, Powers in particular. The Ravens, who were without starting All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley and starting right guard Kevin Zeitler, failed to record a first down until nearly five minutes into the second quarter, and Powers lost key individual battles in run blocking and pass protection. He was also called for a holding penalty that nullified a first down. Later, he saw some action at right tackle, a position he has hardly played before.
Rookie Ben Cleveland has returned to practice after being sidelined by a concussion, and it’s possible that both Cleveland and Tyre Phillips are ahead of Powers at this point. Phillips is also more experienced than Powers at tackle.
Powers is still listed No. 1 on the depth chart at left guard, which would suggest he’s safely off the roster bubble. But that might not be the case. Both Cleveland and Phillips appear to be roster locks along with Stanley, Zeitler, tackle Alejandro Villanueva, center Bradley Bozeman and plug-anywhere Patrick Mekari.
That probably leaves one, perhaps two, roster spots for a group that includes Powers, center Trystan Colon, guard Ben Bredeson, tackle Andre Smith and others. Cleveland’s health status helps Powers chances, but if the Ravens opt to add a backup swing tackle via the waiver wire or trade, someone else has to go.
RB TY’SON WILLIAMS
Williams entered camp well behind Justice Hill for the No. 3 running back job, but during the past week, that gap appears to have closed significantly. Williams showed well in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, with a team-high 10 rushes for 41 yards and a team-high five catches for 23 yards. He did much of that against Saints backups of backups, but the Ravens have to like the way the 6-foot, 220-pounder attacked holes and gained yardage after contact.
Williams played for three colleges — starting at North Carolina, then transferring to South Carolina and finally BYU — and was on the Ravens’ practice squad all of last year as an undrafted rookie.(He was promoted to the active roster for the shorthanded Ravens at Pittsburgh, when 17 players were on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but he did not play.)
Hill, meanwhile, has had a quiet camp overall, was limited to 8 yards on five carries against the Saints and has been slowed by an ankle injury this week. He is unlikely to play against the Panthers. Hill had carved out a solid role on special teams last year, with a team-best nine special teams tackles, and any chance Williams has to unseat Hill as the No.3 back would have to include a strong showing on special teams.
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