Nitpicking players during the preseason can be an overreaction at times, with examples of such popping up every year.
Two years ago, Ravens fans, and perhaps the organization itself, overreacted when Torrey Smith wasn't ready by the second preseason game. They went out and signed Lee Evans, who wound up injured and missed most of the season.
Smith wound up catching three touchdowns on his first three career receptions during a Week 3 game against St. Louis, en rote to a regular season that saw him haul in 50 catches for 841 yards and seven touchdowns.
Now that Smith is in his third season, he's wound up being the only proven receiver on the roster. For two weeks, the Ravens listed the same receivers in the same spots.
That has now changed with the Ravens ready to take on the Panthers this Thursday. Here's how it looks at the position now, according to the Ravens' weekly game release:
First team: Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones.
Second team: Brandon Stokley, Tandon Doss.
Third team: Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter, LaQuan Williams, Rashaad Carter.
Fourth team: David Reed, Marlon Brown, Aaron Mellette, Gerrard Sheppard.
This would appear to be a demotion for Reed and Brown, and perhaps a setback for Mellette, who's had two touchdowns in two games.
Then again, not so much.
During Sunday's practice, Brown, for example, saw some reps with the first team offense. Brown may be listed as a fourth-team guy but he may not be out of a roster spot just yet.
"Some of the young receivers have done an excellent job, and I think we owe it to our team, and owe it to them to see what they can do in there with the first group," coach John Harbaugh told reporters after Sunday's practice. "We’ll practice those guys and probably play them a little more with the ones this week."
This likely means that with starters playing well into the third quarter on Thursday against Carolina, guys like Brown, Mellette, Streeter and Williams will get opportunities to prove they deserve roster spots.
But if none of them step up, the Ravens may have an easier decision to keep fewer receivers than initially anticipated.
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