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A healthy and successful summer means difficult roster decisions loom for Baltimore

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Minicamp Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens have had an inexplicably tough time keeping their team healthy throughout training camp and preseason the past several years. So far this summer that hasn’t been the case, which means the front office will have some difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks provided they stay the course of unprecedented good health.

A big part of the reason why it will be tough to release certain players is the fact that the competition was fiercer than usual. An active free agency period that saw the receiver room rebuilt and a quantity heavy draft led to a refreshingly balanced roster that had battles take place at several different positions over the past few weeks.

Head coach John Harbaugh was impressed with how camp played out, and is looking forward to seeing the progress that was made translate into success in the final exhibition games:

Having such a successful camp in all of these different facets leads to the champagne problem of not having enough space on the roster to keep certain players they may like. This is especially true in 2018 after they had such a large draft class this past spring.

The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec expanded on this in a recent article in which he discusses the likelihood of Baltimore having to part with some of these rookies this year:

“Ravens officials consider the draft the lifeblood of the organization and they abhor giving up on their selections early. This year, they probably won’t have a choice. The team’s 12-man draft class, tied with the 1997 haul as the biggest in franchise history, has injected some youth and depth into the Ravens’ roster, but it has also created some difficult decisions for team officials as they ponder cutting the roster from 90 to 53 by Sept. 1.”

This proves even more complicated by the fact that there are several intriguing late round rookies from this past draft, some of whom already appear to be locks for the final roster. Safety DeShon Elliott appear to be among those few, and after that, it’s really anyone’s guess.

Interestingly, fourth round receiver Jaleel Scott hasn’t generated a ton of buzz and looks to be very much on the bubble at this point. Typically it would be out of the ordinary that a fourth round pick at a historic problem position wouldn’t be a lock for the final 53, but with the top four spots taken, Scott is duking it out for the sixth spot with guys who provide return value which probably hurts his chances.

Zrebiec goes on to speculate that Scott and fellow rookie Jordan Lasley may actually be going head to head for the final receiver spot after whoever wins the return spot:

“It will be much harder, though, for the rookies to make the team this year. At wide receiver, the top four of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore is set, barring injuries. That leaves probably only one or two roster spots for Scott, Lasley, Grant, Tim White and Perriman to fight over. One of those spots will almost certainly go to a return specialist, which works in Grant and White’s favor. Are the rookie draft picks Scott and Lasley battling for the other spot?”

The other primary battle is along the offensive line, where a combination of rookies and unheralded young players are competing to provide depth or maybe even start at some point. Zrebiec writes that Nico Siragusa, Jermaine Eluemunor, Bradley Bozeman, and Greg Senat will ultimately be fighting it out to make the 53.

With the latter two being rookies, one would think the odds would fall in their favor. However, Eluemunor showed some promise as a rotational rookie and Siragusa hasn’t gotten much of a fair shake after an injury derailed his chances of playing last year.

Finally, this is all made even more complicated by a position that we never would’ve expected to generate as much buzz as it has even six months ago - quarterback. Joe Flacco is the incumbent and will return as the starter, and rookie first rounder Lamar Jackson will be on the team without a doubt.

This leaves street signing Robert Griffin III, who came in as a long shot to make the team and has now given John Harbaugh something to think about with some nice performances in practice and preseason games. It helps that Griffin provides the added value of mentorship to Jackson, leaving Flacco with enough space to effectively do his job as the starter.

Ultimately, it appears RG3 has done enough at this juncture to make the team in a typical scenario. We’ll see how much it helps him when cut down day arrives. There is plenty of talent at other positions that Baltimore would surely like to hold on to.

At the end of the day, there’s really no way to know who will be on this team on September 1st. Big time preseason performances mean little, August heroes often find themselves jobless come the regular season. It’s ultimately a good problem to have, Ravens fans should be knocking on wood that the team will maintain their good health over the next few weeks. If they do, it should mean the end of the preseason will prove much more interesting than it has in many years.