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Ravens News 8/31: Cutdown Day and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Breakdown: 53-Man Roster Predictions - John Eisenberg

Wide receiver (6) – Hollywood Brown, Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, Tylan Wallace

This construct leaves out Miles Boykin, a former third-round pick who has caught seven touchdown passes in two years and excels on special teams. He suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp and seemingly has been passed by several younger players, leaving him vulnerable. But I don’t think the Ravens will part ways with a young player with so much upside potential; he could go on an injured list. Deon Cain, Jaylon Moore and Binjimen Victor are bubble players who have excelled at times during camp. They would be candidates for the practice squad.

Baltimore Ravens better prepared for loss of J.K. Dobbins thanks to lesson of 20 years ago - Jamison Hensley

No one is writing off the Ravens’ championship aspirations because of the season-ending injury to Dobbins. Their Super Bowl odds remain 14-to-1, the fifth-best in the NFL, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

Baltimore has a starter-caliber replacement in Gus Edwards, a running scheme that has a track record of producing highly efficient backs and a dynamic playmaker in quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has always been the Ravens’ most dangerous runner even when Dobbins lined up beside him.

Edwards, 26, is a punishing, straight-ahead runner who trimmed down this summer and looks faster than he ever has. He rarely gets stopped behind the line, which is one reason why he has received the fifth-best rushing grade (90.2) by Pro Football Focus since 2018. It’s realistic to project Edwards to run between 1,100 and 1,200 yards and total close to double-digit touchdowns.

John Harbaugh Has ‘Full Confidence’ In Ravens’ Running Backs After J.K. Dobbins Injury - Bo Smolka

“Like any injury, which happen and will happen throughout the course of the NFL … you just have to approach it and overcome it.” Harbaugh said. “It’s adversity, and we’ll have to deal with it and we will. We have the players to do it. … I have full confidence in the rest of the running backs that are here to pick up the load and to do a great job for us.”

“We want to play multiple backs,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of carries, so those guys do a lot in the offense. It’s not like it’s going to be one running back that takes all of the reps for us. We need three backs active every game.”

Williams finished with 24 carries for 131 yards in the preseason, and was essentially shut down after the first half of that game in light of Dobbins’ injury, another potential sign of his roster status.

“You do the math, he’s there,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be out there playing. … He’s ready to go. He’s practiced every day, and he’s excited about his opportunity.”

Ravens injury updates: Where Marquise Brown, Nick Boyle, Jimmy Smith and Trace McSorley stand as roster cuts loom - Jonas Shaffer

Harbaugh also cast doubt on the Week 1 availability of two injured contributors. Cornerback Jimmy Smith left practice Aug. 6 with a low-ankle sprain that was expected to sideline him for one to two weeks. But Harbaugh said Monday that the injury “turned out to be a little more serious than we initially thought,” and that Smith will not practice this week.

“He’ll be back, if not next week, [then] very early in the season,” Harbaugh said. “It just didn’t come around as quickly as I think they thought it was going to, in terms of his ankle. But it’s an ankle sprain, just a little slower recovering than they anticipated.”

Tight end Nick Boyle, who remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list while working his way back from a season-ending knee injury, is “getting close,” Harbaugh said, “but he’s not ready to play yet.” Boyle, one of the NFL’s top blocking tight ends, is expected to be ready “early in the season,” according to Harbaugh, though not for Week 1.

What we’re hearing on the Ravens’ remaining roster moves and decisions - Jeff Zrebiec

Based on everything I’ve heard inside and outside the building, the Ravens are trying hard to find space for three of their young defensive backs who are perceived to be on the roster bubble: cornerbacks Chris Westry and Nigel Warrior and safety Ar’Darius Washington. The Ravens believe that all three are likely to get claimed on waivers after they performed well over the summer. They feel that all three have done enough good things to have earned a spot on their 53-man roster. The problem is that it’s extremely hard to keep 12 or 13 defensive backs without hurting yourself at another roster spot. The Ravens are always looking for loopholes and probably perform more roster gymnastics than any team in the league.

Regardless of how cutdown day plays out, the Ravens are going to be forced into relying extensively on younger players on special teams in 2021. Harbaugh and the team’s decision-makers have been criticized in the past about how the team too heavily weighs special teams play in the roster choices. However, they already released Jordan Richards, who led the team in special teams snaps last year. L.J. Fort, who played the fifth most, is on IR. Hill and Boykin, who ranked sixth and 11th in special teams snaps, have tenuous holds on roster spots at the moment and are certainly no locks to be active on game days, especially early in the season. Davontae Harris, arguably the team’s best gunner, was released earlier this month. Throw in veteran long snapper Morgan Cox’s offseason departure and that’s a lot of special teams snaps from last year that the Ravens are replacing.