The Baltimore Ravens had their historic preseason streak snapped on Monday at the hand of the Washington Commanders. Now, they’ll be traveling to the Sunshine State to try and start a new one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night.
More importantly, it will be the last opportunity for several players competing for roles and roster spots to show what they can do on film in live reps.
The he Ravens’ 2023 roster has come into much clearer focus through the first two weeks of exhibition action. However, there’s still time for those on the fringes to help their case to make final cuts or at least emerge as prime practice squad candidates if they don’t.
QB Josh Johnson
The 16-year veteran made a strong case for why the primary backup quarterback job should still be up for grabs with a standout performance against the Commanders last week. Johnson went 10-of-12 for 145 passing yards, two touchdowns to one interception, and finished with a passer rating of 121.9.
Even if he doesn’t show the Ravens enough to usurp Tyler Huntley for the QB2 spot, another above-average outing against the Buccaneers could land him a backup job elsewhere. He could also return to Baltimore via the practice squad.
TE Travis Vokolek
The undrafted tight end has been phenomenal in the preseason thus far and has reportedly had a strong training camp overall. Vokolek is coming off his exhibition performance to-date in which he caught three passes for 28 yards. Two of his receptions went for touchdowns, including one where he carried a could defenders into the end zone.
Last year, it was surprising to many on the outside looking in when Josh Oliver made the final 53-man roster given their depth at the position last year. Both Head Coach John Harbaugh and former Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said that Oliver made himself indispensable through training camp and the preseason. Unfortunately for Vokolek, the Ravens weren’t nearly as deep at the position last year as they are ahead of the 2023 season.
Nevertheless, he is a prime practice squad candidate but the likelihood of him clearing waivers might already be very low. Another strong showing on Saturday would just further decrease those odds. There’s a chance that Vokolek could play so well that he entices another team to trade for him ahead of the final cutdown deadline.
CB Jalyn Armour-Davis
The second-year pro has battled injuries not just in year’s training camp but in his young career altogether. However, now that he’s been practicing for just over a week, Armour-Davis could finally be in line to play in his first career exhibition game after missing his entire rookie preseason with an injury.
More importantly than just getting his feet wet, he still has a chance to contend for a starting outside corner spot. That could be in place of Marlon Humphrey while he recovers from foot surgery, or opposite of him to start the season if he doesn’t miss any time at all. The keys to the 2022 fourth-round pick seizing the opportunity that lies before will be durability and consistency.
CB Arthur Maulet
Third-year pro Ar’Darius Washington might pretty much locked up the starting nickel spot while the Maulet missed time due to injury. Still, the seventh-year veteran could still forge a pathway onto the roster as a depth piece, or at least the practice squad with a strong performance in the finale. Maulet has 68 career games and 20 starts under his belt and showing that he can be a factor on special teams as well would also help his cause.
OL Ben Cleveland
The third-year pro has started a handful of games in his career thus far but has yet to live up to expectations or his third-round draft status. He was projected to be the starting left guard for the Ravens at the onset of this offseason. He’s since been surpassed in the pecking order by a pair of originally perceived longshots in fourth-year pro John Simpson and rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu.
The team has showcased his positional versatility during the preseason thus far by having him take live reps at both right guard and right tackle. So, if they don’t decide to keep him on the roster as additional depth, perhaps they might be able to find a trade partner willing to give them a Day 3 pick ahead of the final cutdown deadline.
Opening defensive play of the night. RG Ben Cleveland got a good climb to the 2nd level & drove Barton back about 7 yards. 1st level 92 loses leverage immediately & tossed out of his gap. Pretty easy run for Hill. pic.twitter.com/YdTT7Vg53l— Jamual (@LetMualTellit) August 22, 2023
OG Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu
The sixth-round rookie has been the top competition for Simpson in the battle to replace Ben Powers who went from being on the roster bubble to a breakout starter in 2022. He had been taking reps with the first-team offense since the offseason program and to begin training camp but over the past two weeks, it is believed that Simpson has separated himself after starting each of the first two preseason games performing well in practice. Harbaugh commended both players last week and with a dominant performance on Saturday night, Aumavae-Laulu might be able to gain some ground back with the start of the regular season still a few weeks away.
ILB Malik Harrison
The fourth-year pro is believed to be the favorite to be the fourth and likely final inside linebacker on the initial final depth chart given his performance on defense, positional flexibility to play the SAM outside linebacker spot, and prowess on special teams. Harrison has had a strong preseason thus far with 7 total tackles and a sack. With another strong half of play, he would all but cement his spot on the team heading into the final year of his rookie deal.
ILB Del’Shawn Phillips
The fifth-year veteran is in competition with Harrison for the fourth off-ball linebacker spot and would likely be a near lock to make the team for his strong presence on special teams. He has also had a strong training camp according to reports and team officials but he will probably fall victim to the initial number crunch given the Ravens’ greater need for depth in the secondary to begin the season. However, if he were to have a dominant defensive performance against the Buccaneers, he could perhaps edge out Harrison to make the cut.
OLB Malik Hamm
The undrafted rookie and local product has been a pleasant surprise and a consistently disruptive force off the edge for the Ravens in the preseason. He followed up his impressive NFL debut with another standout outing against the Commanders in which he recorded 2 total tackles and forced a fumble.
The addition of three-time Pro Bowl edge defender Jadeveon Clowney last week certainly reduced his chances of making the roster but it wouldn’t be surprising if they still held onto him and did not risk losing him to waivers given his strong play in both practice and exhibition action if he does it again on Saturday.
CB Kyu Kelly
The fifth-round rookie bounced back from a rough ending to the first half against the starters of the Commanders and had a really strong final two quarters in his most extensive preseason action thus far. He finished with 2 total tackles and a key stop on a 2-point conversion attempt. His spot on the roster is pretty much cemented but as long as he has a solid outing in the finale.
WR Sean Ryan
The undrafted rookie wasn’t able to build off a strong performance in the team’s preseason opener against the Commanders earlier this week due to injury but will have a chance to show out against the Buccaneers in the finale. The Ravens are well-stocked at wide receiver but Ryan could still play his way into practice squad consideration or even a spot on an active roster elsewhere.
DB Daryl Worley
The eighth-year veteran has made a seamless transition from cornerback to safety and has had a strong preseason. His positional versatility, durability, and penchant for making the occasional impressive play on defense make him a valuable depth piece in the defensive backfield and he’s a standout on special teams. He has been the Ravens’ go-to handshake deal veteran who they release and re-sign several times throughout the season so even if he gets cut initially, he might not be gone for long.
ILB Trenton Simpson
The third-round rookie isn’t in jeopardy of losing his spot on the roster but after a rough outing in his preseason debut against the Commanders, especially from an open-field tackling standpoint, it’d be nice to see him have a nice bounce-back performance. He’ll need to show improvement on both defense and specials teams in order to inspire enough confidence in the coaching and front office that they don’t try to find a way to get both Harrison and Phillips on the active roster come Week 1 which would hurt his chances of even being active let alone see the field.
DB DeAndre Houston-Carson
The eighth-year veteran spent the first seven years of his career being a special teams ace for the Chicago Bears and just a week after signing with the Ravens, he came up with a pair of big plays against the Commanders. Houston-Carson was all over the field and finished with 5 total tackles, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown-saving pass deflection. He’ll be Worely’s top competition for the fourth safety spot although they are both prime practice squad and handshake deal candidates that could find themselves on the active roster somehow even if they do get cut initially.
The fifth-year veteran also joined the team last week and made a strong first impression in his Ravens debut against the Commanders with 4 total tackles including 1 for a loss, 1 pass deflection, and 1 interception. While his odds of making the final roster remain long, he could stick around as a prime practice squad candidate who could be called upon at any time the depth gets depleted.
Another preseason game, another Tae Hayes INT pic.twitter.com/YIYmPt9Xrl— Barstool ‘Neers (@NeersBarstool) August 22, 2023
If they play:
Harbaugh has already expressed his desire to want to get the ninth-year veteran some action in the team’s preseason and given that he is coming off a 2022 season that was cut short after five games by a torn ACL, it makes sense. There’s always inherent risk to playing projected starters in exhibition contests but getting at least a few series of work in to start the game would likely be a nice confidence booster for Darby ahead of the regular season opener.
CB Rock Ya-Sin
The fifth-year veteran has been out with a knee injury for several weeks and recently made his long-awaited return to the practice field. If he does play, it’d likely only be a series or two depending on game flow but it’d be understandable if the team wanted to hold him out as a precaution.
The three-time Pro Bowler and former No. 1 overall pick said that he is ready to suit up and make his Ravens debut in the preseason finale if that’s what the coaches want. His primary goal is to be available for the entirety of the regular season but getting a few reps in against the Buccaneers would be a nice treat for fans that would also aid in knocking some rust if he has any.