COMMENTARY | Many Baltimore Ravens are accustomed to life on the roster bubble. The Ravens aren't shy about cutting ties with veterans whose production is waning after all. This year, the bubble could be bigger than ever after the Ravens brought in ten draft picks and numerous free agents. All these new faces will do more than just replace departed players: They will replace returning veterans as well.
Here's a look at five guys who should be on notice during training camp. Unless they put forth elite showings, they will have trouble making the final roster.
LaQuan Williams has been a training camp star the past two seasons, but drops and an inability to get open have hurt Williams' shot at becoming a contributor in the passing game. Though Williams has always been valued for his special teams play, that will not be enough to get him on to the roster this year with David Reed healthy and sporting a new contract.
Williams and Reed play very similar roles: They aren't great in the passing game, but they are excellent special teams players. The difference between the two is upside. Reed has it, Williams doesn't. Reed is a much faster player who is more dangerous with the ball in his hands, both in the passing game and on kick returns.
Their special teams ability is roughly even, but Reed's upside as a receiver and returner should help him earn a roster spot over Williams in what is a very deep receiving corps.
The Ravens are in the envious position of possibly getting away with carrying just four cornerbacks on the final roster. Matt Elam and Michael Huff both have the ability to play the slot effectively, meaning the Ravens don't need more than four cornerbacks barring injury. That means draft pick Marc Anthony and more importantly 2012 selection Asa Jackson will have a hard time sticking around past the final cuts.
Jackson has a lot of upside as a cornerback in the slot. He has elite quickness for the position that he showcased by returning kicks in the 2012 preseason, and he is also competitive and confident. What he lacks, though, is polish, both on and off the field. Jackson was suspended for four games last season for breaking the NFL's substance-abuse policy, something that will surely stick in the Ravens' minds when the final roster is being set.
As talented as Jackson is, his suspension and the Ravens' depth at corner could keep him off the final roster.
The Ravens have an excellent two-deep at tight end with Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, but neither is a particularly good blocker. That's what Billy Bajema was brought in to do last year, and he was thoroughly mediocre in that role. Now, Bajema faces competition with undrafted rookie Matt Furstenburg for a roster spot, and it's a battle Bajema will be hard-pressed to win.
Furstenburg is more like Pitta and Dickson in that he is a great athlete better suited to catching passes than blocking. Bajema, meanwhile, is too slow to be much of a receiving threat, but he isn't a great blocker either.
The Ravens may not even carry three tight ends, as fullback Kyle Juszczyk could play the role of blocking tight end to save the Ravens a roster spot. Whether the Ravens go with two or three tight ends, Bajema will have difficulty earning a roster spot over two talented rookies.
Without question the biggest boom-or-bust player on the Ravens' roster, Tommy Streeter could be in line for a big role or for a ticket out of Baltimore.
One thing working in Streeter's favor is that he has a clear advantage over some of his competition. Streeter is the biggest receiver on the roster at 6'5", and his speed and leaping ability could make him an immediate threat on deep balls and redzone targets.
That having been said, Streeter has only proven to be a one-trick pony so far in the NFL. He struggles to get off press coverage and has minimal ability on short and medium routes.
Streeter's camp performance will be crucial in earning him a roster spot. He needs to show the potential to be a future starter at receiver to make the team. Otherwise, Streeter's lack of special teams ability and lack of versatility will keep him off the roster.
After a forgettable rookie season, 2012 fourth-round pick Christian Thompson now faces stiff competition from fellow second-year player Omar Brown for a roster spot. Working against Thompson is a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. With so many hurdles to clear, Thompson will have a hard time making the Ravens' final roster.
The Ravens do not have great depth at safety: behind starters Matt Elam and Michael Huff are James Ihedigbo, Omar Brown and Thompson. Ihedigbo has already proven to be a solid depth player and spot starter, but Brown and Thompson both remain unproven. The Ravens could bring in a veteran to compete for the job, but Brown excelled in his few opportunities last season and deserves a chance. The same cannot be said for Thompson.
Brown showed significant development last season, despite not making the final roster after training camp. Brown worked hard on the practice squad, eventually earning a chance on the active roster. Thompson, meanwhile, remained on the active roster but rarely suited up. At this point, Brown has seemingly overcome Thompson in their development.
Thompson will need to get back in the team's good graces in training camp, both with his actual play and in his willingness to improve. Otherwise, it's Brown's roster spot to lose.
Shawn Brubaker is a graduate of the Catholic University of America. He has been a Baltimore Ravens featured columnist for Bleacher Report for two years and is currently a co-host of Ravens Central Radio.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Baltimore Ravens
- The Ravens
- Billy Bajema