Projecting the Ravens' roster

Now that preseason games have begun, fans are thinking about what the final 2008 roster will look like. Many fans look at preseason and try to evaluate what players look promising, and who will not only make the team, but perform well this season.

Coaches view these games as one tool for evaluating each player when deciding on the final roster. Coaches have to be sure that they selected the correct 53 men for the 2008 Ravens Team.

Coaches use mini-camps, training camps, and the pre-season to try their best to keep the best 53 players out of 80 allowed by the NFL to begin training camp each year. Serious injuries in training camp and the preseason also determine which players make the roster.

Here is a closer look at how the Raven final roster could look, barring major injuries in the coming weeks.

We have already had two games but many players on this team have yet to step on the field which is not a good sign.

A huge area of concern must be finding a quarterback that can execute better than they did the first two weeks and an offensive line that can block better. With the large number of injuries, it may be not in the best interests of the season who will start on opening Sunday. Here is what the coaches have at the present time to work with in selecting the best 53 players.

THE OFFENSE

Quarterbacks - We already know who they will be and this year unlike years past, the Ravens will carry three Quarterbacks:

Troy Smith - Most likely to be the starter early on for many reasons, and should provide the quickness needed to avoid the pass rush that will be coming from the outside. He must improve quickly in the last three pre-season games if he is to be the starter. He is learning the new system well and has become a team leader in only his second season but has only started a few regular season NFL games.

Kyle Boller - Will be the back-up unless Troy Smith has a terrible preseason. Kyle will be the backup quarterback until Joe Flacco is ready to assume the Raven Quarterback position. Kyle should only start if one of two possibilities happens this year; Smith gets hurt or fails to be a productive Raven quarterback.

Joe Flacco- A lot depends on when Joe Flacco plays in 2008; how well Smith performs, how well the offensive line blocks, how well the offense plays, and most importantly, how fast Joe Flacco looks to the coaches in practice that he is ready to start in the NFL. It is a possibility that later in the year, Joe Flacco will be the Quarterback of this team, but if all things are equal, he is more likely not to be playing until the 2009 season.

Running Backs - The starter is Willis McGahee and Coaches are hoping that the knee injury suffered in training camp, is not serious but he did not come to camp in the best football shape, and his lack of a good off-season conditioning has not made the coaches very happy. The prize rookie, Ray Rice, has been very impressive in training camp, but had a so-so first pre-season performance but bounced back in week two. The Ravens really need a third Running Back to step up by September considering that MaGahee has a knee problem and Rice, a Rookie, was overworked in college the last three years.

There is no one currently on this roster that has shown enough to be that third back that is needed on an NFL team but, someone will make the roster if no veteran running back is obtained. Ozzie Newsome really needs to pick up a veteran running back before the season begins for insurance especially if Willis McGahee's injury does not get better soon.

Wide Receiver - This position is wide open as of today. Derrick Mason is the only steady veteran they have. Mark Clayton has already injured a shoulder in training camp. Demetrius Williams has not played in training camp or preseason and the rest are rookies along and a guy that was not on the 53 man roster last year (Matt Willis). This appears to be one of the many problem areas on the offense this year, but rookies Marcus Smith and Justin Harper are showing promise in camp but not in preseason games so far.. Most likely the Ravens will carry five receivers, but a closer look at the waiver wire at the end of August would probably be a good idea.

Tight end- Todd Heap must stay healthy and Daniel Wilcox must fully recover from his toe injury to make this position stable and productive this year.

Offensive line- A lot has already been said about the lack of ability of some of these Offensive Tackles, and most of what has been said is true. Jared Gaither has not worked hard during the off season has not gotten himself prepared to play in the NFL. He was injured early in camp and has missed valuable time learning from the new coaches. Adam Terry mat not stay on the field much if his injured rehabbing ankle does not improve, both players need to play as much as possible in the remaining preseason games. The rest of the tackles in camp have not proven they can play in the NFL. If any of the interior linemen get injured, and the tackles don't stay healthy this could be a scary season for quarterbacks and running Backs. With all the very good Offensive Coaches the Ravens now have, the Offensive Line doesn't have enough quality man power or proven backups to provide the adequate protection needed for the skilled players to be successful in the 2008 season.

The final roster on offensive as of today looks like this

Receivers- Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams (if healthy but could start season on Pup list and miss first 6 weeks)Derrick Mason,Yamon Figurs, Marcus Smith and either Justin Harper or more likely Ernie Wheelwright.

Tight Ends-

Todd Heap, Daniel Wilcox (if healthy another Pup possibility),Adam Bergen and a waiver wire pickup if Wilcox injured.

Running Backs( including fullbacks)- Wllis Magahee, Ray Rice,Le'Ron McClan, Lorenzo Neal and most likely a waiver wire or late trade Quarterbacks-

Joe Flacco, Kyle Boller, Troy Smith Offensive line-

Tackles- Adam Terry,Jared Gaither,Mike Kracalik and Oniel Cousins

Guards- Marshal Yanda,Ben Grubbs, Chris Chester Center-Jason Brown

Must add or keep another lineman most likely. If any current roster player it would be David Hale.

THE DEFENSE

Defensive Line-

With three veteran Defensive Tackles, (Justin Bannan, Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata), this will be one of the strongest positions on the 2008 team. However, the defensive pass rush must be improved over last year and Rex Ryan must provide schemes that get sacks while protecting an aging cornerback position. Defensive back, Fabian Washington, with his play in the first preseason game, looks like a great addition to the team and a future starter on this team. Another tackle will most likely be kept but the last two preseason games will decide that.

Defensive Ends-

Trevor Price, who came to camp in great shape along with Terrell Suggs, Antwan Barnes and Dwan Edwards.

Linebackers- Ray Lewis.Bart Scott,Jarret Johnson,Nick Greisen.Taveres Gooden and Brendon Avanbadejo On the bubble are Edgar Jones,Jameel McClain and Gary Stills

Safeties- Ed Reed ( maybe pup list),Dawan Landry,Tom Zbikowski,Haruki Nakamura and Jim Leonhard

Defensive Backs-

Chris MaAlister,Fabian Washington,Samari Rolle,Derrick Martin,Corey Ivy

On the bubble are Frank Walker,Ronnie Prude,David Pittman

Defensive Backs - The big decisions for the coaching staff will come from what players to keep or release at the Safety and Reserve Defensive back positions. With two rookie Safeties, (Tom Zbilkowski and Nakamura, a veteran free agent Safety addition, (Jim Leonhard), they all will be pushing last years substitutes (David Pittman, Ronnie Prude, Corey Ivy, Derick Martin along with a new addition, Frank Walker at defensive back, to see who makes the final 2008 roster. All must prove themselves on Special Teams, and in pre-season play to win a final roster spot. Most likely four or five defensive backs and Safeties will be on the final roster. Barring injuries, we know that Dawan Landry, Ed Reed, Fabian Washington, Corey Ivy, Chris McAlister, and Samarri Rolle.

Linebacker- In the 3-4 Defense that Rex Ryan plays, some of these players are swing men that play both Linebacker and Pass Rusher. With early round draft choice rookie linebacker, Tavares Gooden and last year's quality back-ups Nick Greisen, Antwan Barnes, and hopefully adding Dan Cody, and Edgar Jones who have not seen much NFL playing time this will be a good group of reserves for this Raven team. Also added was special teams stand out Brendon Ayanbadejo who looked impressive when playing linebacker in the first pre-season game. These reserves make the Pass Rush/Linebacker group very strong. With veterans Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Bart Scott and team leader Ray Lewis returning look for lots of hard hits and turnovers being produced by this group.

Rookie Jameel McClain and Robert McCune along with veteran Gary Stills appear to have little chance of making the 53 man roster in 2008 unless other Linebackers are injured and out for the season.

So that is how the 2008 roster is shaping up. Many of these reserves will make Special Teams a very strong group, and if Yamon Figurs stays healthy and performs as well as he did in the first pre-season game they will provide great field position and score some exciting touchdowns this year. The coaching staff has a few tough decisions on players but for the most part this is a veteran team that needs quality production at Quarterback position with few turnovers and an Offensive line that matures into a stable force this year if the Ravens are to have a successful season.


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