As much as preseason football is not a determinant of regular season success, it is a large determinant of who will and will not make the final 53-man roster and who will join the practice squad.
Ozzie seems to have found some serious gems in this year’s draft class and even brought in a few UDFA’s who showed some flashes making this year’s cut down a difficult endeavor.
Last year’s Baltimore Ravens showed depth concerns and the fans of the purple and black witnessed that in the later parts of preseason games. The second- and third-stringers got dominated in each game. Most fans shook off the concern going into the regular season because we didn’t think those second- and third-stringers would matter.
Boy, were we ever wrong.
The injury floodgates opened and we learned the true necessity of depth. This preseason has been encouraging in that regard.
But, now comes the hard part for Ozzie and his crew. He will now need to cut down the roster to 53 by 4pm ET tomorrow.
The fourth preseason game serves as a last chance opportunity for many guys to get their name noticed and to force management to reconsider them. Here’s a look at three guys who did just that.
#40 OLB Victor Ochi
OLB Victor Ochi had been one of the most highly touted UDFA’s. Most rejoiced when they saw the Ravens were able to bring him onto their offseason roster. He had been perhaps one of the most disappointing UDFA’s given he only played 19 snaps through three preseason games.
Last night he got a significant look and he showed the team just how much potential he has.
RSR’s very own Filmstudy blessed his performance with a +2 rating in last night’s game. Most notable were his back-to-back plays in the 3rd quarter when he was able to land a quarterback hit on a screen pass followed by his first NFL sack when he beat 2nd string LT Tony Hillis.
Ochi is going to force a tough decision. Last night’s showing will not go unnoticed by other teams and stashing him on the practice squad may not be viable.
Position Battle: It will likely come down to deciding between Chris Carter and Victor Ochi. Carter has a reputation for being a strong special teams player and that could be desirable for a 3rd string OLB. However, that would result in Ochi ending up on the practice squad where a team with much less depth (*cough Cleveland cough*) could snatch him. OLB’s who can get to the passer are an absolute necessity.
Author’s Prediction: Victor Ochi will be on the 53-man roster.
#78 NT Michael Pierce
NT Michael Pierce solidified himself in the race for preseason defensive MVP last night (other candidates are OLB Matt Judon and ILB/CB Anthony Levine). Pierce has stood out in every game this preseason for his ability to push the pocket and burst off the line. For a dude that big, that burst is truly impressive.
Last night, he came up with the play of the game when he burst through a double team, got the sack strip and landed on the football for a touchdown. Not bad for a dude who is 330 pounds.
Pierce has been consistently in all four games and has shown the ability to get a burst through the line and be disruptive.
Position Battle: Pierce is likely battling with Kapron Lewis-Moore for the 7th DL roster spot.
Author’s Prediction: Pierce will be on the final 53-man roster as the back-up NT. NT/DT Carl Davis will play both the NT and DT position and Lewis-Moore will be cut.
#13 WR Chris Matthews
WR Chris Matthews doesn’t have the UDFA story like Pierce and Ochi, but he put himself in the position to challenge for a roster spot last night.
Matthews finished the game with five catches for 64 yards and showed off his ability to use his size (6’5 228) to his advantage. Matthews has the added advantage of being a very good special team’s player. This is a bonus for a 6th-7th string WR given that special teams abilities may be preferred than actual WR abilities because they’re so far down on the depth chart.
It’s an uphill battle for Matthews given the showing from Jeremy Butler in this preseason, but he made his case last night in what may be his last NFL effort. The 2011 UDFA of the Cleveland Browns has been a journeyman through the NFL (Browns, Seahawks and now Ravens), the Arena Football League (Iowa Barnstormers) and even came up north where he had two seasons with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Matthews should be commended for his work ethic and pursing his dream. Remember, he was the one that was working at foot locker when he got a call from the Seahawks for a tryout. However, it may not have been enough to crack Baltimore’s 53 man roster.
Position Battle: Matthews will be looking to crack the final 53 in a WR battle with Jeremy Butler and Michael Campanaro.
Author’s Prediction: Unfortunately, special teams ability will not be enough and Matthews will likely be cut.
I would not want to be in the shoes of Ozzie and his team because there is some tough decisions. However, this preseason can be seen as a major upgrade over last year and leaving management with tough decisions is always a good thing.
Final 53 Prediction
QB (2): Flacco and Mallett
RB/FB (5): Forsett, Juszczyk (FB), West, Allen, Dixon
WR (7): Smith Sr., Aiken, Wallace, Perriman, Moore, Campranaro, Butler
TE (3): Pitta, Williams, Gilmore
OL (7): Stanley, Urschel, Zuttah, Yanda, Wagner, Lewis, Jensen
DL (7): Davis, Guy, Henry, Jernigan, Pierce, Urban, Williams
ILB (3): Mosely, Correa, Orr
OLB (6): Suggs, Dumervil, Z. Smith, McClellan (also can play ILB), Judon, Ochi
CB (6): Smith, Davis, Wright, Young, Price, Canaday
S (4): Webb, Weddle, Brooks, Levine (also can play CB and ILB)
Special Teams (3)