Starters sit in final preseason game
West appears to have played his way onto final roster
NEW ORLEANS — While New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton played many of his front-line players as promised Thursday night, Ravens coach John Harbaugh adhered to his practice of playing no starters in the final preseason game.
Several prominent Ravens didn’t even travel with the team to New Orleans.
Some Ravens weren’t in uniform, some weren’t even at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and others were in uniform but weren’t scheduled to play. Falling into one of those three camps were quarterback Joe Flacco; running backs Justin Forsett and Terrance West; wide receivers Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken and Mike Wallace; center Jeremy Zuttah; right guard Marshal Yanda; starting tackles Ronnie Stanley and Rick Wagner; linebackers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr and Albert McClellan; and defensive backs Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle.
The Ravens also held out an extensive group of injured players. That group consisted of running back Kenneth Dixon (knee); tight ends Maxx Williams (back) and Dennis Pitta (finger); guard John Urschel ( bruise); outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (ankle); nose tackle Brandon Williams (undisclosed); and defensive backs Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed), Matt Elam (knee) and Jerraud Powers (undisclosed). West gets nod: West (Northwestern High, Towson University) entered training camp firmly on the roster bubble. He was believed to be behind Forsett, Buck Allen and Dixon on the depth chart, and battling the likes of Lorenzo Taliaferro and Trent Richardson for a fourth tailback spot there was no guarantee the Ravens would employ.
However, while Taliaferro and Richardson dropped out of the competition because of injuries and Allen has struggled this summer, West has apparently earned a roster spot and didn’t even need the final preseason game to do it. West warmed up before the game and was in uniform, but he didn’t play early as undrafted free agent Stephen Houston handled the load.
West entered Thursday second on the Ravens in the preseason with 25 rushes for 101 yards and two touchdowns to go along with three catches for 25 yards. It appears he’ll be part of the Sept. 11 regular-season Ravens tight end Nick Boyle, top, is hit by Saints cornerback Ken Crawley during the first quarter. Tight ends Maxx Williams and Dennis Pitta were injured and did not play. game plan against the Buffalo Bills. Forsett pitches in: Forsett wasn’t in uniform, but he made good use of his time while he was in Louisiana.
In partnership with United Way, Forsett spent part of the day in Baton Rouge, donating his time and money to relief efforts for the flood-ravaged city. Prolonged periods of rain and storms in southern Louisiana last month left 13 people dead and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.
The Red Cross called the floods the country’s worst national disaster since Superstorm Sandy four years ago.
Forsett toured areas of the city and gave a 12-year-old boy his football cleats.
“Been down here in Baton Rouge for a couple of hours and I can say one thing for sure the people down here are amazing & resilient!!” Forsett wrote on his Twitter account.
In February, Forsett and former Ravens teammate Torrey Smith (Maryland) traveled to Flint, Mich., to deliver water and shower wipes as the city dealt with a water crisis. Growing pains: As a rookie second-round pick, linebacker Kamalei Correa might feel secure about his standing with the team this fall. But the transition from Boise State to the Ravens has been a visible reminder for the linebacker of the chasm between the college ranks and the NFL.
“There’s always room for improvement, and in my eyes, I always have to get better,” Correa said last week. “It’s really been a humbling experience just knowing that you’re not as good as most people who have been playing in the NFL for a while.” End zone: Ravens second-year defensive lineman Carl Davis went in the locker room with an ankle injury early in the first quarter. … Quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who was let go by the Ravens on Monday as part of their roster cutdown to 75 players, was signed Thursday by the Dallas Cowboys. ... Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of the Ravens’ first-ever game, a 19-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Memorial Stadium. … Paul Kruger, the former Ravens and Cleveland Browns linebacker who signed with the Saints on Wednesday, did not play. … Quarterback Drew Brees started and played one drive, leading the Saints to a field goal against a Ravens defense consisting mostly consisting of second- and third-teamers. preseason finale, for many, was about resting. While Saints coach Sean Payton played most of his starters, including quarterback Drew Brees, who led New Orleans to a field goal in his lone drive, Harbaugh didn’t use a single player who is projected to start.
Prominent starters, such as quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, didn’t even travel with the team to New Orleans.
That set the stage for many of the Ravens’ “bubble” players to get one final opportunity to make an impression.
Defensive tackle Michael Pierce, an undrafted rookie out of Samford, certainly made good on his opportunity. Capping a strong preseason, the big defensive lineman beat his blocker and strip-sacked Saints backup quarterback Luke McCown. Pierce pounced onto the ball in the end zone, the touchdown giving the Ravens a 13-6 lead.
The Ravens are deep at defensive line, but Pierce’s performance all summer, coupled with Carl Davis’ ankle injury, could prompt the team to find him a spot.
Keenan Reynolds made his first NFL catch, a 2-yard reception in which he was driven to the turf by veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Reynolds, the former Navy quarterback who is trying to make the Ravens as a receiver and returner, appears to be no better than eighth on the depth chart at his position.
Continuing his strong preseason, Jeremy Butler made three more catches for 34 yards, and if he hadn’t played his way onto the roster already, he might have Thursday night.
The preseason now complete, the Ravens will have to cut their roster from 75 to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday. The team typically makes eight to 10 moves the day after the final preseason game and the rest of them just ahead of the 4 p.m. deadline.
Whatever they decide to do, several rookies and veterans will likely be filled with anxiety in the hours ahead. Perriman, on the other hand, was probably more relieved than anything else.