Bubble watch: Linebacker

Bubble watch: Linebacker
August 18, 2013, 11:45 am
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Ravens looking for defensive improvement vs. Carolina

(Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

With the preseason schedule half over, the sense of urgency for those on the roster bubble is ramping up. The Ravens must trim their 90-man roster to 75 players by Aug. 27, and then the final 53-man roster must be set by Aug. 31, two days after the last preseason game in St. Louis.

Of course, many of those 53 spots are already spoken for. Coach John Harbaugh likes to say there is competition for every spot, but this just in, Joe Flacco will make this team. So will Ray Rice. And Terrell Suggs. And Marshal Yanda. In fact, 40 or so roster spots are probably already set, which leaves about 50 players fighting for roughly a dozen spots.

In this series we are taking a closer look at some of those players on the roster bubble and assessing their chances of making the team. Yesterday, it was the defensive line. Links to bubble players on offense can be found here. Today, it’s the linebackers.

ON THE BUBBLE: ILB Nigel Carr

It's not hard to notice Nigel Carr on the practice field. The inside linebacker is one of the more vocal players when he's on the field, but will he make enough noise to make the 53-man roster?

Carr (6-2, 240), who played two years at Alabama State after some off-field issues derailed his career at Florida State, originally signed with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie. He spent most of last season on the Ravens practice squad and did not appear in a regular season game. He is competing for a depth spot on the Ravens remade linebacker unit. With Ray Lewis retired, Dannell Ellerbe gone via free agency and Jameel McClain sidelined with a spinal injury, the inside linebacker group will look markedly different this year.

Ten-year veteran Daryl Smith has had a strong camp and is a likely starter alongside Josh Bynes, with rookie Arthur Brown coming on in passing situations. Albert McClellan is a versatile linebacker that can play inside or outside if need be, but the Ravens also seem pretty stacked on the outside now with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw. Pernell McPhee has joined that group as well after moving from defensive end.

Last year's 53-man roster frequently featured nine linebackers. Doing the math, that could leave Carr scrapping for a final roster spot with rookie fourth-round draft pick John Simon, Adrian Hamilton and converted defensive lineman Bryan Hall.

Carr is getting a chance to put plays on tape, as they say. In the preseason opener, Carr played 30 defensive snaps, fourth-most among defensive players. He has seven tackles through the first two preseason games.

It will be a tough call in the Ravens personnel room, but there simply isn't enough room for all those linebackers.

Projection: Cut