Looking more closely at final 53-man roster

Looking more closely at final 53-man roster
September 1, 2013, 7:00 am
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EARLY BIRD: Waking up with the Ravens on Sunday, Sept. 1

Two-minute topic: What can we learn from the Ravens "final" 53-man roster?

The cuts are done and the Ravens are down to 53 players on the roster, as required by the Saturday deadline.

The positional breakdown of the team is a bit different from previous years, with the Ravens keeping seven wide receivers and two fullbacks, but just two running backs and two healthy tight ends. Technically, the Ravens kept three tight ends, but that fact underscores one of the truths of the so-called final 53-man roster: It's not final at all.

The Ravens have kept tight end Dennis Pitta on the 53-man roster, but he is almost certain to be placed on one of the injured reserve designations before Thursday's season-opener at Denver, which will free up a roster spot. The Ravens are considering using the once-a-year Injured Reserve-Designated to Return tag on Pitta, which would keep open the door to him returning later in the season. If placed on regular injured reserve, his season would be over.

But he and rookie offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (broken foot), who also is on the 53-man roster, are both likely to land on injured reserve lists, and that will free up two roster spots. You can bet the Ravens are poring over other teams' cuts with a fine-tooth comb, looking for players who could take those two spots. Maybe they find another tight end that way, or another cornerback.

The other thing evident by the so-called final roster is what coach John Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg have said several times: Those last few roster spots are usually claimed by versatile special teams players.

That could explain why both Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick made the team and Bobby Rainey did not. Rainey's biggest strength on special teams is his return ability. But the Ravens have a Pro Bowl returner to do that already in Jacoby Jones. Levine and Trawick handle the less glamorous grunt work on the punt and kick coverage and return teams. They rarely get noticed, although Trawick made the highlight film at Tampa with his blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown by LaQuan Williams.

Williams, the Baltimore native and Poly grad, has again survived his third straight camp on the roster bubble. He might not have as much upside as a receiver as all the others in that crowded position group, but Williams is a presence on virtually every special teams unit. And as the bottom of this year's 53-man roster once again illustrates, that obviously counts for a lot.

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