Going into the final preseason game last Thursday against the St. Louis Rams, there was no surprise that the Baltimore Ravens had a great problem on the offense – two rookie wide receivers, Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown, that came to work their way up the depth chart. They also had a rookie safety, Brynden Trawick, who caught everyone’s attention in training camp and preseason with his work ethic and ability to maneuver special teams skills. It goes to show that hard work and persistence pays off because Brown and Trawick beat the odds as undrafted rookies and are now active players on the Ravens 53-man roster.
Brown, a Georgia stand-out, stood out through training camp and especially preseason as he was competing heavily with Mellette. Brown narrowly won that competition as the leading receiver in preseason with 10 catches for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns compared to Mellette’s 9 catches for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns. Equally fan favorites during the preseason, Brown and Mellette add some strength and ability to bypass tackles as two of the seven wide receivers on the roster. Brown and Mellette have created depth in the position with returning Raven Brandon Stokley, a polished route-runner that is accustomed to making plays.
Tandon Doss, a fourth round 2011 draft pick, was working to become a promising threat but fell short of making a third season with the Ravens after only catching 7 passes for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Unfortunately for Doss and Visanthe Shiancoe (both released), Brown’s performance in the preseason made them look even more lackluster with inconsistent performances of Doss (7 receptions for 85 yards and 1 touchdown) and Shiancoe (5 carries for 48 yards).
Trawick impressed coaches when he blocked a punt recovered for a touchdown in the first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He makes the team beating out second year Omar Brown who had just as many tackles as Trawick but less assists and a fumble in his preseason performance. Trawick makes the team and can followup on his appeal of the NFL-imposed $21000 fine for a blindside hit in the third quarter against the Panthers though no penalty was drawn on the play.
An honorable mention is undrafted rookie tight end, Matt Furstenburg, who could potentially be back on the team early next week once Dennis Pitta is eligible to be placed on the injury reserve list. Although veteran former Raven Billy Bajema was also released, Furstenburg had 4 receptions carried for 54 yards in preseason compared to Bajema’s 1 reception for 18 yards. Furstenburg’s time on the wire after clearing waivers may be minimal.
The Ravens have rebuilt a promising team and the undrafted rookies have shocked the veterans out of position. With a 53-man roster that now consists of 7 receivers, the Ravens have plenty of capable players for Joe Flacco to unleash the pigskin for yardage. Of course, we will see how the season starts against the Denver Broncos at the season opener on Thursday. But from the looks of it now, the grind is on the mind of the rookies and this combined with the solid veterans may will the Ravens to another playoff season.