• Tyus Bowser out for first four games: One of the Ravens' most versatile defenders will miss at least two AFC North battles.
• Kyu Kelly fails to make the cut: The fifth-round draft pick struggled against starters this preseason.
• Ben Cleveland sticks around: The 2021 third-round draft pick was a trendy cut candidate at the start of the preseason.
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The Ravens reduced their roster to 53 players Tuesday, without too many surprises.
The team's most notable moves were sending edge defender Tyus Bowser to the non-football injury list, keeping him out for the first four weeks of the season at a minimum, and cutting their losses with Kyu Kelly, a fifth-round rookie.
Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Ravens' initial 53-man roster.
Tyus Bowser will miss at least the first four games
The starting edge defender is guaranteed to be out for at least the first four weeks of the regular season after landing on the non-football injury list, missing contests against the Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns. Bowser earned a 60.0 PFF grade in 2022 but was coming off another injury. He finished the season strong with seven pressures on 46 pass-rushing snaps in the Ravens' final two games of the regular season and their playoff loss to the Bengals. It’s how his role will be filled over those first four weeks that may cause the Ravens the biggest headache, though.
The team used Odafe Oweh in Bowser’s Sam linebacker role in the first half of 2022, which saw Oweh drop into coverage 41 times in the Ravens' first eight games, compared to 22 times in the 10 games after Bowser returned. The Ravens’ 31st overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft showed some real promise as a rush linebacker late in the year, and removing him from that spot somewhat in the first part of the season feels like a mistake.
Perhaps the key here is that undrafted free agent Malik Hamm made the roster. Hamm had an impressive preseason for the Ravens, earning a 70.6 PFF grade on 60 snaps. He dropped into coverage on 11 of those and wasn’t targeted. Could Hamm see significant playing time while Bowser is out? This is also where the signing of Jadeveon Clowney could play an important role, with the 2014 top overall pick earning an 86.4 PFF coverage grade from a small sample size of just 129 coverage snaps over the course of his career.
Not afraid to cut draft picks
Fifth-round draft pick Kyu Blu Kelly was part of the roster cut-down, showing that the team is not scared to release players after spending draft capital on them. Kelly had his best game of the preseason in the Ravens' finale against the Buccaneers, but his struggles when playing against starters in the three games saw him earn just a 59.2 PFF coverage grade on 77 coverage snaps this August. It’s also a sign of how many cornerbacks the Ravens have, and while they will hope to add him to the practice squad, they were content enough to risk another team picking him up.
This means that Arthur Maulet, who didn’t feature in the preseason for the team due to injury, has made the roster for now. The Ravens could also look to the market for insurance, with Bradley Roby a potential option. Choosing Maulet over Kelly highlights that Baltimore is weakest in the slot, with limited depth behind Ar’Darius Washington.
Ben Cleveland can be a backup at both guard spots
Cleveland, drafted by the Ravens in the third round in 2021, didn’t feature at all in the left guard battle this preseason, something that made many think he was a likely trade or cut candidate. He had a solid-enough preseason, earning a 63.7 PFF grade on 157 snaps between right guard and tackle, and sticks as the backup to Kevin Zeitler on the right side of the Ravens' interior offensive line. He hasn’t played left guard since his rookie season, where he had two games of earning a 75.0-plus PFF grade, but it would make sense if he was the backup to John Simpson there, too.
Simpson excelled this preseason, earning a spot on PFF’s Team of the Preseason. Sixth-round rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, meanwhile, struggled heavily on the left side. The Ravens obviously like his potential, especially when you consider that they released Kelly, who was drafted a round earlier, but Aumavae-Laulu doesn’t look remotely ready to play in an NFL game against starters after a preseason that saw him earn just a 27.9 PFF grade on 112 snaps.
If Cleveland is indeed the backup at both spots, it would give the Ravens two backups at two positions each, with Patrick Mekari expected to be the primary second-stringer at both left tackle and center.