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Friday, August 30, 2013
Ravens receivers bring drama to final cuts

By Jamison Hensley

There's only one certainty about the logjam at the Baltimore Ravens' wide receiver battle: Marlon Brown, Tandon Doss and Aaron Mellette didn't make the decisions for Saturday's final cutdown any easier.

All three receivers delivered their best performances of the preseason in Thursday's 24-21 loss at St. Louis. The Ravens have to determine how many receivers they want to carry in addition to Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley. LaQuan Williams, a special teams standout, and Deonte Thompson, who has missed the last three preseason games with a foot injury, also figure into the wide receiver equation.

Let's look at the five receivers who are trying to survive the final cutdown:

Marlon Brown: He looks like he'll become the latest undrafted rookie to force his way onto the team, just like Jameel McClain, Justin Tucker and Dannell Ellerbe in recent years. In my projections, Brown was a lock before the preseason finale. His 50-yard touchdown just further confirmed his standing as the team's No. 4 receiver. Brown's got the size (6 feet 5), explosiveness and physical play (he had the final block on Bobby Rainey's first touchdown run) that the Ravens desperately needed this year. The Ravens should thank the Texans for not signing Brown after his tryout, because it led him to Baltimore.

LaQuan Williams: He was limited in St. Louis because of a hamstring injury, according to The Baltimore Sun. Unless this turns out to be a significant injury, Williams should make the team on his special teams ability alone. Remember, the Ravens lost three experienced core special teams players in Brendon Ayanbadejo, Sean Considine and David Reed from last year's team. That increases Williams' value. And, given the fact the Ravens traded Reed this month, I don't see them getting rid of Williams, too.

Aaron Mellette: After the first two preseason games, I thought the Ravens could store the rookie seventh-round pick on the practice squad. Now, following Mellette's five catches for 70 yards Thursday night, I don't see him clearing waivers. The Ravens have to either make room for him on the roster or be resigned to losing him to another team. He's shown too much in the preseason, and other teams have had to take notice. This is why I have Mellette getting the sixth receiver spot.

Tandon Doss: The 2011 fourth-round pick showed up for the first time this preseason, making five catches for 75 yards. Doss went over the middle. He beat a defender down the field. This is what the Ravens have wanted to see out of Doss. “I finally got some balls thrown my way,” Doss told reporters after the game. But I'm wondering whether this performance against the Rams' backups came too late to save him. What hurts Doss is he doesn't have as much value on special teams as Brown and Mellette. If the Ravens keep seven receivers, which they didn't last year, Doss makes the cut. If the Ravens carry six, I'm not sure if Doss is on the team.

Deonte Thompson: Thompson drew a lot of buzz during offseason camps, and some believed he had a shot at being one of the Ravens' top three receivers. But a sprained foot has sidelined him for the last three preseason games. He hasn't even begun to practice, which is a sign that the Ravens may have to put him on injured reserve. The Ravens could give him a designation to return, which would allow the team to bring him back after missing the first eight weeks of the regular season. But the Ravens can only use that designation once, so that has to figure into the decision.