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Ravens’ revamped secondary bracing for Broncos

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens trimmed their roster down to 53 players with an emphasis on defense and special teams as they turn their focus to the Denver Broncos and the regular-season opener Sept. 13.

The team kept 27 players on defense and 23 on offense. Safeties Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick, both of whom serve primarily on special teams, made the final cut. Baltimore also kept two additional linebackers — Albert McClellan and Zachary Orr — because of their prowess on special teams.

The Ravens’ defense will have to be clicking on all cylinders against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The team’s revamped secondary will likely be challenged most of the game.

“One of the things we’ve talked to our guys about is the fact that you put so much work into building up to the first game, the first regular season game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. It seems like a pinnacle – it seems like an end – and you’re wondering what kind of a team you have, and you’re looking forward to seeing it. I know the fans are (excited), and we are, too.”

One of the most notable cuts was cornerback Asa Jackson, who was expected to be the primary kick returner. Jackson, however, struggled over the final preseason games and was cut Saturday. As of now, the Ravens will go with Michael Campanaro as the punt returner, but he missed significant time last season and over this year’s training camp with injuries. Wide receiver Steve Smith and cornerback Lardarius Webb are potential returners. The team will also likely scan the waiver wire for other options before the season opener.

On offense, Baltimore will open its sixth straight season with just two quarterbacks. Joe Flacco has yet to miss a start in his career, and the front office is sold on Matt Schaub being a viable backup.

One of the lingering questions entering the season is the depth of wide receiver and who will step up to be the main playmaker. The Ravens kept six wide receivers — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman, Darren Waller and Campanaro.

Perriman is expected to be the main downfield threat. However, he has not practiced since injuring his knee the first day of training camp July 30. Harbaugh still has not ruled him out for the opener.

“I think he has a chance” Harbaugh said. “But whether it’s to what degree, that’s wide open right now. I don’t know.”

If Perriman can’t go, Aiken or Brown will start opposite Smith. It could be an uphill battle if Flacco is forced to get into a shootout with Manning and his many weapons.

— Center Nick Easton, an undrafted free agent from Harvard, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2016. Easton will serve as the primary backup to Marcus Martin.

San Francisco had planned on Daniel Kilgore being the starter. But he is still recovering from a second procedure on his left fibula. Ravens coach John Harbaugh pulled Easton out of practice to deliver the news of the trade.

“I knew it was kind of in the works,” Harbaugh said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen. (Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome) came out (to practice) and let me know it happened, so I went over to pull Nick out of the drill and tell him. He’s in the middle of a drill! He was actually getting ready to take his rep in there, and they were yelling for him, ‘Nick get in here!’ I was like, ‘No. He’s not in. He doesn’t play for us anymore.’ I didn’t say that.”

Baltimore is content to open the season with Jeremy Zuttah as the starter and John Urschel as the backup at center.


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