OWINGS MILLS — A strong training camp put Michael Pierce on the roster bubble as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
What he did in the Ravens’ final preseason game that year landed the then-rookie defensive tackle a spot on the team.
“Let’s not forget, Michael Pierce, his rookie year, made the team after the fourth game of the preseason against New Orleans, because he wrecked that game. Things like that happen,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said Sunday ahead of Baltimore’s final preseason game against Washington Thursday night. “There are still some question marks on the roster, and there will be guys that make the team off this fourth game.”
Head coach John Harbaugh also remembered Pierce’s performance that night.
“Mike is the guy that jumps out the most. He just blew the game up. I think he knocked the ball loose and recovered a fumble down there close to the end zone,” he recalled Tuesday. “He was definitely a consideration going into the game – I think a strong consideration. I don’t know if you can come out of nowhere in the fourth preseason game, but he sealed the deal in that game.”
Teams are required to trim their rosters from 90 to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday and nearly all of those slots are already accounted for. Thursday’s exhibition at Washington is the final opportunity for many on the roster bubble to convince the organization why they are worthy of one of the few spots up for grabs.
“We’re at a critical time now, obviously, of training camp. Last game, a lot of things going on with the roster and stuff like that, so we’re very busy with that,” Harbaugh said. “The Washington game brings a lot of opportunities for some answers and some opportunities for guys.”
Harbaugh said “a lot of guys won’t play at all” Thursday. Those who are projected starters and roster locks do not need to be exposed to any risk of injury. He said some younger, potential starters could play if coaches believe they need additional work.
“A lot of guys are excited about the opportunity and want to get out there and prove themselves and see if they can make this team or another team,” Harbaugh said. “It really is a fun game to be in. You like to see those guys get out there and play all those snaps and see how they do. Everybody gets fired up to watch those guys play. We’ve had guys make teams in those last games.”
Rookie quarterback Trace McSorley will be among those playing a lot of snaps. The sixth-round pick out of Penn State likely has done enough to make the team already, but another strong game would help.
“Not too much,” McSorley replied when asked whether he thinks about his odds of making the 53-man roster. “There’s only so much that you can control as a player. What that is, is what you put out on the field, how you practice and how you play in the game. All that other stuff is decisions that are outside of your control.”
McSorley played his best game yet last Thursday when the Ravens defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia. In his first start, he completed 19-of-28 passes for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The rookie, who also rushed for a score, has gotten progressively better in each preseason game following a tough opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars in which he went 9-for-22 for 85 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
The Ravens drafted McSorley with the intentions of using him in a variety or roles, similar to New Orleans’ Saints versatile backup quarterback Taysom Hill. But an injury to backup quarterback Robert Griffin III has forced Baltimore to play him under center even more than originally planned, eliminating the chance to give McSorley any special teams reps.
Historically, the Ravens only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but they broke that tradition last season when they had three. McSorley’s excellent game in Philadelphia also minimizes the chances that he would clear waivers if he were to be released. The Ravens would certainly want to add him to their practice squad, but another team would likely scoop him up if he became available.
“Trace has definitely, definitely, earned the right to be in our plans, one way or another. We’ll see how it shakes out,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a decision that still has to be made, but I think he’s done everything he can do, for sure.”
McSorley has one more chance to make sure that looming decision is favorable for him and it will come close to home for the Ashburn, Va. native.
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