The Ravens will trim their roster to 53 by tomorrow, and the final preseason game provided a mixed bag for players on the bubble.
Dwayne Missouri, a 22-year-old defensive end, set up Kelly Gregg's 19-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, as the seventh-round draft choice from Northwestern came in from the blind side and stripped New York Giants third-string quarterback Jesse Palmer.
"Based on the lineman's stance, I felt they were going to pass the ball, and I got a good jump," said Missouri, who also sacked Palmer in the third quarter, forcing a fumble that the Giants recovered. "It's the final [preseason] game, and it's a situation where you have to let it all hang out."
One of the rookies featured in the HBO series Hard Knocks, which chronicled the Ravens' preseason, Missouri knows that cutdown day can be painful.
"For a lot of [players], it's going to be looking at people, wondering if they're coming to tell them good news, bad news," Missouri said. "Whatever decision they make, you have to live with. I showed them everything I could."
Missouri got a few plays in the first half and went the entire second half. Chris Barnes, the fifth-round draft choice out of New Mexico State, got six of his seven carries in garbage time, after Gregg's touchdown had extended the Ravens' margin to its final count, 38-9. He gained just 12 yards.
"I'm getting antsy," Barnes said about his status. "I really don't know where I am. I'm like a chicken with his head cut off, running around and trying to figure out what's what. I've got my head up, and whatever they decide, I'm going to be a man about my situation."
Another player on the bubble, rookie free-agent cornerback Reggie Waddell, was asked to do a lot yesterday - return punts, play cornerback and nickel back, and be a gunner on the punt team.
How does that bode for his chances of making the team?
"I think I showed them a little bit more," Waddell said.
Especially on punts, where Waddell made his biggest contribution with a 19-yard return in the third quarter.
"They told me to catch them and get what I can get," Waddell said. "I'm not a Jermaine Lewis. I don't have all the shakes. Whichever way the return is, I just try to get there."
Waddell is battling a host of other rookie free agents for the last three or four roster spots.
"It's been a great experience," Waddell said. "This is something that I've always wanted to do, and they've given me a great opportunity to do it."
The real line
Elvis Grbac got a feel for the offensive line that will start the opener against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 9. A series of injuries, minor and major, like the triceps tear to Leon Searcy that led the Ravens to sign right tackle Erik Williams, created an unsettled situation for much of the preseason, but Grbac knows what to expect from a group that, from left to right, will consist of Jonathan Ogden, Edwin Mulitalo, Mike Flynn, Kipp Vickers and Sammy Williams.
Sammy Williams, who will return to a reserve role when Erik Williams is deemed ready, had been used to having Bennie Anderson at right guard while Vickers filled in on the left side. He also had to adjust to Michael Strahan, the Giants' defensive end who blew by Williams on the Ravens' second snap and decked Grbac, who had to rush an attempt to rookie tight end Todd Heap.
"This was my first time playing against him [Strahan], and I didn't know what to expect," Sammy Williams said. "He blew by me one time. I was trying to knock his hands down, and I didn't do it. I've got to fight every week. I don't know how good the competition is going to be, and every week I'm not familiar with who I'm playing."
With Duane Starks and Chris McAlister sitting out with minor injuries, James Trapp and Alvin Porter started at cornerback. Giants quarterback Kerry Collins attacked Porter, a rookie free agent out of Oklahoma State, on the game's first play, a 36-yard completion to Amani Toomer. Toomer added receptions of 7 and 8 yards on the opening drive to set up a field goal.
"Being that I'm a rookie, they're going to test me," Porter said. "That's part of the game. The important thing is that we held them to a field goal. No one said anything, but on this defense, we try not to give up the six points."
Good day for Johnson
Receiver Patrick Johnson, who started nine of the last 14 games last season, is behind Brandon Stokley on the depth chart. He had an active second half, as he escorted Jason Brookins the last 30 yards on his 70-yard run in the third quarter, and had four receptions for 34 yards. He used a neat spin move to turn a seemingly harmless out pattern into an 18-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
"That guy [William Peterson] who cut off Jason can run," Johnson said. "That's one of those plays, if it ever happens again, he [Brookins] can cut behind me. On the touchdown, I was just trying to make a play. I have to take advantage of whatever opportunity I get to touch the football. The more you get it, the more comfortable you become."