The football drought is officially over, as the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears kicked off the preseason last night in Canton, Ohio. The Hall of Fame Game was one for the ages, as the Baltimore Ravens saw great performances from many players, along with the debut of high profile rookies. The excitement of the night ended with a Ravens victory, 17-16 over the Bears, but in the preseason, the outcome does not matter as much as individual performances. In the preseason version of Ravens Retrospective Review, we will review key performances by Ravens players.
Robert Griffin III was far and away the best quarterback on the field for the Ravens last night. It was obvious that Griffin was the veteran of the three Baltimore quarterbacks. His composure and confidence were easily visible. Griffin finished the night completing seven of eleven passes, for 58 yards and one touchdown. He also threw one interception, but the pick came off a Breshad Perriman drop, causing the deflection and interception. Griffin also showed off his legs, rushing three times for nine yards. Josh Woodrum, the star of last preseason, was the second quarterback to take the field for Baltimore. He completed all six of his passes for 37 yards. Woodrum also took off on the ground on one play for 17 yards. He did not turn the ball over or score.
The second half saw the debut of Lamar Jackson. Jackson, the first round pick and Heisman Trophy winner, struggled in his first preseason game. Pressure obviously impeded him, and at times he looked like a deer in headlines, especially when blitzed. Jackson finished the night completing just 40% of his ten passes, for 33 yards. His best play of the game came on a touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst, which was perfectly spotted. Shortly after that play, however, Jackson threw a terrible pass that was intercepted. The pass was on the opposite side of the wide receiver and went right into the hands of the defensive back. Jackson showed off his athleticism many times throughout the game as well. He ran with the ball eight times, gaining 25 yards on the ground. Overall, his performance was underwhelming, but it is to be expected from a rookie project quarterback.
Undrafted rookie out of Rutgers, Gus Edwards, was by far the best running back on Baltimore’s side. Edwards did exceptionally well at the start of the game, with a 16-yard rush and 23-yard reception. He showed off his large size and power, being able to fight for extra yards. By the end of the game, Gus Edwards ran the ball ten times for 35 yards and caught the one pass for 23. De’Lance Turner and Mark Thompson also received time at the running back position. Turner ran the ball three times, gaining 14 yards. Thompson ran the ball five times for nine yards. Thompson was also responsible for the Ravens’ only fumble of the night after he caught a pass that resulted in a loss of a couple yards. Both of his receptions on the night together resulted in negative yards. Turner also caught a pass, which resulted in a gain of eight yards.
Tim White lit up the preseason last year and indicates like he will do the same this year. White was the leading receiver on the night, aside from Gus Edward’s one 23 yard reception. White caught two passes for 20 yards, his longest reception went for 17 yards. Breshad Perriman was the only other wide receiver to catch multiple passes, although it was not a textbook successful night for Perriman. On his first target, Perriman dropped an absolute dime by Griffin III, which resulted in an interception. Perriman was also penalized for illegal formation. His prospects to make the final roster still seem up in the air. Last night did nothing to help him. Receivers Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant, and DeVier Posey all caught passes as well. Lasley gained 14 yards, Grant 10, and Posey 6.
Perhaps the most successful positional group in the Hall of Fame Game, the Ravens’ tight ends scored both of Baltimore’s touchdowns. First-round pick Hayden Hurst looked very good in the game. The big-bodied tight end simply outmatched the Bears defense. Hurst caught three passes for 14 yards and one touchdown. Nick Boyle also had a good night. Although he dropped a pass early, Boyle caught a ball for 12 yards. Maxx Williams scored on a nice five-yard toss by Robert Griffin III, and Vince Mayle caught a one-yard pass. Overall, the tight end group looked to be solid last night, meaning the competition will be rough this offseason.
The offensive line as a whole struggled in the Hall of Fame Game, which is severely disappointing. The offensive line needs consistent depth, especially with the injury histories of Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis. Although the line as a whole struggled, third round rookie right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. played well. The rookie was originally believed to be a first-round talent before a difficult NFL Combine performance hindered his draft stock. Overall, the day gives Baltimore some hope that pick may have been worth it long term and potentially short term.
The defensive line was not a focal point last night, as the unit as a whole seemingly kept themselves out the spotlight, avoiding good and bad occurrences. The most prominent member of the defensive line unit last night was the versatile Patrick Ricard. Ricard, aside from defensive line, plays fullback for the offense. Ricard collected two tackles along with two assists for four total tackles. The most notable play of the night coming from a defensive lineman was when Bronson Kaufusi picked up a Bears fumble, giving the Ravens possession back. It was a great awareness play by Kaufusi, who is on the roster bubble this year. More plays like that will help escalate his case to make the roster.
The absolute dominant linebacker and overall player of the night was Kamalei Correa. Correa is on the roster bubble this year, as his first two seasons with the Ravens have been utter disappointments. Correa is now moving back to outside linebacker, his natural position. Although it is early on, the results are encouraging. Correa recorded three sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble last night, earning The Baltimore Feather’s Ravens Player of the Game award. No one else could match what Correa did, but there were other solid performances by Baltimore linebackers. Inside linebackers, Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor did well, and neither was able to get an edge on the other in the competition for the starting slot.
Undrafted rookie Alvin Jones performed better than expected. Jones recorded three tackles, tying defensive back Bennett Jackson for second most tackles. The one linebacker that disappointed was Albert McClellan. The veteran was often seen losing one on one battles and allowing opposing receivers to gain substantial yards and occasionally scores. McClellan, on the roster bubble, needs to improve his game before the end of the preseason. If he does not, the Baltimore Ravens will not hesitate in moving on from him.
The entire defensive backs unit saw both success and failure in the Hall of Fame Game. Second-year safety Chuck Clark caught one of the two defensive interceptions. Clark displayed massive improvement from last year, where he was mainly a special teams player. He, along with rookie DeShon Elliot, were the obvious winners of the defensive backs unit. Elliot covered well and recorded some of his trademark hard hits. The cornerbacks of the team, although, struggled against the Bears passing attack. Bennett Jackson totaled three tackles, but was penalized and blew some coverages. Darious Williams also consistently lost in coverage situations, being able to do virtually nothing against the Bears offense. Rookie Anthony Averett was also beat into the endzone on a play. His development this preseason will be something to watch, as the Ravens hope he can transform into a solid depth cornerback.
Kaare Vedvik handled all kicking and punting duties last night to relieve Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. Vedvik had an outstanding game, where he made all field goals and extra points and punted very well. His eight punts averaged 48.1 yards. To put that in perspective, if that average held up all season, that would tie Vedvik with Drew Kaser of the Los Angeles Chargers in average yards per punt. Kaser was third on the top average yards per punt list in 2017. Vedvik is obviously a special talent, and the Ravens will likely find an undrafted kicker a new home yet again this offseason.
The return battle between second-year receiver Tim White and undrafted rookie Janarion Grant is heating up, and it seems that no one has the upper hand just yet. While both performed relatively well, both slipped up once. Tim White, instead of catching a punt either fairly or to run with it, let the ball hit the ground and bounce. There was no one immediately near him, and the ball bounced back roughly ten yards. Grant caught a punt near midfield and tried to return it. In the attempt to lose tacklers, however, Grant ended up losing three yards on the play. Both these players will continue the fight throughout the preseason.