On Thursday, the NFL closed the 2018 preseason with sixteen games, encompassing all thirty-two teams. The Ravens closed the preseason against the Washington Redskins, in another edition of the battle of the Beltway. For many Ravens players, the preseason meant little to nothing. The jobs of players like Joe Flacco and Michael Crabtree were secure. However, many other players were not in the same situation. The final game of the preseason, for those on the roster bubble, was akin to the Super Bowl. Nothing short of a perfect performance would be accepted. The Ravens started to make cuts by the next day and rounded out the 53-man roster on Saturday. The final decisions were made, with the final preseason game freshly in mind.
The Ravens made the decision to rest starters in the final preseason game. This decision was influenced by two thoughts. The first is that it would be foolish to risk starters in a meaningless game. The group already practiced in the preseason, and all three starting units appeared to be ready for game one. The second reason regards the need for evaluation. In order to properly evaluate players on the roster bubble, the Ravens needed to give them ample time to prove themselves. The last game of the preseason marks the final opportunity for impressions to be made.
While on the topic of players held off the field, it is important to address Robert Griffin III’s absence from the game. The entire first half of the game was given to Lamar Jackson and the second half to Josh Woodrum. When it was announced that Griffin III would not play, many assumed that it was a sign that the former Heisman trophy winner was bound to make the roster. By Saturday, the answer was revealed. He did make the roster.
Jackson’s offense performed well. The young quarterback was poised during his time on the field. On the very first drive, Jackson led the offense down the field, and into the end zone by virtue of an option run play. Jackson’s accuracy has greatly improved. He threw the ball with much more precision, but still had his off the mark moments. Jackson finished the night completing nine of fifteen passes, for 106 yards. The young passer made his mark, and the Ravens hope he will continue to develop. Josh Woodrum, the star of last year’s preseason, did not receive as many chances to showcase his arm. Regardless of how Woodrum played, he was a sure-fire cut, as the Ravens could not carry four quarterbacks. Woodrum finished the night, and his career in Baltimore, completing three of eight passes, for 37 yards, one interception, and one touchdown. To be fair to Woodrum, one cannot blame him for the interception. The throw was spot on to DeVier Posey, but the former Canadian Football player dropped the ball into the hands of a defensive player.
When it came to the running game, the Ravens rotated responsibilities between three running backs, Kenneth Dixon, De’Lance Turner, and Mark Thompson. Gus Edwards, who impressed Baltimore with his running skills, sat out the night with a foot injury. Edwards, along with Turner, would later be signed to Baltimore’s practice squad. While Dixon provided consistency, devoid of explosiveness, Turner and Thompson supplied it. Both Turner and Thompson displayed their agility and other abilities, through shifty plays where both made players miss. Thompson rushed for 91 yards, and Turner for 53. Their longest rushes of the night were 32 and 28 yards respectively.
Receptions were distributed thoroughly to many receivers. However, the best pass catcher of the night was, without competition, rookie tight end Mark Andrews. Andrews hauled in three passes for 61 yards. His best reception of the night came on a pass from Lamar Jackson. On the subsequent run, Andrews took off, breaking and dodging tackles, and ran for a total gain of 45 yards, into the red zone. The breakout performance by the young tight end out of Oklahoma is vital for the Ravens. Baltimore will be missing the first round talent, Hayden Hurst, for the first couple weeks of the season. Hurst suffered an injury earlier this preseason. With Hurst out, the Ravens needed to find a target for the team’s tight end loving quarterback. Baltimore feels that tight end will be Andrews.
The defense for the Ravens held Washington to 20 points. Standout performers Bronson Kaufusi, Darious Williams, and Kai Nacua all aided Baltimore to the 10 point victory. Kaufusi, although cut by Saturday, consistently pressured Washington quarterback Kevin Hogan. Kaufusi finished the night with eight tackles and two sacks. He was later signed to the Jets practice squad. Williams stood out as a defensive back, which was crucial for his success in making the Ravens roster. Williams batted down passes and provided blanket coverage to opposing receivers. It was, by far, his best game of the preseason. The Ravens needed him to stand out, as roster favorite Stanley Jean-Baptiste sustained an injury. Kai Nacua also provided the Ravens with a great performance. Although he missed some tackles, Nacua made up for it with a stellar interception and touchdown return. Nacua was very popular in the locker room, and many of his teammates, including Eric Weddle, rushed the field to celebrate with him. Despite his performance, Nacua was let go by the Ravens.
Overall, the Ravens played well in the final game of the preseason. The team finished the preseason undefeated. This is not a new occurrence for the Ravens, as Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since the 2015 preseason. If one was to combine the past three preseason records, the Ravens would be 13-0. While this record has no impact on how the Ravens perform in the regular season, it is a reminder for what Baltimore is known for. Great coaching, great drafting, and great depth.