Already in week two of the preseason, the Baltimore Ravens are starting to get a feel for how the roster will shape out over the coming weeks. Baltimore won a tremendous victory over Jacksonville last week, which included exciting plays on both offense and defense. The single performance, while a good indicator for things to come, does not provide enough information for the Ravens to form the final roster now. In week two of the preseason, Baltimore will begin to see the first trends emerge, and players will either ascend the ranks or fall out of the coaches’ favor.
Baltimore will host it’s second home preseason game on Thursday, August 15, at 7:30 PM against the Green Bay Packers. If you are familiar with the Preview & Predictions series, you will know that it always includes the keys to the game and a score prediction. For the preseason rendition of the series, no keys to the game will be given, but key players and positional battles to watch will be.
In last week’s Preview & Predictions article, I mentioned Miles Boykin as a player that needed a solid start to the preseason. Boykin was quickly becoming a fan favorite in Baltimore after a tremendous training camp performance. The abilities he showcased during camp, however, were not exactly on display in Baltimore’s first preseason game. Against the Jaguars, Boykin caught 4 passes – on nine targets. Boykin’s drop tendencies were highlighted in my review of Boykin earlier this month, so it is not surprising he struggled early. Boykin did play better as the game progressed. He caught a touchdown bomb from Trace McSorely, but the play was called back because of a holding call on offensive lineman, Greg Senat.
Solid performance threshold: 3 catches for 30 yards, 0 drops.
Sticking with the wide receiver group, Antoine Wesley is in need of a solid performance against the Green Bay Packers. Wesley is in the middle of a dogfight for a spot on Baltimore’s depth chart. The rooking is competing with the second-year player, Jaleel Scott for the final receiver roster spot. While neither of the two had an outstanding first game, Scott is ahead in the battle as he caught a single pass for 25 yards, while Wesley caught nothing. Wesley needs to build on his training camp success in the second week of the preseason.
Solid performance threshold: 2 catches for 25 yards and/or outperform Jaleel Scott.
Baltimore trusts that Jaylon Ferguson will develop into a top tier pass rusher, that’s why they spent a third-round draft pick on the NCAA’s all-time sack leader. While Jaylon Ferguson has all the talent and potential to succeed at the professional level, he is not expected to be a dominant player this early in his career. Ferguson had a few good moments in the first preseason game but largely remained unnoticeable on the field throughout. Since that game, Ferguson has stepped up in practice, enabling coaches and media members to echo praises of the young pass rusher. If Ferguson is able to make a substantial jump from the first week of the preseason to the second, he could have a legitimate chance to claim the starting edge rusher position.
Solid performance threshold: 1 sack.
Cyrus Jones was able to weave his way onto his hometown team’s roster last year by strictly serving as a return specialist. Entering his second year in Baltimore, Jones will have to compete for his roster spot all over again. Any upper hand he can gain will be valuable. In the first preseason game, Jones played at cornerback, something the true defensive back has rarely done throughout his NFL career. Jones unexpectedly had a great game in the secondary. He recorded a tackle, a pass deflection, and an interception – which he returned for a touchdown. If Jones can produce at both cornerback and return specialist for the Ravens, he will cement his status as a fixture of the roster.
Solid performance threshold: 2 pass deflections, no big plays allowed.
Last week, I pinned Chris Board as a player to watch. The inside linebacker went from undrafted rookie to potential starter in just a little over a year. The expectations for Board may have been a little too high though, as the young insider linebacker barely made an impact in Baltimore’s first preseason game. Board only recorded one tackle, while his inside linebacker counterparts had a field day. Patrick Onwuasor and Alvin Jones recorded 4 total tackles, and Kenny Young recorded six, including a sack that broke Twitter. Needless to say, Chris Board’s one-way train to the starting spot lost momentum, and Board will need to follow this underwhelming performance up with a dominant one.
Solid performance threshold: Record the most tackles of all the inside linebackers, and record one splash play (sack, interception, or big hit).
Prediction: Ravens win 34-19 over Packers.
Baltimore showed that it is still a dominant preseason team with extreme amounts of depth. Green Bay’s roster is not as deep as Baltimore’s.