The journey is nearly complete. After months of waiting in an offseason that felt like it would never end, the NFL season is just around the corner. But before the Ravens can jump into the soon-to-be action-packed 2019 season, Baltimore must first complete its final preseason outing. The Ravens will make the short trip down the Beltway to meet the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field at 7:30 PM to close out the preseason.
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.
Left Guard Battle
The Baltimore Ravens have yet to settle on a starter at the left guard position, but as the team heads into the final game of the preseason, there is more clarity than ever. On Wednesday, Baltimore shipped out Jermaine Eluemunor to the New England Patriots, thus eliminating one of the contenders for the spot. Now, just James Hurst and rookie Ben Powers remain. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens distribute playtime between the two in the final preseason game. Whoever comes out on top will have the advantage in the final stages of the positional battle.
Trace McSorely lit up the field last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. His outstanding performance quickly pushed him from a roster bubble player to the forefront of the conversation. Some even suggest that the Ravens should move on from the injury-prone backup, Robert Griffin III, in favor of Trace McSorely. While that is almost certain to not happen, the Ravens are intrigued by the potentials Trace McSorely brings to the team. The idea the Ravens had for McSorely was to use him at other places on the team, not just at quarterback. Baltimore hoped he could fill in on special teams, and maybe on defense and as a blocker or receiver on offense. McSorely never got the opportunity to try these roles out in the preseason, as Griffin’s injury forced him to fill in at quarterback. If McSorely plays well in the final preseason game, and these potential roles remain untested, Baltimore may keep him as a third quarterback and test him elsewhere throughout the season.
Solid performance threshold: 150 yards passing, 1 touchdown, no interceptions.
Is Jaleel Scott turning into a playmaker? Last week against the Eagles, Scott had a few big catches along the sideline that turned the heads of everyone in the stadium. One was called back for a bogus interference call, but the other was ruled a touchdown. Scott’s performance this preseason boosted his chances of making the roster from mediocre, to good, to great. Scott is now almost a lock, but he will need to finish out the preseason strong. A solid game against the Redskins will ultimately put him in position to make Baltimore his home this season.
Solid performance threshold: 2 catches, 25 yards, no drops.
Kenneth Dixon needs a big game. Plain and simple. Baltimore is not likely to keep four running backs on the roster, and Dixon is being outplayed by the younger Justice Hill. Dixon’s injury that kept him off the field last week against the Eagles pushed him further towards being cut, as the Ravens have never been able to rely on him being healthy. Dixon will need to play lights out in the final preseason game if he is to make this roster. Otherwise, he will be cut.
Solid performance threshold: 10 carries, 50 yards, 1 touchdown, no fumbles, no injuries.
Inside Linebacker Battle
Chris Board returned to practice after coming out of concussion protocol and will be available for Thursday night’s game. This makes the battle at inside linebacker all the more significant. Baltimore now has Board back, who was the odds-on favorite to earn the starting gig next to Patrick Onwuasor. But Board could easily be passed by Kenny Young, the former draft pick out of UCLA, who’s made a few big plays this preseason. The final game will essentially determine who the starter is.
Who’s Not Playing
Perhaps the most important storyline of the fourth and final preseason game will be focused off the field. The Ravens are expected to rest the vast majority of starters, and if a player on deeply involved in a positional battle is held off the field, it may mean that the Ravens are preparing to start him. That being said, the absence of a player can also indicate an injury. Either way, it will be important to note who is on and off the field on Thursday night.
Prediction: Ravens defeat the Redskins 24-21
In a close battle, the Ravens remain preseason champs.