Ravens football is back! For the first time this year, the Ravens are set to battle it out on the gridiron. Although it is just a preseason game, it is still very exciting. It is the first time since December that the Ravens compete on the field, and the preseason is also an opportunity to watch the developing storylines of this offseason.
Some of these questions are very intriguing, such as: How does Lamar Jackson look? Who will lead the wide receiver corps? How does the linebacker depth chart shape out? Who will win the returner position? And which undrafted rookies have a shot at making the roster? All of these questions will be addressed in the upcoming extra long five-game preseason. In the preseason version of Preview & Predictions, we will take a look at key players on the Ravens and internal positional competitions, while also predicting the outcome of the game.
Lamar Jackson v.s. Robert Griffin III
It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens plan to make Lamar Jackson the future of the franchise. The key word of that sentence is “future”. He is obviously not the present face of the franchise. In fact, he is currently listed behind Robert Griffin III on the quarterback depth chart. This raises questions about Jackson, who many just assumed would become the immediate backup quarterback. Jackson needs to prove himself on the field this preseason if he wants to enter the 2018 campaign as second in command of the offense. To clarify, he does not need to excel in this upcoming game but needs to show obvious improvement and progression from game one to game five. If that does not occur, or he regresses, the Ravens may have to turn to Griffin III as the second string this year. Although it would not hurt Jackson long term, it would be a bad omen for the start of his career.
Which Receivers Stand Out?
It is doubtful that all of the wide receivers will play in this game. It would be completely unsurprising if Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown all sat this game out. However, of the remaining receivers, who will stand out on top. It is crucial for all on the depth chart under the top three to perform well this preseason. Breshad Perriman once thought to be the future of the Ravens offense, is now on the roster bubble. Tim White, DeVier Posey, Janarion Grant, Jaelon Acklin, and Andre Levrone are all fighting for a roster position. The two draft picks Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott are safe from being cut but are competing for a chance to climb the latter early. With the heavy competition, someone is bound to stand out. The question, is who will?
Inside Linebacker Competition
The inside linebacker position is in the middle of a fierce battle for the starting gig next to C.J. Mosley. In the thick of the fight is last year’s starter, Patrick Onwuasor, and rookie Kenny Young. Young, an adept linebacker with both coverage and tackling ability, is challenging Onwuasor for his position. Onwuasor played decently for the Ravens, but his coverage ability was not the best. The competition at inside linebacker is a key one to watch this offseason and will be a major storyline in the first preseason game.
Which Returner Makes an Impression Early?
Another fierce battle taking place deep in the Ravens depth chart is at the kick and punt returner position. The battle is between second-year receiver Tim White and rookie Janarion Grant. White last year greatly impressed but broke his thumb before the season even started. Now, he and Grant are in a fight to win over the kick and punt returner position, which has not seen consistent success since Jacoby Jones. This competition will last nearly the entire preseason, so it is crucial for one of these two players to get off to an early lead.
The Baltimore Ravens are accustomed to finding great success with the undrafted rookies the team signs. Each year for the past 14, the Ravens have kept at least one undrafted rookie on the final roster. The ability to find great undrafted rookies is simply unparalleled in the National Football Leauge. The Ravens have a lot of undrafted players looking to make their mark on the team, and the preseason is the best place to prove themselves. It will be interesting to see which of the undrafted rookies stand out this Thursday, and through the rest of the preseason.
Predictions for the preseason are a bit more difficult than for regular season games, especially for the first of the preseason. The way games are conducted and strategized in the preseason is different than in the regular season, and many players just don’t play. So without knowing who is slated to play and who is slated to sit the game out, we will simply predict the score, along with predicting performances by players in key battles that will undoubtedly play.
Lamar Jackson will struggle in his first preseason game, and not score any points, while Robert Griffin III scores two touchdowns, and Josh Woodrum leads a field goal drive. Jordan Lasley will lead the Ravens with receiving yards and one touchdown, while Tim White also performs well. Griffin’s second touchdown comes on an outside scramble in the red zone. Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young are fairly matched, but Onwuasor’s experience manifests itself. Janarion Grant looks like the better of the two returners early, with a 45-yard return in the second half. Ravens are impressed with many of the undrafted rookies, specifically Janarion Grant, Mark Thompson, and Gus Edwards.