The Baltimore Ravens are coming off of a nail-biter victory on Monday night. The Ravens defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a margin of just one point. The final score was 20 – 19 in the Ravens favor. While the Ravens played in two very close games this preseason, Baltimore is moving on to face a team seldom considered competition. Since 2008, the dawn of the Harbaugh-Flacco era, the Ravens have defeated the Miami Dolphins seven out of eight times. The only Miami victory came in 2015 when many starters including Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith Sr, and Terrell Suggs all sat out with injuries. The Ravens faced off against Miami in two regular season games since that point. In 2016, the Ravens defeated the Dolphins 38-6, and in 2017, 40-0. As the Ravens look to renew dominance in Miami, here are five key areas to watch tonight.
Lamar Jackson’s Progression
Lamar Jackson, once touted by many as a threat to Joe Flacco’s job, has only proved himself incapable of taking through his performance in the preseason. The Ravens saw Lamar Jackson as a project quarterback, and it appears that the assessment was correct. Lamar Jackson will require a significant amount of training before he can take the field as a starting quarterback. This begs the question of whether or not the Ravens can depend on him as the backup quarterback. Joe Flacco will likely be fine at the helm, but his health is a concern. In 2015, Flacco tore his ACL, and in 2017, suffered a back injury that lingered into the season. The Ravens had no choice but to play Flacco through that injury, as the team had no backup outside of Ryan Mallet to depend upon. If Flacco is to go down again, Lamar Jackson may hinder Baltimore’s chances of winning in a crucial year. He needs to continue to progress, and show he can at least hold the fort down as the signal caller.
Ravens Secondary Depth
The recent news that star cornerback Jimmy Smith will start the year suspended puts the Ravens at a disadvantage. Historically, the Ravens win more with Smith on the field than off the field. Bearing this in mind in a crucial year, the Ravens need to determine who can fill the gap while Smith sits on the bench for four weeks. Baltimore has great depth in the secondary. Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr will likely start for the team in Smith’s absence. Tavon Young will fill in the slot role, and Anthony Averett and Maurice Canady fill in as depth defensive backs. Baltimore may want to keep an additional cornerback on the roster as Smith is suspended. The team will look to find that player in the preseason. The current leader for the slot is Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who so far in the preseason, has shown great ability. He will battle for the role, as the Ravens also keep free agents like Brashaud Breeland and Lardarius Webb in mind.
Ravens Tight Ends
As if the suspension of Jimmy Smith was not enough bad news, Baltimore was hit with the loss of Hayden Hurst. The first round tight end suffered a stress fracture in his foot and is set to miss three to four weeks. Although Hurst could return by the third game, the Ravens need to plan for the first two games, as Hurst was expected to become a starter by day one. Baltimore already has an insurance policy for tight ends. The Ravens drafted pass-catching tight end Mark Andrews in the third round of the draft. Baltimore also has Nick Boyle on the roster, who has grown a rapport with his fellow Delaware Blue Hen, Joe Flacco, over the past few years. Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle, and Darren Waller will all compete for a spot on the roster in the remaining two preseason games as well. The best tight ends will make the roster to fill in for Hayden Hurst.
Ravens Wide Receivers
It was a tale of two halves for the Ravens wide receivers against the Indianapolis Colts. The starting receivers for the Ravens played extraordinarily well with Joe Flacco passing them the ball. The Ravens have no issue with the top four receivers, Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, and Chirs Moore, but are less confident in the depth receivers. The receivers competing for the roster, Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, Breshad Perriman, Tim White, and Janarion Grant, more than disappointed on Monday night. The game was filled with miscues, drops, and fumbles. The Ravens desperately desire a receiver the team can develop in the future, and expected at least two in the group to provide that option. However, with recent performances, all have lost stock, and each will need to battle back up in the remaining two games.
Kick Return Specialists
In a similar situation to the wide receiver group, the kick and punt return specialist position is up for grabs. The two main competitors, Tim White and Janarion Grant, were poised to battle it out to the end of the preseason. However, against the Colts, both made crucial mistakes that give the Ravens reason to worry moving forward. Both White and Grant need to correct the mistakes moving forward and prevent unnecessary turnovers. If neither can improve, Baltimore will simply move on to another player to take over the position.
The Baltimore Ravens will bounce back from a game too close for comfort last week. The Flacco led offense will score two touchdowns, one through the air, and one on the ground. Lamar Jackson will pass for a touchdown as well. The Jackson scoring drive will start on the Miami 40 yard line after Tavon Young intercepts David Fales. Fales and Osweiler will each throw one interception. Osweiler’s will go to Maurice Canady. Robert Griffin III will score one touchdown through the air to Jordan Lasley. Baltimore’s final touchdown will come off a punt return from Janarion Grant.