Once again, the Baltimore Ravens are undefeated in the preseason. The Ravens have won every preseason game since 2016, twelve games in a row. Baltimore enters the final week of the preseason, hoping to defeat the Washington Redskins. Although that if not for the long win streak this game would seem meaningless for the Ravens, it is full of meaning for many of the players. The preseason is about roster battles, and there are still unresolved ones. While many players are set to make the roster, others are not, and are trying to make an impression on other teams. Here are five key things to watch this Thursday.
Consistency for Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson in his first three preseason games performed so poorly, the national conversation drifted away from him for the first time since April. That being said, the Ravens understand what type of player the team drafted. Jackson is a project quarterback, who will not be ready for at least a year. That being said, the Ravens hoped that Jackson would at least be able to provide for the team as a backup quarterback. The first three games disabused the Ravens of the idea, and many speculated that the team would turn towards Robert Griffin III. However, after Jackson’s spectacular performance Saturday night against the Dolphins, the Ravens may reconsider him as the second string quarterback. It all depends on his performance this Thursday night. Jackson needs to prove himself consistent, and able to lead an offense more than once. If he does, he may be the backup, but if not, he could find himself behind Griffin.
Final Wide Receiver Battle
The war at the wide receiver position is heading into the last battle. As Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, and Chris Moore are all locks, there are four players looking to fill in the last two spots on the roster. The Ravens want to keep a wide receiver the team can develop. The final four candidates for the two slots are Tim White, Janarion Grant, Breshad Perriman, and Jordan Lasley. The fight can be broken up into two segments. Tim White and Janarion Grant are fighting for one spot. That spot consists not only of a wide receiver position but the starting kick return job as well. Both White and Grant are competing for the same slot, and it is the ticket to the roster for either one. Currently, Grant has the lead, as he has shown he is a more electric returner. Perriman and Lasley are currently fighting for the other spot, but Lasley is basically a lock at this point. The Ravens spent a fifth-round pick on him, and he seems more promising than Breshad Perriman at this point. The game on Thursday will either go to solidify these sentiments or break them.
Linebacker Competition Finale
For the entire preseason, there has been a competition between Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young for the second starting inside linebacker position. For the first three games, neither Onwuasor or Young broke out over the other. Both were in a dead heat in the race for the position. However, against the Dolphins, Kenny Young finally pulled away from Patrick Onwuasor, playing better than Baltimore’s starter in 2017. The performance could just be a one-off event, or it could be the start of Young’s reign as starting inside linebacker. While Young has the advantage heading into the final preseason game, Onwuasor could recapture his position. If Onwuasor plays better than Young, the Ravens will have major decisions to make. But if Young outplays Onwuasor come Thursday night, the position will be all but in the bag for the rookie from UCLA.
Ravens rookie first rounder, Hayden Hurst will miss time early in the season. With that being said, the Ravens need to determine whether or not the team needs an extra tight end for the start of the season. Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle are both locks to make the roster. Andrews is a versatile pass catcher, and Boyle is an exceptional blocker. But having just two tight ends on the roster leaves Baltimore thin. The team is likely to keep three while Hurst is recovering. The final spot will go to either Maxx Williams or Vince Mayle. While Williams is a former second-round pick, he never produced the way Baltimore hoped he would. Last year, Mayle was a solid option for Joe Flacco in the passing game, but he was not a regular feature of the offense. Both of these two players will battle it out Thursday night to determine who will make the roster.
Players Looking to Find New Homes
Inevitably, the Baltimore Ravens cannot keep all 90 players on the roster. As a result, many players will need to audition for other teams in order to keep their careers alive. Thursday night is the final time to do so. Quarterback Robert Griffin III is not a guarantee to make the roster. Should he be cut, he has a chance of being picked up by another team. Gus Edwards, the undrafted rookie running back, is in a similar situation. The Ravens will likely keep just three running backs, and Edwards is currently on the outside looking in. His performance in the preseason, however, gives him a chance to find a new home on another team, if not Baltimore’s practice squad. Breshad Perriman is almost a sure-fire cut, but his elite speed will not go unnoticed, despite his issues with catching the ball. DeVier Posey may also find himself surrounded by suitors. The former CFL receiver may be considered a project for other teams. Finally, there’s Kaare Vedvik. Vedvik has stood out as both a placekicker and punter for Baltimore this preseason. However, the team cannot hold on to him. He will look to find a starting job elsewhere in the league.
It is still unknown which starters the Ravens may play and which may be kept out. For that reason, the only prediction being made will be the score.