Ravens v. Redskins: Preseason Game No. 5
What’s up flock! The preseason is finally coming to an end and the regular season is just beyond the horizon. I can’t wait!
Now, it would be easy to write off the final preseason game and focus on the season opener. No one would blame you; after all, we probably won’t see many starters on the field. Except that, you would be completely wrong.
This game is the final opportunity for bubble players to complicate the 53-man roster cuts or build a highlight tape for other teams looking for scraps on Saturday. Ahead of the game, tonight, I have compiled a list of things to be on the lookout for and what each means for our season opener against the Bills.
Wide Receiver Battles
Currently, according to the Ravens’ website depth chart, the Ravens have eleven wide receivers on the roster. Willie Snead IV, Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Chris Moore, Tim White, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant, DeVier Posey, Andre Levrone and Quincy Adeboyejo. Through three preseason games none of these wide outs have stepped up behind the starting four of Snead, Crabtree, Brown and Moore. Last week against Miami, Lasley, White, Grant and Posey, looked better than previous weeks – but none of their play inspired the same confidence I have in our starters. Tonight’s game will be a make-or-break game for more than a few of these players and it will be imperative to see some improvement at the WR5 and WR6 positions if the Ravens are going to enjoy a revamped passing attack that will make or break this season.
As far as quarterback battles go, this wasn’t the one NFL talking heads expected to come out of this offseason. It’s almost a fallacy to say that this is a battle so much as a rehearsal for a 3QB team. The Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks into the regular season since 2009. But, I argue, that this is the season to depart from our staunch and often unwavering adherence to this established principle.
By that I mean, all bets off – what can we do to win. Three quarterbacks gives the Ravens the best edge to win games now, and in the future. Allowing Lamar Jackson, who showed improvement against lesser talent in the Miami game, to continue his development without added expectations (YEAH I’M LOOKING AT YOU RAVENS TWITTER HEADS) can bring him up to NFL speed while being able to watch Flacco and Griffin in different real-time-game situations.
Griffin is playing for his roster spot tonight and seeing him excel here would go a long way to cementing the backup situation going into the season. A strong showing against the Washington defense would be correlated to a stronger performance against Micha Hyde and the 10 high schoolers the Bills are fielding as a defense.
Offensive Line Depth
This unit has had a choppy preseason that mostly trended negative. Over the first four preseason games the offensive line gave up 17 sacks. While they managed to keep that total under 8 after the first game, they have looked poor in pass protection. I am looking for this unit to step up in the last game of the preseason and protect RG3 and Jackson as well as open good running lanes. Hopefully, we will see offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris’ second and third string linemen step up and put depth and talent concerns to rest. I will be scrutinizing this unit thoroughly in the coming days. Our tackle play against rushers in this game will be of note as containing the Bills meagre pass rush in week 1 will be of the utmost importance.
Running Back Stock
Gus Edwards and Mark Thompson have run hard this preseason. The UDFAs from Rutgers and Florida respectively are trying to play their way on to the 53-man roster and usurp our current RB3 Kenneth “captain crutch” Dixon. It’s completely feasible. Edwards and Thompson have both had flashes this preseason. In Dixon’s defense, he has the potential to be a crucial situational back and Edwards was out of practice Tuesday with an apparent foot injury. Tonight’s game could be an opportunity for Thompson to assert himself as roster-worthy or become an IR stash, especially if Edwards isn’t 100 percent. Either way, watching this battle will be interesting as it might not affect the opener against the Bills, but it could offer a downstream view of the Ravens 2019 draft targets.
Inside Linebacker Stock
The battle between Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor has been a hot topic this off season. I’m not sure if that speaks to the ability of Young or a small regression in Onwuasor. Tonight’s game will be telling as to which linebacker can make the final push for week 1. Kenny brings a slight height / weight advantage over Onwuasor and in my own opinion a better nose in the run game and closing speed on TEs – which, incidentally (and once again) the Ravens have failed to cover effectively this preseason.
The final piece to our puzzle will be getting out of our fifth preseason game without seriously thinning our second and third team rosters. Miami was a tough game to watch and losing DeShon Elliot, a hard-hitting and high-upside talent, wasn’t worth that win. Limiting tweaks and bumps tonight, against Washington, will go a long way to preparing the team for their first test of the season against Buffalo.
The final preseason showdown against Washington will set the stage and tone for week one. The Ravens have an opportunity to put an exclamation point on a good preseason and set the stage for a surprising 2018 campaign.