Thursday night’s preseason Week 1 game is exciting for just about everyone.
For the fans, we’ll have the opportunity to watch our beloved Ravens hit the field for the first time since they fell to the Los Angeles Chargers in January. For the coaches, they’ll get their first look at the team in a true competitive atmosphere after a long stretch of practices. For the players, they’ll have one of their biggest chances to show why they deserve to be a part of the Baltimore Ravens roster – by far, their stakes are the highest.
So, focusing on that group, I think it’s important to note the players I think most need strong performances against Jacksonville, that way we can all keep an eye on them after kickoff.
Without further ado, I’ll take us through the names one-by-one.
LG: Hurst, Eluemunor, & Powers
After the Ravens traded injury-prone Alex Lewis to the New York Jets on Monday, this position battle was whittled down to a very intriguing three-horse race. First, in the case of Hurst, the Ravens have a player with a sizable contract who has experience in the role, which could give him the upper hand.
At the same time, Eluemunor has been running with the first team for a great deal of the summer. Supposedly, though he’s had his struggles in the past, he’s looking quite strong.
Finally, Ben Powers represents a younger option with the potential to grow. Personally, I think he could be a nice fit, but I think the Ravens may decide to give him some time before slotting him in between Skura and Stanley.
Regardless, the chase for LG seems tight, meaning a good game by any of these three players could move them to the top of the pecking order.
CB/RS Cyrus Jones
I’d say that when you’re kicked out of a practice by your head coach, you’ve been put on the hot seat when it comes to making the roster. That’s the situation in which Cyrus Jones finds himself going into Thursday’s bout with the Jaguars. Making matters worse, Jones was already going to have a difficult time making the team this year. While he provided a much-needed spark at the return position last year, his inability to play on defense makes him a difficult keep for the coaches to justify, especially given the other names they’ll be looking to keep in the secondary.
For me, Jones is on the outside looking in, but if he can put together a really strong performance both in the return game and on defense, he might bring himself inside the bubble.
QB Trace McSorley
Every game this preseason is an opportunity for Trace McSorley to make a case that the Ravens should keep three QBs on the roster, but with RGIII down due to injury, he has a bigger opportunity than ever. On Thursday night McSorley should enjoy a great deal of playing time at his college position, while also being thrown in different spots on special teams or who knows where else.
If he plays well in gadget situations, returns the ball effectively, and throws the ball at a decent clip, he’ll make the fans and coaches wonder if he just might be worth a roster spot.
OLB: Bowser, Williams, Ray & McPhee
Similar to the LG position, there’s a glut of players at OLB or EDGE who are fighting both to make the team and to receive playing time. After losing Terrell Suggs, Baltimore is in search of a man they can count on opposite Matt Judon to take the pass rush to the next level. Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams are former high draft picks who need to step up. For Shane Ray & Pernell McPhee, it’s an opportunity to show they can recapture some of their former magic.
While I have my doubts about any of the current players really being a double-digit sack kind of player, I do think that some combination of these four, along with a nice rookie year out of Jaylon Ferguson, could help the defense improve over last year in this area.
At the same time, it’s also unlikely that all four of these names make the team, which is why it’ll be key for them to make an impact from the get-go.
WR Miles Boykin
If you’ve been following training camp at all, you’ve heard about the impression Boykin is making with his fast start. From all I’ve heard, he’s fast, big, smart, and explosive, giving him even more potential than the Ravens may have imagined when they drafted him. Certainly, Boykin looks like he could make more of an immediate impact than they’d thought. However, despite all the chunk plays or strong hands he’s shown to date, everything could be for naught if he can’t do it on gamedays. NFL lore is littered with players who looked great in shorts, then shriveled when the pads went on.
This Thursday will be a great test for him, and against a good Jacksonville secondary, I’d love to see him get some snaps against the first team defense to show what he can do at the highest level, albeit in the preseason. If he shows the same ability this preseason that he has in practices, he might just put the rest of the league on notice.
Obviously, a strong performance for any fringe player will be key in any of the four upcoming preseason games. Other than fine tuning for the veterans, that’s all it’s really about – young guys catching eyes. But, when you really think about who needs it most, these names come to mind. They don’t necessarily all have their roster spots on the line (Boykin will make the team even if he has a tough preseason), but they could really see their stocks climb with great showings.
We’ll see if they make it happen.
submitted by Aidan Griesser. Read more of his work at Eutaw Street Report.