Preseason finale offers last public glimpse at offseason Ravens
The public — as well as Ravens decision-makers and personnel people across these fruited plains — gets one more look at the 2021 preseason edition of the Baltimore Ravens with their Saturday evening matchup against the Washington Whatchamacallits.
For many of these players, it is one more opportunity to “put something on film” in hopes of extending their fledgling careers, or hanging on for “one more year in the sun.” For others, it’s trying to convince coaches that more playing time is warranted, or to convince the higher-ups that there is no need to make a move for a replacement.
So, yeah, it means a lot to a good number of these players.
There’s also the somewhat-kind-of-maybe-a-little-bit-interesting subplot of a 20th consecutive preseason victory, which would move the Ravens into sole possession of the longest exhibition win streak in NFL history. That, and about $75, gets you a cup of coffee these days.
And, look, let’s be honest here — those in charge of making the real decisions in Ravensland have a much clearer idea on precisely what they are looking for in Saturday night’s game than the rest of us. They’ve watched the film from the first two games, along with every practice held to this point. They’ve sat in meeting rooms with the players, watched their levels of development or regression and have a very clear idea exactly what they need to see, and from whom, in this preseason finale.
The rest of us? We’re winging it, basically. We know what we think we know. We participate in the “groupthink” chambers of social media and barroom think tanks, and we combine those sources of information with what we have been able to see with our own eyes. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s part of the joy of being a fan. We “play coach” during games. We “play GM” throughout the year. We dress up in Captain America gear and hop on public buses under the ruse of keeping everyone safe.
Regardless, we invest ourselves in the decisions that need to be made for our favorite teams, and for many of us, that means the Baltimore Ravens. So, with the understanding that what I think means less than nothing to John Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta and the rest of the powers-that-be in Ravens HQ, here’s what I’m looking at specifically on Saturday night:
- Will Lamar Jackson get on the field, or will the team have Tyler Huntley take all the snaps? Huntley, in my opinion, has locked down the second spot (at least until Trace McSorley returns from injury), and I’m not sure he has much more to prove. The goal here is to get everyone out of this thing healthy, particularly at the quarterback position. But with the offensive line returning to health, it probably makes sense for Jackson to get on the field, at least a little bit. The guess is that if he does, the Ravens will be passing to get him reps, as opposed to using any kind of actual game-day strategy.
- Speaking of that offensive line, this is where I believe a lot of the final decisions will be taking place. Will there be three Bens on the opening roster? Just how many guys will stick on the team? Is there a viable swing tackle on this unit? Who in the world will be starting out at left guard? Most importantly, will this unit not be the team’s Achilles’ Heel this year? Also, is it bad juju to use the word “Achilles” during the NFL offseason?
- Is there an actual competition for that third running-back spot, or is the hype much ado about nothing?
- Does Jaylon Ferguson make this team? Pernell McPhee? Is Chris Smith a wild card? With the numbers game at offensive line and the defensive backfield, do the Ravens have to go short on the defensive front? Or linebacker?
- The trade of Shaun Wade loosened part of the logjam in the defensive backfield, but there are still tough decisions to be made. Are preseason darlings Chris Westry and Ar’Darius Washington going to break camp with the team? Does Anthony Levine man his familiar position with the team, or does he embark on his next adventure?
- Salsa or queso? Help me out here.