BALTIMORE — Training camp began two weeks ago for all NFL teams. After two weeks of practice, study, and retention, its time to show off in a game situation. On Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens open up the 2017 preseason against the Washington Redskins. We may not see a lot of the stars we usually vitness on Sundays, but the game gives us an idea of where the team stands in early August.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland
When: Thursday, Aug. 10, 7:30 pm
Banged-Up Birds: It’s no secret that the Ravens endured a rough start to the preseason. Since June 1, Baltimore lost seven players for the season, due to either injury (Tavon Young, Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Kenneth Dixon, Nico Siragusa), retirement (John Urschel), or suspension (Darren Waller). Simultaneously, the Ravens discover themselves dealing with several other injuries that may not end seasons, but still concern us. Joe Flacco (back), Maurice Canady (knee), Breshad Perriman (hamstring), Marlon Humphrey (unknown), and Alex Lewis (unknown) currently stand on the sidelines for various reasons. Flacco injured his back while lifting and has yet to participate in a training camp practice. Canady underwent a knee procedure last week. He will miss a big chunk of, if not all of the 2017 season. Perriman pulled his hamstring last week. No sign of him since. Lewis and Humphrey missed the last couple practices.
Kaepernick talk dying down: Another distraction Baltimore dealt with recently revolves around free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. When Flacco’s injury was announced, Harbaugh spoke positively about his relationship with Kaepernick (John’s brother, Jim, and Ravens Senior Offensive Assistant Greg Roman coached Kaepernick in San Francisco with the 49ers). Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti got pressed about Kaepernick, too. The national media made a huge deal about why the Ravens should bring Kaepernick in, but the fact is, according to Harbaugh, Flacco will not miss any time in the regular season.
Two weeks passed since Flacco’s injury became public. Mixed reports say that Flacco could sit out anywhere between two and six weeks. Because no timetable for Flacco came out yet, the Kaepernick talk fades by the day. The girlfriend of Kaepernick made some harsh comments about Biscotti, so that cannot help the quarterback’s quest for a new NFL home.
Quarterback situation: In Flacco’s absence, Ryan Mallett runs with the starters. In a normal preseason game one scenario, Flacco would play one series, if any. Because no one knows Flacco’s return timetable, Mallett may only stay in for a series or two. It seems unwise to keep Mallett in any longer than a quarter on Thursday.
Since we won’t see a lot of Mallett in this game, I hope everyone’s ready for a lot of Dustin Vaugahn and Josh Woodrum. Both of these guys went undrafted and own more than one year of experience. Unless Flacco’s back injury lingers into the season, neither Vaugahn or Woodrum will make the team.
The coaching staff likely wants plenty of film on these two incase they need to carry one on the roster. If you do not know these names, you will by the end of the game.
Undrafted receivers impressing: Every season brings a new wave of undrafted rookies trying to make the team. So far in camp, a lot of beat writers rave about two players who did not hear their name called on draft day – Quincy Adeboyejo from Mississippi and Tim White from Arizona State.
Both of these guys can take the top off a defense. White, although not over six feet tall, comes to the Ravens as a former track and field star at Arizona State. Last year, he competed in the Olympic Track and Field Trials. He came up just shy of qualifying for the Olympic Games.
Reporters, like Ryan Mink of the Ravens, call White “a human highlight reel” early on in camp. Videos emerged of White doing a backflip after catching a touchdown at Saturday’s practice any Navy. White’s probably one of the most athletic players on the roster.
Adeboyejo shares another interesting story. He claims that 15 NFL teams recruited him, but he chose the Ravens because of his relationship with receivers coach Bobby Engram. Turns out, Engram previously coached Adeboyejo at the East-West Shrine Game. That relationship seems to pay dividends for Adeboyejo right now.
Keep in mind that we hear stories like this every year about undrafted players. What they’ve accomplished so far in camp should not go unnoticed, but for them to make the team, they need to flash in the games. Too many undrafted players shine early in camp and disappear once the preseason games start. Thursday will indicate whether or not White and Adeboyejo can actually play in the NFL.
Young players on defense: Patrick Ricard, undrafted rookie defensive end from Maine, also deserves some recognition for his efforts. At 6’3″, 300 pounds, Ricard looks the part. Both Head Coach John Harbaugh and Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees muttered his name at press conferences, displaying their enthusiasm for the young defender.
Ricard will need a great camp to make the team. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun noted that 2015 third round pick Carl Davis and 2016 fourth round pick Willie Henry are having solid camps too. 2016 third round pick Bronson Kaufusi and 2017 third round pick Chris Wormley also find themselves in the mix for defensive end spots. In the first depth chart released for the 2017 season, the Ravens listed Brent Urban in the starting defensive end position. Both starting defensive ends from 2016, Lawrence Guy and Timmy Jernigan, departed in the offseason. There’s a lot of depth at that position to fill those shoes.
Linebacker, both inside and in the pass rush, includes a lot of youth. Outside of Terrell Suggs, no pass rusher on the roster owns more than two years of experience. Rookies Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser look the part, and will push Matt Judon and Za’Darius Smith in games.
The defense, in need of someone to replace Zachary Orr next to C.J. Mosley, will look to 2016 second rounder Kamalei Correa to do that. Correa fought through a rough transition to the NFL, but says that this camp slowed down compared to last year. Look for all of the young rushers and Correa to get a lot of time on Thursday.
What to make of the return game: Last season, the Ravens suffered in the return game because Devin Hester looked washed up. Since Jacoby Jones left following the 2014 season, the Ravens continue to search for a dynamic returner.
The first depth chart of 2017 lists Chris Moore as the starting kick returner, and Michael Campanero the top punt returner. Campanero follows Moore on kicks, and Lardarius Webb locks in at second on the punt return chart. Keenan Reynolds appears third on the list for both points and kicks.
The Ravens know what Webb can do on special teams, and he may not even play on Thursday. Given Campanero’s injury history, the coaching staff may hold him out too. Moore and Reynolds need a lot of reps at returner this preseason. Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg, also the assistant head coach, does not want Harbaugh up in arms about the return game again.
According to reports, Tim White took reps at returner too. With his speed and athleticism, he could evolve into the dynamic returner the Ravens need. Moore and Reynolds will likely see a lot of reps at returner in the first preseason game, but White should come into the picture once he gets more practice reps.
Notes on the Redskins:
- Over the offseason, quarterback Kirk Cousins became the first player ever to play under the executive franchise tag two years in a row. At the end of this season, the Redskins paid over $43 million to Cousins in two years.
- 2016 first round receiver Josh Doctson, who missed his rookie year with an achilles injury, tweaked his hamstring over the weekend. He will probably not play in this game.
- The Redskins lost both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, but the team upgraded by signing Terrell Pryor to a one-year contract. Jamison Crowder showed great improvement in 2016 with 97 receptions, 847 yards, and seven touchdowns. With Pryor as the clear #1, if Crowder builds off last season and Doctson stays healthy, this receiving unit will do great things.
- Statistically, the Redskins ranked 28th in total defense last season and 24th in rushing. Washington addressed that in the offseason. They signed defensive end Stacy McGee and defensive tackle Terrell McClain. They used their first round draft pick on Alabama DT Jonathan Allen. Like the Ravens, Washington used a lot of their early picks on defense, displaying their desire to improve this season.
Image Credit: Redskins Wire