The Baltimore Ravens have reached the midway point of the preseason schedule after last night’s 20-19 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
The win kept the Ravens undefeated in the preseason moving their record to 3-0. The team will travel to Miami Gardens, Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins this Saturday night before finishing up their preseason slate at home against the Washington Redskins on August 30.
Let’s assess where the Ravens stand in preparation for the regular season opener on September 9 against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.
Quarterback Joe Flacco and the first team offense have produced touchdown drives in each of the two games in which they have been featured prominently. Flacco is 12-of-16 with 143 yards and two passing touchdowns; one to fullback Patrick Ricard and one to free agent newcomer John “Smokey” Brown. Flacco is finally healthy after injury problems each of the last two seasons and he appears poised for a bounce-back season.
The Ravens pass rush has been extremely disruptive in the preseason to-date. They have produced 12 sacks in three games so far. Third-year linebacker Kamalei Correa picked up three sacks in the Hall of Fame game against the Bears. Prominent pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Tim Williams have two sacks apiece and Tyus Bowser, Matt Judon, and Za’Darius Smith have each picked up a sack. Rookie Zach Sieler and Bennett Jackson round out the dozen.
Rookie offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has improved every week of the preseason so far. After struggling in the Hall of Fame game, the third-round pick out of Oklahoma has progressed significantly over the last two games. Brown Jr. leads the offense in snap count this preseason and it appears that he is being given every opportunity to become the Ravens starting right tackle in week one against the Bills.
The Ravens had managed to dodge the injury bug leading up to last night’s game against the Colts. Their luck ran out last night as starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley sustained a “knee strain” while blocking on the extra point after the Brown touchdown catch. Stanley would leave the game and head to the Ravens locker room. This is an injury concern that the Ravens can ill afford. Stanley ranks as my third most important Raven outside of Flacco and starting right guard Marshal Yanda. Coach John Harbaugh didn’t indicate that it was anything of major concern after the game but it is worth monitoring moving forward.
Both of the favorites to win the kick/punt returner role for the Ravens fumbled in last night’s contest. Tim White, widely considered to be the favorite, fumbled the opening punt of the night which allowed the Colts to take over inside the red zone. This theoretically opened the door for Janarion Grant to wrestle the job away from White but the undrafted rookie out of Rutgers put the ball on the turf around midfield early in the third quarter. The Ravens could turn to Chris Moore or Willie Snead if White and Grant prove unable to be relied upon. Add a blocked punt to the special teams night and coach Harbaugh had quite a lot to be steaming about.
Hours before kickoff last night, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic reported that the Ravens were bracing for a multi-week suspension to be levied against starting cornerback Jimmy Smith for a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Smith, 30, was suspended for four games last season for a PED violation. He served the suspension while he was out with a torn Achilles and worked hard this offseason to be ready for the start of training camp. His checkered injury history coupled with the suspension history has many questioning if the juice is still worth the squeeze at this point. The Ravens could save $9 million against the cap next season by moving on from Smith and with depth at the position, Smith could be entering his last season in Baltimore.
To be determined
The Ravens quarterback situation is a fluid one through the first three weeks of the preseason. Flacco will obviously be the team’s starter but it remains to be seen who will be the backup and furthermore how many quarterbacks will make the 53-man roster. Robert Griffin III has performed admirably and has earned his spot on the team. Rookie Lamar Jackson has been uneven to date and particularly struggled last night, starting the game 3-of-10 and looking wildly inaccurate throughout.
Much can change between now and the season opener. But as the Ravens stand today, they need to carry three quarterbacks into the 2018 season.
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