Three things to watch for as the Ravens head to Miami

The Baltimore Ravens will look to push their preseason record to 4-0 as they head to Miami Gardens, Florida to take on the Dolphins in preseason game number four at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday night.

The biggest stories heading into this game are surrounding cornerback Jimmy Smith and left tackle Ronnie Stanley.  Smith was suspended four games due to a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy dating back to an alleged domestic violence dispute with an ex-girlfriend. He is eligible to play in the remainder of the preseason and it appears that he will.

As far as Stanley is concerned, the Ravens left tackle is unlikely to appear in any of the final two preseason games as he is recovering from a right knee strain suffered in the 20-19 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Couple that with the continued absence of right guard Marshal Yanda and the absence of right tackle James Hurst from practices this week and it is possible that three of the five projected offensive line starters will not play Saturday night.

With all of that being said, here are three things to watch for in preseason game number four for the Ravens.

1) Who steps up on the offensive line?

With the absences on the offensive line, it will be intriguing to see if any of the Ravens younger offensive linemen can step up. Orlando Brown Jr. is an option to start at left tackle Saturday, but many believe he is better suited to play right tackle at the NFL level. It is also a lot for the Ravens to ask of Brown Jr. to move back to the left side after taking every rep at right tackle to this point in his NFL career.

The depth along the offensive line has been questioned all preseason and Saturday night will provide another test for players like Jermaine Eluemunor, Nico Siragusa, Greg Senat, Maurquice Shakir and Bradley Bozeman among others. Senat is likely the solution at left tackle for Saturday’s contest, but starting the sixth-round pick out of Wagner on the blind side will make the Ravens and their fans feel uneasy about the protection of their quarterbacks.

With the issues on the offensive line, I do not foresee the Ravens starting Joe Flacco in Saturday’s contest. Flacco has had a nice preseason to date and putting him out their without 60% of the starting offensive line is not a situation that the Ravens should explore.

2) Quarterback Competition

In what is becoming a weekly feature of this article, the backup quarterback competition should be on full display Saturday night in Miami. It is unknown to this point how the snaps will be distributed among Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III but it is known that the performances Saturday night will play a key role in deciding which of the two will be the backup.

Griffin III should be the leader in the clubhouse for that role. The Ravens have been incredibly torn on the issue to this point and it will be interesting to see if Griffin III can add some fuel to that fire with another strong performance on Saturday night.

Jackson has struggled so far this preseason. As ESPN’S Booger McFarland indicated on Monday night against the Colts: “We have this conversation about should Joe Flacco be worried. I don’t think he should be. Lamar Jackson, at best, in my opinion, is two years away from having an opportunity to see if he can play quarterback in this league.”

Jackson has been inaccurate thus far through three games. Jackson’s first instinct is to escape the pocket and put himself in positions to take big hits rather than move around in the pocket and scan downfield. Jackson has also struggled throwing a tight spiral to this point.

Jackson will have every opportunity the next two weeks to change the narrative and regain what many thought was a stranglehold on the backup role heading into the season.

3) Bubble players

Heading into the last two preseason games, there are several Ravens that will be looking to put an exclamation on their cases to make the 53-man roster.

  • Breshad Perriman caught a touchdown pass this preseason but also had a key drop in the Hall of Fame Game leading to an interception. He will be looking for a big night Saturday to solidify his roster standing.
  • Kamalei Correa flashed in the Hall of Fame game but has disappointed in each of the last two weeks. It is often a “what have you done for me lately” league and if Correa’s greatest accolade of the preseason turns out to be his performance in the Hall of Fame Game, he will be on the outside looking in.
  • Bronson Kaufusi has struggled to make an impact since the Ravens drafted him in the third round out of BYU in 2016. Kaufusi did have one pass batted down last week, but the 27-year old will need to make a much greater impact in the last two weeks to earn a roster spot.
  • Jaleel Scott was a 2018 fourth-round pick for the Ravens and has yet to make an impact this preseason. The 6’6 209-pound wideout out of New Mexico State took just three offensive snaps on Monday night against the Colts and appears to be destined for the practice squad at best.

Image Credit: AP

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