The Ravens extended their preseason undefeated streak to 14 games with their 29-0 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener last Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson was sharp in limited action, going 4-of-6 for 59 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead IV. Jackson had no rushing attempts and led three drives overall, resulting in 10 points.
Many Ravens starters had the night off against Jacksonville. But with the season fast approaching, more starters could see the field this Thursday night when the Ravens welcome the Green Bay Packers for their second preseason contest of 2019. The Packers opened their preseason with a 28-26 win over the Houston Texans last Thursday.
Here’s three things to watch for ahead of preseason contest number two.
1) Who takes the first teams reps at left guard?
Have you heard the Ravens have issues at left guard?
Incumbent starter Alex Lewis was traded last week and the team has been splitting the first team reps between Jermaine Eluemunor and undrafted rookie free agent Patrick Mekari this week in training camp. Eluemunor came into camp out of shape, didn’t play well in heavy action against the Jaguars, and has pretty much been committing a false start penalty every day of camp.
Mekari is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Cal-Berkeley. For the few practices this week, he has seen a good bit of the first teams reps. He played in 34 games in college, including 24 starts. During that time he played both guard positions and some right tackle too.
Many want to see fourth-round rookie Ben Powers win the starting left guard spot but he has consistently worked with the second-stingers this week. Powers has also seen some reps at right guard with Marshal Yanda missing a few practices.
The first preseason game did little to quell my concerns with this position. With all due respect to Mekari, the thought of him starting on opening day is unsettling. If they all continue to struggle after preseason game number two it might be time for the Ravens to find a way to upgrade the position by exploring options outside of the organization.
2) How does the defense perform against Aaron Rodgers?
After last week’s 29-0 shutout, there’s plenty of reason for optimism when you talk about this Ravens defense. However, they face a much stiffer challenge this week from Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
I am chomping at the bit to see the revamped Ravens defense take on a Rodgers-led Packers offense that figures to be one of the better units in the league. It is unknown which of the Ravens starters will play and for how long. Matt Judon missed back-to-back practices this week, opening the door for rookie Jaylon Ferguson who has seen greater reps in success with greater opportunity
The Ravens had four cornerbacks sit out yesterday as well in Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall, and Tavon Young. The Packers lack the depth at wide receiver that they have had in years past, but it would be nice to see as much of the first team go up against one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
I want to see how the Ravens pass rush performs against a first-team offensive line. The Packers boast one of the game’s best left tackles in David Bakhtiari. Big days from edge rushers Pernell McPhee, Ferguson, Shane Ray, and Tim Williams would do a lot to put Ravens fans minds at ease about the pass rush situation.
3) Who stacks games? Who bounces back?
We often hear the rally cry from head coach John Harbaugh that he wants to see guys “stack games”. Anyone can have a big night in the preseason one week. Just ask Kamalei Correa. And while the Ravens were able to turn Correa’s big night into a a draft pick with a trade last year, it’s much preferred for a player to have continued success and contribute to the Ravens on the field.
All of the pass rushers mentioned above showed flashes last week against Jacksonville including Ray, who had been the most quiet to-date through training camp. Other players I am looking out for to “stack games” are Pat Ricard, Chris Wormley, and Kenneth Dixon. Ricard’s camp has made him a near lock for the roster and Wormley was the most impressive player on the field last week to me. Dixon needs to continue to prove both that he can stay on the field and that he can be productive if he wants to find a role on this team.
As far as who I’d like to see more from this week it starts with Averett. His week one performance was uneven. He did have a pass breakup and was in nice position to prevent misfires from Jacksonville’s quarterbacks. However, he is very handsy in coverage and often struggles to locate the ball. The Ravens have nice depth at corner but adding another capable one can never hurt.
The Ravens have gotten nice training camps from many receivers, including undrafted free agent Antoine Wesley. But it didn’t translate for the 6’4″ Texas Tech product in preseason game number one. With Jaleel Scott stepping up, Wesley is looking more and more like a roster cut/practice squad stash. A big performance Thursday night could change that.
Featured image credit: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press