The Baltimore Ravens will head to Landover, Maryland to take on the Washington Redskins on Thursday night in the 2019 Preseason Finale. They will be looking to extend their 16-game preseason winning streak in what promises to be the most boring of the four preseason contests.
Last week, I was excited to see starting quarterback Lamar Jackson in extended action against a stout Eagles defense but that never happened as Trace McSorley played the majority of the contest. Jackson finishes the preseason 10-for-16 for 117 yards and a touchdown. McSorley shined in Philly, leading the Ravens to a 26-15 win, tossing two touchdowns and running for another.
An excited McSorley figures to be behind center a ton on Thursday night, leading a Ravens team that doesn’t project to have many starters (if any) dress:
This one is going to be a tough watch but here are three things I am looking for Thursday night at FedEx Field.
1) Bubble Players Performance
This is the most important game for most bubble players. The reality is that the Ravens must cut their roster to 53 players by 4pm Saturday and Thursday night is the last chance to earn your way on or off the roster. Wink Martindale offered a great a quote ten days ago:
The first player on bubble watch is McSorley. His dominant performance last week came after two uneven outings in the first two preseason games. A second great performance from McSorley would go a long way in removing him from the roster bubble.
The Ravens seldom keep three quarterbacks but with Robert Griffin III still nursing a fractured thumb, the door is open for McSorley if he can deliver another strong outing. It’s tough to imagine McSorley making it through waivers and onto the practice squad especially if he stacks another solid game. Maybe he’s already in?
Second player for me to watch is Kenneth Dixon. He didn’t play in the last preseason game and is beginning to feel like an afterthought. The 2016 fourth-round pick has had issues staying on the field throughout his career and his absence last week opened the door for DeLance Turner to get some snaps.
Tyler Ervin is also an option for the Ravens fourth running back role since he figures into the return game. Dixon needs a big night and that may not even be enough to get him on the roster.
Undrafted rookie free agent linebacker Otaro Alaka is competing for a role at inside linebacker. Coach Harbaugh announced yesterday that presumed starter Chris Board has been cleared from his concussion which, to me, puts Alaka on the outside looking in.
2018 seventh-round pick Zach Sieler needs a big night if he wants to make the roster. Ditto for veteran pass rusher Shane Ray who has flashed nearly nothing this preseason. Fellow veteran free agent signee Seth Roberts has returned to practice after missing two weeks, but has he fallen out of the wide receiver race altogether with emergence of Jaleel Scott and Michael Floyd?
Questions will be answered soon enough.
2) Stay Healthy
This goes for every preseason game but furthermore in the finale. The Ravens don’t need anyone to go down in this contest and affect their ability to make cuts.
While all the starters won’t play much if at all, a key injury in week four of the preseason would be a tough pill to swallow for Harbaugh and the coaching staff. It could be a backup player that gets hurt which impacts how many guys the Ravens intend to keep at a position.
For me, this applies primarily to the cornerback group and the pass rush group. I do not think Maurice Canady deserves a spot on this roster. He was beat like a drum last week and has never impressed me in the secondary. If Cyrus Jones comes out of this game healthy, he has earned one of the final cornerback spots, especially when you factor in his impact in the return game.
From an outside linebacker perspective, we come back to Ray. His only way on the roster figures to be a injury to the secondary pass rushing quartet of Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, Pernell McPhee, and Jaylon Ferguson. I dont know how much we’ll see any of these players Thursday night, but their health coming out of this game is paramount.
3) How many times the roster bubble is mentioned.
While I say this in jest, it’s the fourth preseason game and there really isn’t much excitement in this one outside of the bubble watch.
Look to hear the term early and often on Thursday night. Set the over/under at 10 mentions.
Image Credit: Eric Hartline USA TODAY