Three things to watch for as the Ravens wrap up preseason play

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens will head into their last preseason game this Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium looking to run their preseason winning streak to 13 games as they welcome the Washington Redskins to town.

The emphasis will be on the bubble players Thursday night as the Ravens look to narrow down which guys will be a part of their 53-man roster that is slated to be submitted to the NFL prior to 4PM on Saturday.

The Ravens ended the suspense for one of the bubble guys when they traded 2016 second-round pick Kamalei Correa to the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday in exchange for a sixth-round pick. Correa had struggled in his first two years in Baltimore but had done enough this preseason for the Titans to take a flyer. The outside linebacker simply fell victim to the numbers game.

With Correa out of the picture, a roster spot may have opened up.  Here are three things to watch for Thursday night in preseason game number five for the Ravens.

1) Quarterback battle

In the last game against Miami, Robert Griffin III got the start and played the entire first half, going 9-for-15 for 66 yards. Griffin also added 41 yards rushing on the night as well and continued what has been a strong preseason for the former Redskins first-round pick out of Baylor. Griffin commented on taking on his former team Thursday night in Baltimore:

Lamar Jackson took over and played into the fourth quarter, finishing 7-of-10 for 98 yards and a touchdown. Jackson also added his second rushing touchdown of the preseason as well. Jackson looked much improved in his fourth career NFL appearance and felt good after the game.

“My decision-making is getting better,” Jackson said. “I’m working my way up. I feel like I’m doing pretty good, but there’s still room for improvement.”

Both quarterbacks SHOULD make the team. Thursday’s final contest could go a long way in determining if both of them actually DO make the club. I still give the edge to Griffin III in the backup quarterback race and all three of our Charm City Bird Watch podcast regulars agreed in predicting the Ravens 53-man roster on Monday.

It will be interesting to see how the Ravens backup quarterbacks are deployed on Thursday. Do the Ravens really want to risk injury to one or both of their potential backup quarterbacks or do they want to allow Josh Woodrum to play the entire game?

We will find out.

2) Wide Receivers

In discussing the Ravens bubble, we would be remiss not to address the wide receiver position. The Ravens have four locks for the roster in Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, John Brown, and Chris Moore but from there it gets cloudy.

The fight for the final two (we think) spots in the receivers group is currently between four players after Jaleel Scott fell out of the running having been placed on IR this week with a “serious hamstring” issue.

Jordan Lasley appears to be the safest bet at this point to find his way onto the roster. The fifth-round pick out of UCLA put together his best game of the preseason against the Dolphins last Saturday night finishing with three catches for 30 yards. It would also be difficult for the Ravens to cut Lasley and get him to the practice squad without him being claimed by another team. Lasley is in barring a nightmare performance on Thursday night.

That leaves Tim White, Janarion Grant, and Breshad Perriman as the three wide receivers fighting for the last spot. White had a huge night against the Dolphins catching three passes for 70 yards but didn’t really factor into the return game where it appears the Ravens have a need. Grant was solid returning kicks and punts, combining for seven returns and 102 yards total.

Perriman once again didn’t provide much last week finishing with just two catches and 13 yards. It is likely that he will need a better performance against the Redskins to make the 53-man roster. It also works against Perriman that he doesn’t play special teams as both White and Grant do. Often times the last spot in a wide receiver group will go to the player who has the most versatility. It will be a tough decision for the Ravens.

Do any of these guys step to the forefront on Thursday night? Do any of them play their way off the roster thus opening the door for one of the others?

3) Health

The Ravens will be looking to see who steps up to steal some of the last few roster spots ahead of the 53-man cut down on Saturday. But first and foremost, they will be looking to get out of Thursday night’s contest with the Redskins healthy.

The final preseason game rarely possesses a ton of intrigue for either of the teams involved.  While there are certainly some spots on the roster bubble that can be decided with either a great performance or a poor one, the biggest goal for the Ravens is to avoid any more injuries.

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Ravens Coach John Harbaugh will be hoping the team remains healthy coming out of the preseason finale. Image Credit: ESPN

While it is unlikely that any of the Ravens starters will play on Thursday night, it is important that they avoid injuries to their position depth. The past week has been rough from that front as rookie safety DeShon Elliott broke his forearm, rookie left tackle Greg Senat hurt his foot, and rookie tight end Hayden Hurst had surgery on his foot. Defensive tackle Willie Henry was also ruled out for a few weeks after undergoing surgery to fix an umbilical hernia.

Hopefully these are the last injuries of the preseason.

The Details:

  • When: Thursday, August 30, 7:30pm
  • Where: M&T Bank Stadium Baltimore,MD
  • Radio: 98 Rock/WBAL 1090 AM
  • TV: WBALTV
  • Commentary: Gerry Sandusky, Brian Billick, Evan Washburn

Image Credit: Youtube

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Podcast Episode 14: We can smell the regular season…Featuring Ebony Bird Site Expert Chris Schisler

Welcome to Episode 14 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

To kick off Episode 14, we dove into the trade that sent Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa to the Tennessee Titans for a sixth-round draft pick (4:17). Our Ravens segment is loaded with great stuff this week, including the following:

  • Recap of the Ravens’ 27-10 preseason week 4 win over the Miami Dolphins (7:58)
  • What an Idiot – Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso runs to the wrong sideline during the first quarter of Saturday’s game (12:06)
  • Injury discussion surrounding several Ravens rookies (15:50)
  • Who’s Trending (22:41)
  • What to watch for on Thursday night as the Ravens take on the Washington Redskins to wrap up the preseason (31:50)

Up next, the guys go over the Fantasy outlook surrounding the Ravens (35:07). Do the Ravens have any sexy Fantasy Football targets? Drafts are taking place this week and next week. Checking out this segment will help you out if you’re thinking about drafting anyone on the Ravens.

After the fantasy segment concludes, we welcome in Ebony Bird site expert Chris Schisler as this week’s guest (42:17). Jake spent a better part of the last two years writing and podcasting for Ebony Bird. Not only was it great for Jake and Chris to catch up, but they got into more preseason banter and talked about some bubble players and their chances of making the 53-man roster. You’ll also hear more about Jimmy Smith‘s suspension and the bigger world problems involved in it.

After Chris’s call-in, the Charm City Bird Watch crew moved on to the Orioles (59:40). Recently, manager Buck Showalter discussed Trey Mancini‘s ability to play first base. With Mancini and Chris Davis beginning to split time between first base and designated hitter, could the Orioles move on from Davis this offseason and hand the first base keys to Mancini? The guys ponder the probability of this scenario actually taking place.

To wrap up the show, we dive into our weekly numbers segment, taking a look at the best Ravens & Orioles players to wear the number 14 (1:09:36).

All of us at Charm City Bird Watch want to send a shoutout and thank you to Bloomsburg University graduate student Jake Hare for throwing together our new podcast intro! Hare is a good friend of McDonnell and we plan on using his voice more in the future for other podcast purposes!

You can find the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloudiTunes, and now Google Play. Please leave us a review on iTunes, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

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