A look at where the Ravens stand at the halfway point of the preseason

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.

Positives

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 linebackerĀ 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.

Negatives

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 tackleĀ 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 guardĀ 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 cornerbackĀ 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 beĀ 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.

Image Credit: Press Box

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Three things to watch for as the Ravens take on the Rams Thursday night

The Baltimore Ravens will take on the Los Angeles Rams Thursday evening at M&T Stadium in their week one preseason matchup.

The Ravens look to build off of their preseason-opening 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame game last week in Canton Ohio.

Here are three things watch for during Thursday night’s contest.

1) Who plays and for how long?Ā 

According to ESPN‘s Jamison Hensley, Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco said that he expects to play in Thursday’s game. If Flacco does play, could this mean the debuts of the revamped starting receiving corps of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, andĀ John Brown?

If any of these guys see the field on Thursday night it is unknown how long they will play.Ā Traditionally Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has had his starters play a series or two in the first preseason game. It would mark the first preseason action for Flacco since Aug. 27, 2016 versus Detroit as he missed all of last year’s games with a herniated disk in his back.

What impact will Flacco’s apperarance have on the playing time of the other Ravens quarterbacks? Robert Griffin III performed well in the preseason opener while Lamar Jackson struggled and looked like a quarterback who needs as many reps as he can get this preseason.

It will also be intriguing to see if veteran defensive stalwarts Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle see the field Thursday night. Suggs is entering his 16th season and has looked great in camp this summer. Weddle is entering his 12th season but you wouldn’t know it from this clip after joint practice with the Rams on Monday as he seems as charged up as ever.

2) Who keeps their momentum going and who bounces back?

The toast of the town late last week was Ravens third-year linebacker Kamalei Correa. Correa was a beast against the Bears, finishing with six tackles, three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. His effort earned him some praise from Harbaugh.

Going into the contest, I was anxious to see what impact new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale would have on the defense and Correa’s big night was a product of returning to outside linebacker, his natural position. It will be interesting to see if Correa can provide another big night and continue to remove himself from the roster bubble.

Looking to bounce back for the Ravens would be wide receiverĀ Breshad Perriman. The trials and tribulations of Perriman have been well documented and on the Ravens first possession last Thursday night, Perriman provided another moment to his list.

This interception led Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus to take still frames of two plays from Perriman’s last two games against the Bears.

Perriman finished the night with two catches for 19 yards and has quite a mountain to climb to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

3) Offensive Line play

Ravens quarterbacks were sacked eight times last Thursday night. Six of the eight sacks were endured by mobile quarterbacks Griffin and Jackson.Ā  This is an alarming trend considering both players move significantly better in getting away from pressure than Flacco does.

Orlando Brown Jr led the group in total snaps and performed satisfactorily in his first taste of NFL action.Ā  It’s worth noting that the remaining leaders in offensive linemen snaps (Jermaine Eluemunor, Bradley Bozeman, Maurquice Shakir, and Randin Crecelius) are not anticipated to be starters for the Ravens but it leaves the offensive line’s depth in doubt.

Given Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda’s injury history, this is a definite area of improvement for the Ravens this Thursday night. Lewis returned to practice on July 28 after sitting out a few sessions with a nagging ankle injury. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.

Yanda came off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Monday and returned to practice on a limited basis. This is a great sign for the Ravens as he is working his way back from a fractured ankle he suffered in week two last season. He also suffered a partially-torn rotator cuff while lifting weights in December and underwent a procedure to fix it up. The shoulder injury is actually what’s held Yanda out to this point. He is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

The Details:

Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Ravens continue offensive overhaul in third round by selecting OT Orlando Brown and TE Mark Andrews

After trading back twice in the third round, the Ravens continued to build on the offensive side of the football by drafting two Oklahoma players – offensive tackle Orlando “Zeus” Brown (83’rd overall) and tight end Mark Andrews (86’th overall).

The Ravens were supposed to kick off the third round with the 65’th overall pick, but traded back to pick #75 from the Oakland Raiders. As a part of the trade, Baltimore received picks #152 (fifth round) and #212 (sixth round) from Oakland. Then, a few picks before pick #75 approached, the Ravens traded back yet again with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Ravens received Kansas City’s 86’th overall pick and the 122’nd pick (fourth round).

Brown’s father, Orlando “Zeus” Brown, also an offensive tackle, played for the Ravens from 1996-98 and passed away in 2011 due to diabetic ketoacidosis.

Brown, 6’8″, 345 pounds, is not the best athlete in the world, but he knows how to use his size to his advantage. His hands and his arms are perhaps his best attributes, as he is able to extend his arms to prevent pass rushers from advancing into the pocket. However, his feet are slow, he lacks strength, and he has a tendency to hold.

Brown’s NFL combine performance was especially concerning. He finished at the bottom of the list of NFL lineman in the 40-yard dash (5.85 seconds), vertical jump (19.5 inches), and posted the worst bench press total in the vertical jump for all offensive lineman (14 reps, 225 pounds). His stability and toughness are a major concern going forward.

Andrews, a former wideout, caught 62 passes for 1,765 yards and 22 touchdowns over three seasons at Oklahoma, averaging 15.8 yards-per-catch. He knows how to produce in the red zone, catching one touchdown for every five catches. He’s a big frame at 6’5″, 256 pounds, but he can still make defenders miss. His speed declined over his collegiate career, his blocking needs to improve, and he could be a liability in the run game.

The Ravens have now used their first four picks of the 2018 draft on offense, with two picks dedicated to the tight end position. Along with Andrews, the Ravens draftedĀ South Carolina tight end Hayden HurstĀ on Thursday. Andrews and Hurst will join a tight end room with Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle.

Brown’s case will be interesting. Ronnie Stanley will be the starting left tackle in 2018, but the right tackle spot will be Brown’s position to lose. The Ravens gave James HurstĀ a four-year, $17.5 million contract in the beginning of the offseason, but he has not proven to be reliable at either tackle position. He is better suited as a left guard. Marshal Yanda will return, along with Alex Lewis and Matt Skura. Skura and Lewis look to lock down starting jobs along the offensive line. Brown will certainly have an opportunity to lock down the right tackle job, but there are several concerns with his technique and work ethic.

Rounds 4-7 will take place tomorrow, Apr. 28, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EST. The Ravens will pick seven times on Saturday; three times in the fourth round (#118, #122, and #132), once in the fifth round (#152), twice in the sixth round (#190 and #212), and once in the seventh round (#238).

Image Credit: Dani KrempaskyĀ