Preseason, where most starters are on the bench and the scores don’t matter. Though my statement may be true, it doesn’t mean there isn’t value to these games.
90 players on every team are currently competing for a job. It’s the most interesting job application and hiring process. Almost reminiscent of gladiator school. Some of the fastest and strongest human beings go out in their respective armor, representing a certain city’s colors and logos, and perform violent hitting with an intricate scheme, while following the rules and regulations. Writing down your resume after printing one out doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?
Getting back to the point though, the first preseason game is important. All of them are, in fact, but this is the first game. It’s exciting, and there’s value. Fans are hungry for the game, and players are ready to shine or crumble under the lights.
This isn’t practice anymore. You’re allowed to hit the opposition. The quarterback doesn’t get his different colored jersey, signaling he can’t be hit. Coming across the middle isn’t punished with a shoulder to the chest. There’s only so much you can simulate until practice isn’t enough.
Without a doubt, the most important thing for fans to watch tomorrow, the offensive line. Creating holes is simulated in practice, but this is serious business now. Do the protections hold up? Are they creating lanes? Who’s the weak link in the system? All questions you need to answer watching preseason games.
The Ravens lost Jeremy Zuttah and Ricky Wagner in the offseason. Currently, the Ravens don’t have Alex Lewis, as he’s missed multiple practices. The current starters on the line include:
LT — Ronnie Stanley - 79
LG — Matt Skura - 68
C — Ryan Jensen - 66
RG — Marshal Yanda - 73
RT — James Hurst - 74
Multiple things here:
- Is Stanley’s play still elevated to the level he left off in 2016? He has proved it in practice, but let’s find out with live play.
- Matt Skura playing left guard is interesting. Watch how he performs with the absence of Alex Lewis.
- How much will Jensen play at center? Also watch to see if he and Skura switch roles, as they test different line combinations.
- How is James Hurst playing at right tackle? Ryan Mink posted an article with Hurst performing well, and he may be capable of starting at right tackle. Watch his blocking, his protection.
- Is Marshal Yanda playing? If so, is he looking 100%? He underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason, and was slowly brought back during training camp.
The offensive line isn’t the only thing to watch when the offense takes the field.
Offensive Players to Watch
- QB Ryan Mallett - 15 — Here we go. Mallett has been under fire this entire training camp. John Harbaugh said he’ll be playing ‘pretty extensively’, giving everybody the opportunity to retract their statements, or double-down on calling for a back-up quarterback to lose his job.
- WR Quincy Adeboyejo - 88 — The highest-praised UDFA thus far. Quincy’s produced in camp, hopefully he’ll continue in his first game. Keep an eye on him as a gunner and special teamer. If he wants a roster spot, he’ll need to make the special teams roster.
- WR Tim White - 6 — A threat in the receiving game and in the return game. He and Adeboyejo both grow as players on this team. Just like Adeboyejo, watch for him on special teams, not just as a wideout.
- TE Maxx Williams - 87 — With the vets not receiving many reps, watch for Williams to get the bulk of the workload. Fans are desperate to see Williams to elevate his play.
- RB Taquan Mizzell - 33 — ‘Smoke’ has been an interesting tailback to watch in camp. His speed is impressive, and he has the hands to make catches all over the field.
- RB Javorius Allen - 37 — ‘Buck’ wants to prove last season was a fluke. He went through difficult times, and now believes he’ll prove everybody he deserves a spot on the roster.
- WR Michael Campanaro — 12 — When on the field, he’s one of the fastest and most agile players in the game. Watch for why the Ravens keep this potential blue-chip weapon around. He’s currently the starting return specialist.
- TE Larry Donnell — 84 — An enormous player, it will be hard for you to miss him.
Defensive Players to Watch
- ILB Kamalei Correa — 51 — My number one player to stare down, he’s the new starting inside linebacker and has made strides from his rookie season. I want to see him lead this defense.
- DE Brent Urban — 96 — Fresh starter emerging from his depth role, Urban is the biggest player on the team and I’m excited to watch him work. After two years of injuries and absences, in his first game played he blocked a what would have been a game-winning kick against the Browns which was returned by Will Hill III for a walk-off Ravens touchdown.
- DL Patrick Ricard — 91 — Another UDFA with potential, he’s played great in camp. His biggest play during practice, a huge interception at the line, where he got both hands up just to swat the ball, but made the pick happen. The defensive players on the sideline went nuts.
- DT Carl Davis — 94 — He needs a good string of practices and games now. He’s a big, strong, fast player, and he’s needed as an interior rusher.
- DE Bronson Kaufusi — 92 — A year removed from a broken ankle suffered in last years camp, it will be exciting to see him play.
- CB Jaylen Hill —43 — An interesting prospect on the roster, Baltimore wants to find a place for him.
- OLB Tyus Bowser —54 & OLB Tim Williams — 56 — Watching the possible pass rush future for the Ravens here.
- CB Brandon Boykin — 35 — The Ravens need a slot corner, and with Canady, Price and Humphrey out, the Ravens need somebody to step up.
All in all, while the final result may not count, there is a lot for this team to learn from the first preseason game. It should be an exciting affair.