In the final preseason game of the year, the Baltimore Ravens will take on the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in New Orleans. While this game is not the type of dress rehearsal that last week’s game against the Bills was, there are still a number of things to watch for. Here are my top five storylines for tonight’s preseason finale.
Will any projected starters play in this game? If so, who?
For the most part, the starters will rest in the fourth preseason game, or at least those with secure starting jobs. However, the Ravens still have a couple of battles for starting spots taking place, none more so than weak side linebacker.
Kamalei Correa has been the frontrunner to win the job throughout the preseason, but Patrick Onwuasor has closed the gap with each passing week. Correa and Onwuasor both played extensive time in last week’s win over the Bills, and I think the Ravens will want to see more from both Correa and Onwuasor this week in order to determine the starter.
I think the only other projected starters that could play are those along the offensive line. If the Ravens choose to play starters on the offensive line, it will be interesting to see what combination they are put in. I think there is a good chance that we see James Hurst and Austin Howard, who appear to still be battling for the right tackle spot. I think we could also see Ryan Jensen and Jeremy Zuttah.
Will we see any signs of life from the offense?
Even though it won’t be the starters playing, seeing the offense actually do something will be a huge positive. I think Ryan Mallett will play in this game (I didn’t list him above as I’m still holding out hope, and reports are making it appear much more likely, that Joe Flacco will play in Week 1) and I want to see him build on a not-that-bad game against the Bills. Ravens fans need to see that the team’s top backup is capable if he needs to play at all in the regular season.
In addition, we will see a lot of the depth players on offense such as Javorius Allen and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo. The Ravens need to see that its depth is able to actually move the ball given that they may be called on to step up come the regular season.
Can Taquan Mizzell convince the Ravens that he belongs on the roster?
Mizzell may be the Ravens biggest roster question mark heading into this game. In my eyes, he’s right on the edge of making the roster, but comes up just short to Allen. However, Mizzell has been the better back throughout the preseason. Similar to Jeremy Butler last year though, being a preseason star doesn’t guarantee a roster spot.
To me Mizzell appears to have a much better shot of making the roster than Butler did, but Mizzell needs to hope that he has yet another impressive game and that Allen underwhelms. If that happens, then it is very possible that Mizzell is able to leap frog Allen, and find himself on the final roster. Of all the roster spots up for grabs in Thursday night’s game, this may be the most intriguing.
What surprise players, with a good performance against the Saints, have a chance to win roster battles?
Bam Bradley immediately jumps out to me as a player who could surprise and make the roster with a good game against the Saints. Bradley has not been on virtually any 53-man roster projections throughout the preseason. However, due to Albert McClellan’s season ending injury, Bradley now has a golden opportunity to earn a roster spot. Bradley is tied with Jaylen Hill, Onwuasor and Chuck Clark for the team lead with nine total tackles. Bradley is another one of the Ravens great crop of undrafted free agents, and he is one of the many UDFA’s that could make the final roster (more on that below).
Another surprise player that could make the roster with a good game tonight is Patrick Ricard, yes, another undrafted free agent. Ricard has the versatility to line up on both sides of the ball, and the Ravens appear to love his ability as a blocker. If Ricard continues to maul linebackers and create holes for running backs, then Ricard has a real shot to make this team.
How many UDFA’s can actually make the roster?
Typically around this time of year, we are looking at which UDFA will be the one that makes the roster and continues the Ravens streak of taking a UDFA on the 53-man roster. Last year, the Ravens hit the jackpot with Michael Pierce. This year, it’s not which one will make the roster, but how many.
I think Hill, Mizzell, Bradley, Ricard and Adeboyejo all have a chance to make the 53-man roster. Of the bunch, Hill is the only lock, while the rest still need a good performance against the Saints to feel a bit more secure. I think it’s very possible, despite unlikely, that they all could make it. The Ravens streak of keeping an undrafted free agent will stay alive this year with arguably the best UDFA group the Ravens have had.
What will you be watching for as the Ravens take the field for the final time before the regular season begins?