Consistent individual play during the preseason creates trust between players and coaches. If certain players, game after game, continually make game-altering plays that push their team towards victory, coaches will have reason to believe that those players can do the same during the regular season.
At the same time, every game is different, and consistent high-level play is very difficult in the NFL. It only takes one poor performance for coaches to change their minds about where a player lies on the depth chart or if they even deserve a roster spot at all.
The performances of many players on Thursday versus the Packers will be a good indicator as to whether they play with the starters or backups in the following preseason games and eventually, the regular season. Five Ravens respective floors (worst case scenario) and ceilings (best case scenario) in regards to where they will land on the regular season depth chart:
OLB Tyus Bowser
In the Ravens’ first preseason game versus the Jaguars, Tyus Bowser had his best performance in recent memory. Considered to be on the roster bubble, Bowser certainly helped his case by registering half of a sack and one QB hit. Though not listed in the stat book, Bowser displayed his strength and impact play by overpowering offensive linemen, which allowed for his teammates to stop the run and put pressure on the Jaguars’ QBs.
If Bowser puts together another solid performance at the very least, conversations about giving him first-team reps may emerge. Though it would be difficult for him to upend current projected starting outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, strong play will definitely earn him more reps overall. However, if Bowser fails to deliver and underwhelms, he may find himself losing snaps to other linebackers.
Ceiling: Starter- Will get a chance to see if he belongs by receiving first-team reps in the following preseason games.
Floor: Backup- Due to Bowser’s satisfactory coverage abilities, I don’t see him losing reps to fellow linebackers Shane Ray and Jaylon Ferguson.
WR Miles Boykin
Miles Boykin had an up and down, yet overall positive performance against the Jaguars. Though he dropped a couple of passes early while running with the first-team, he recovered and finished with four catches for 39 yards.
Ever since last Thursday’s game against the Jaguars, Boykin’s daily training camp performances have received massive amounts of hype from the media. To many, he’s playing like a number one receiver. Not only does he have ideal size, but his chemistry with QB Lamar Jackson seems to be progressing every practice. If Boykin continues to outperform his fellow receivers by showcasing his potential versus the Packers, he will surely be in conversation to be the team’s headline receiver. On the contrary, if Boykin lays a dud, coaches will be reluctant to throw him in with the starters. At the same time, he does have two more preseason games to string together solid performances.
Ceiling: X-Receiver (WR #1)- Strong play during Thursday’s game would reflect his WR #1 caliber practice performances.
Floor: WR #4- Coaches will give more experienced receivers starting reps if Boykin fails to deliver a good performance.
OLB Jaylon Ferguson
Rookie third-round draft pick Jaylon Ferguson had a breakout game against the Jaguars. After not playing particularly good or bad leading up to the game, Ferguson had himself a night by recording a solo tackle, tackle for loss, and a QB hit.
More recently, Ferguson has been practicing at a much higher level leading up to this Thursday’s game. As a result, the Ravens coaching staff may give Ferguson more reps against the Packers’ starters (especially if the team decides to rest Matt Judon or Pernell McPhee). Ferguson’s performance on Thursday could lay the groundwork on how much playing time he gets in the next two games.
Ceiling: Situational Pass-Rusher- Ferguson would be very effective coming in fresh on third downs and overpowering tired offensive linemen.
Floor: Third-string linebacker- If Ferguson can’t prove that he’s ready for more snaps, the coaches will unhesitatingly give more to seasoned players like Tim Williams and Shane Ray.
LG Jermaine Eluemunor
This game is arguably one of Jermaine Eluemunor’s most important career games. After continually failing to take advantage of first-team reps the coaching staff has given him, other offensive linemen such as undrafted rookie free agent Patrick Mekari, who has been recently running with the first team, may be more fit to run with the starters over the course of the preseason.
Even a stellar performance from Eluemunor would not guarantee him the starting left guard spot. He will need to show some level of consistency on Thursday as well as the two games afterwards if he wants to earn trust from the coaches.
Ceiling: Starter- If Eluemunor can show consistent, high-level play, he will earn the starting job.
Floor: Utility backup offensive lineman- A bad performance will land Eluemunor with the second-team as a backup guard and tackle.
WR Chris Moore
Chris Moore has been nothing less than solid throughout the entire offseason. He hasn’t done anything extraordinary like Boykin, but he hasn't been disappointing either. Moore’s strong rapport with Jackson, as demonstrated versus the Jaguars, will almost surely earn him reps with the starters.
That being said, if Boykin continues to impress and a healthy Marquise Brown comes in and completely lights up the offense, Moore may slowly be phased out and become a less-desirable target for Jackson.
Ceiling: WR #2- Moore isn’t the alpha-dog to be an X-receiver, but he is an ideal complementary #2 receiver.
Floor: WR #4- If Jackson prefers his other targets and Moore fails to execute in key situations, he may once again be a WR #4 for the offense.