The Baltimore Ravens won their second preseason game and their 15th straight last night against the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers had a supposed “back” issue and watched from the sidelines. Many expected him to play, but instead we saw the likes of DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle instead. Although Rodgers didn’t participate, the entire Packers and Ravens projected first-string players played for roughly one full quarter of football. This was a perfect opportunity to look at both sides of the Ravens team.
The biggest news of the night came from John Harbaugh’s post-game press conference regarding starting nickel cornerback Tavon Young. Young has a “disc issue” in his neck, which could sideline him for the entire season. The main goal of the preseason is obviously to come unscathed, but these things happen. Cyrus Jones has took Tavon’s spot in practice and against the Packers, so keep an eye on him to get majority of reps moving forward.
Lamar Jackson seems to be getting better each week as we approach the regular season. He controlled the offense exceptionally well, constantly pointing players to their assigned spots and communicating effectively. We haven’t seem him really air it out to this point, but we have seen him make some spectacular short to medium throws. Jackson continues to have a stellar connection with Chris Moore. He is still working on his mechanics, ball placement and footwork but I have seen a drastic improvement from the eight games we witnessed last year.
The Graceful 8 put the defense in skates last night, rushing for an 18 yard touchdown that was only called back on a blown crack back block call on Willie Snead. Lamar looked down right dangerous during this run and hopefully he can be untouchable throughout the regular season. Lamar is going to special to watch throughout his career.
The second preseason game showed a starting offensive line that we hope doesn’t roll over to the regular season. Ronnie Stanley (LT), Jermaine Eluemunor (LG), Matt Skura (C), James Hurst (RG), and Orlando Brown Jr. (RT) starting the game last night with Marshall Yanda sidelined with an injury. The offensive line had a very solid outing last night against a new and improved Packers defense that stars a familiar face, Za’Darius Smith. Smith was contained nicely by the cast of linemen which was nice to see. I don’t believe that Eluemunor is starting material because of is inability to swing and hit someone. With that being said, he played exceptionally well last night.
On a play where Gus Edwards picked up 12 yards, Eluemunor got to a hole in the line before Edwards and was able to clear the way. If he didn’t get there when he did, Edwards was going to pick up minimal yards. He is extremely inconsistent, but when he plays at his highest level, he looks extremely competitive. The starting left guard is still not on this team, I believe a trade or a late veteran training camp cut will fill that void because the Ravens have the salary cap to do so without suffering a significant blow. All in all the offensive line played above average and gave not only Lamar Jackson time to throw, but also gave running backs holes and gaps to explode through.
The running game:
Last night we were able to see a sneak preview of what the Ravens running game has in store for us this season. A cast of Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Kenneth Dixon and De’Lance Turner look unstoppable to say the least. The few times Ingram was given the ball, he hit holes hard and constantly bounced off of defenders to move forward. The short time period that he was in the game, Ingram ran the ball four times for 18 yards (4.5 ypc). This was the exact reason Eric DeCosta inked him to a three-year, $15 million contract this off-season.
Gus Edwards picked up where he left off last season, rushing twice for 13 yards (6.5 ypc). Ingram and Edwards will be a fantastic one-two punch in any game situation they are presented with. Justice Hill has a motor that runs high every time he steps on the field, whether it’s running the ball on the goal line or picking up potential pass rushers in the passing game, he is consistently getting better at everything that is expected of him. Hill carried the ball 10 times for 49 yards (4.9 ypc) and notched his first touchdown of his professional career. This guy looks like he is going to not only have a role, but he will play a significant part for many years to come.
De’Lance Turner ran the ball exceptionally well and seems to always make a case for a spot on this team. Although Turner will not make the team (numbers crunch), he will be someone to watch out for mid-season as a call up for special teams or a potential injury. Kenneth Dixon was the lone player that didn’t flash merely at all, even though he got a lot of reps in this game. Most of his time was spent on the field during the first two quarters of the game and yet again (tell me if you haven’t seen this before) he hobbled off with what was reported as a hyperextended knee, but he returned to the game after missing a handful of plays. Dixon is certainly a bubble player at this point, and time will tell where he falls on the final roster.
Lack of pass rush:
The Ravens went into this game hoping to see continued development of their young pass rushers and this game didn’t help anyone’s case. Matt Judon was disruptive and recorded an impressive sack, but that is expected of him at this point of his career. Pernell McPhee did flash rushing the interior to move the pocket and he looked explosive while on the field. But the Ravens racked up only three sacks in this game, and two of the them came from players that aren’t going to make this team (Aaron Adeoye & Alvin Jones).
Jaylon Ferguson looks to be improving and a possible bright spot at times, but not at this point of his career. He is still learning and is simply relying on a bull rush to get to the quarterback. Do we really think he will be able to bull rush Jason Peters next week in Philadelphia? Tyus Bowser and Shane Ray didn’t make the stat line and Tim Williams made one tackle. Someone has to separate themselves from the pack by the end of the next preseason game for this team to feel satisfied about their pass-rushing abilities.
Baltimore cannot allow teams to pick apart their secondary because no one is disrupting the quarterback. Quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Baker Mayfield will feast on the corners with time to spare. However good a team’s secondary is, you still need a pass rush to move the quarterback out of his comfort zone and lead him into making mistakes.
John Harbaugh announced during his post-game press conference that Tavon Young has a “disc issue” that would threaten his 2019-20 season. This is not a career- threatening injury but certainly not one that the Ravens wanted to see after signing Young to a three-year, $25.8 million contract just months ago. This is where the team’s depth comes into play. Eric DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome know each season that depth in the secondary is a necessity. Cyrus Jones has been taking reps as Baltimore’s nickel corner and has done increasingly well over the past few weeks.
Cyrus Jones, Anthony Averett, Brandon Carr and Maurice Canady are all capable players that can step up in a pinch. Jones received the majority of the work last night and played serviceable. If there was any chance of Jimmy Smith being released or traded, that talk is probably gone. Who do you have taking the nickel cornerback job?
Who wins the nickel corner back position with Tavon Young out for the season?
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