The Ravens continued to prove their preseason prowess, extending their exhibition win streak to 16 games with a wire-to-wire victory over the Eagles. Neither team trotted out their starting quarterback, but other starters on both sides of the ball saw some action.
Baltimore never trailed at any point in the game and used a 23-point explosion in the second quarter to pull ahead, which provided a big enough cushion for the team to withstand a lousy second half showing. The second half was cut short, however, as the emergence of lightning and rain halted action at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Here’s seven takeaways from the team’s preseason Week 3 victory.
1) Marquise Brown is getting his legs under him
The biggest storyline from Thursday night was the highly-anticipated debut of first-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who took the field in-game for the first time in 2019. Brown didn’t jump off the screen but ended up playing a decent majority of the first half, and the Ravens wasted no time getting him involved. Brown caught three passes for 17 yards, and all three passes came on different routes: curl, screen and an out-route on the sidelines. He also took a jet sweep handoff on the opening drive but lost four yards on the play, as Brandon Graham broke up the play in the backfield. Brown caught a two-point conversion in the redzone but it was negated by a holding penalty.
Brown appeared a bit gimpy early in the game. Immediately following his 7-yard reception on the first play of the game, Brown went to the ground despite having some space to gain more yardage. He also was somewhat slow in getting back to the huddle, appearing to limp a little at times too. This is to be expected after such a long absence, though, and shouldn’t be cause for concern. Overall, it was good to see “Hollywood” out there for the first time but it’s clear that his progression is going to be a prolonged process.
2) Miles Boykin’s drops are concerning, but not worthy of panic (yet)
Following an impressive 44-yard reception, most of which came after the catch, rookie wideout Miles Boykin was unable to haul in another long pass from Trace McSorley. While the throw was a little behind him, Boykin got his hands on the ball and couldn’t manage to reel it in. This is become a bit of a trend this preseason, as Boykin has dropped multiple passes - including two in the opening matchup against Green Bay. Boykin was one of the most sure-handed receivers in college football coming out of Notre Dame, so it’s relatively surprising to see dropped passes emerge as an issue for him so far.
The Ravens are all too familiar with receivers dropping balls, which probably makes this more of a concern than it actually is. Drops have never been an issue for Boykin and he’s continued to make big-time catches throughout camp. Hopefully he can put these behind him as the regular season approaches.
3) Trace McSorley overcomes shaky start to exceed expectations
With Lamar Jackson on the sidelines and Robert Griffin III continuing to recover from a hand injury, it was the McSorley show in Philadelphia. The rookie from Penn State played nearly the entire game and after some initial up-and-down play in the first quarter, McSorley tightened up the ship as the opening half progressed. In the first half, McSorley accounted for three total touchdowns - one rushing and two passing - and threw for 200 yards passing. His touchdown throws to Michael Floyd and Jaleel Scott were impressive, as was the determination he showed to bulldoze through three defenders on his touchdown rush.
Per usual, however, some of McSorley’s throws were questionable and off-target, including the improvised throw he attempted to squeeze to Justice Hill in the redzone and his overthrown screen pass to Marquise Brown. Nobody is mistaking McSorley to be a polished passer, though. He certainly improved his roster odds on Thursday and demonstrated the capability to effectively run the offense and put points on the board.
4) Shane Ray is on the outside looking in
Hopes for former first-round pick Shane Ray were high when the Ravens signed him in free agency. Many expected him to bounce back from multiple surgeries and return to the player we saw in his rookie and sophomore seasons, but that has yet to come to fruition throughout the offseason. Instead of challenging Tim Williams and/or Tyus Bowser for spots on the 53-man roster, Ray has fallen behind both the former and the latter. He was once again the last outside linebacker to enter Thursday’s game behind Williams, Bowser, Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, and Jaylon Ferguson.
That appears to be an accurate representation of where things stand in the pecking order at the position, and it doesn’t bode well for Ray’s roster odds. He’s done little to impress or stand out in-game or on the practice field. While this has been disappointing, what’s more encouraging is the signs of growth from Williams, Bowser, and Ferguson.
5) Mixed results from the interior offensive lineman
With Jermaine Eluemunor and Marshal Yanda sidelined, Thursday was a great opportunity for potential starting candidates to emerge from the pack and solidify their roles. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly play out that way. Bradley Bozeman had another rough showing, continuing his struggles with movement and technique. UDFA Patrick Mekari seems to have overtaken Bozeman’s role as the backup center behind Matt Skura, or at least emerged as a serious challenger. In the first half, Mekari was playing center and Bozeman occupied the guard spot. Mekari’s stock has been on the rise in recent weeks but his run-blocking, particularly when pulling in space, leaves much to be desired.
Rookie Ben Powers didn’t flash much either with extended playing time. He was flagged for a holding penalty in the third quarter, too, which obviously isn’t ideal. All of these in-house candidates for the starting left guard job, including veteran James Hurst, are not without their flaws, but the Ravens are going to have to trot somebody out there Week 1 regardless. Ideally, Eluemunor returns to full health and picks up where he left off after a strong showing against the Packers last week.
6) Josh McCown came out of retirement just to play the Ravens again
Seriously, does Josh McCown love playing against the Ravens or what? The veteran journeyman surprisingly came out of retirement in the middle of the preseason and it’s not hard to believe he did so just because the opportunity to play Baltimore presented itself. McCown, 40, has had his fair share of notable performances against the Ravens in the past, speficially in 2015. Starting at QB for the Browns, McCown came into M&T Bank Stadium and threw for a whopping 457 passing yards and two touchdowns, leading Cleveland to an overtime victory.
On Thursday, McCown appeared on his way to leading a miraculous comeback in the second half. Prior to the weather delay, McCown had completed 17/24 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the third quarter. Luckily, the Ravens won’t see McCown again this season and perhaps ever again. For some reason, McCown turns into Joe Montana whenever he sees purple jerseys on the other side of the field.