The Ravens continued their annual string of dominance in the preseason by handling the Eagles Thursday night and extending their preseason winning streak to 16 games. Although many key offensive and defensive players sat out, reserve players performed very well helped create stops, make plays, and put points up on the board.
Despite a very solid team win, questions regarding certain players still remain. I will provide answers to questions that I, as well as many fans, will be asking.
1) Will Trace McSorley make the the 53-man roster?
Trace McSorley has shown improvement in commanding the offense, decision-making, reading defenses, and confidence. At the beginning of training camp and especially after Robert Griffin III’s injury, McSorley looked like a fish out of water. He looked very uncomfortable and poorly ran the offense. However, in each preseason game he played, he showed improvement from week to week.
With Lamar Jackson having the night off against the Eagles, McSorley was relied upon to make throws and put up points; he did both. After going 19/28 for 203 yards and two touchdowns, he showed that he deserves a roster spot. Though he will inevitably sit behind RGIII (when his thumb heals), it is imperative that he plays tough enough to be willing to play any positions coaches ask him to play, and he will rise to the occasion when called upon. His strong QB play along with his versatility will garner him a roster spot.
2. Will Marquise Brown make an early regular season impact?
In spite of catching three balls for 17 yards in Marquise Brown’s NFL debut, he showed great instinct and hands. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman placed great emphasis on getting Brown involved early and often. It was evident that coaches wanted Brown to get used to the speed on an NFL game.
On a short six-yard out route towards the sideline, Brown demonstrated great reflexes by snatching a ball that was thrown very early by McSorley. On a two-point conversion that was negated by an Orlando Brown Jr. holding penalty, Brown found a soft spot in the zone, which allowed for McSorley to fire the ball to him in the back of the end-zone.
Despite Brown making a few catches for minimal gains, he played extremely well for a rookie that only recently began practicing in full contact. Brown was open frequently while running with the first team, but McSorley failed to look his way. More targets will come for Brown once he gets more reps in with the QB’s.
Brown’s promising performance should be a sign for things to come; once he begins to develop a stronger rapport with Jackson, Brown will be immediately impactful.
3. Fans shouldn't be concerned about Miles Boykin’s drops, right?
It’s pretty rare for a receiver, especially a rookie, who deals with drops to suddenly be able to greatly improve their hands. I’m not saying Boykin’s hands won’t improve, but with the regular season soon approaching, it will be difficult for Boykin to make the adjustment and catch most balls thrown his way.
Concurrently, defenses in the regular season will be at full strength and stocked with experienced cornerbacks who will exploit Boykin’s inability to consistently catch balls. There’s no doubt that Boykin has Pro Bowl potential, but it will take some time for him to reach that level.
4. Will the Ravens defense be as dominant as they were last year?
We are all aware of the star defensive players the Ravens lost through free-agency. That being said, the Ravens defense has plenty of depth and young talent to compensate for those losses.
Fans should also remember that defensive coordinator “Wink” Martindale was a blitzing mastermind last season and should be just as impactful this season. The Ravens secondary, much improved from last year’s already dominant secondary, will once again be among the NFL’s best and will give opposing team’s quarterbacks nightmares.
The development of young talent such as star corner Marlon Humphrey, pass rusher Matt Judon, and the emerging DeShon Elliott paired with the veteran presence of Earl Thomas III, Brandon Williams, and Tony Jefferson should create a fast, feisty, and physical defense on a weekly basis.
5. Does the Ravens 16-game preseason winning streak mean anything?
Far too often we hear fans downplay the importance of the preseason by saying it doesn't matter. The 16-game winning streak shows why the preseason does matter. It is clear that Ravens coaches put a great deal of importance, emphasis, and preparation into these games. It also shows that the Ravens have roster depth that is healthy, talented, and executes well in games.
Reserve players are earning more reps and when a starter inevitably gets injured, the winning culture as demonstrated in the preseason will translate for each player, which will raise their level of their play and help the team win. Hopefully the Ravens will end their preseason on a high note next Thursday against the Redskins and extend their winning streak to 17.