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Preseason Week 1: Ravens vs. Jaguars preview

Breaking down Baltimore’s opening preseason matchup against Jacksonville.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

After multiple joint practices in Owings Mills this week, the Ravens and Jaguars are set to due battle in each team’s respective preseason opener on Thursday night. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know heading into the matchup.

When: Thursday, August 8, 7:30 PM EST

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD

Projected starters:

Baltimore Ravens

QB - Lamar Jackson DT - Michael Pierce
RB - Mark Ingram DT - Brandon Williams
FB - Patrick Ricard DE - Chris Wormley
LT - Ronnie Stanley OLB - Pernell McPhee
LG - Ben Powers MLB - Patrick Onwuasor
C - Matt Skura MLB - Kenny Young
RG - James Hurst OLB - Matthew Judon
RT - Orlando Brown Jr. CB - Marlon Humphrey
TE - Nick Boyle CB - Jimmy Smith
WR - Chris Moore SS - Tony Jefferson
WR - Willie Snead IV FS - Earl Thomas

Jacksonville Jaguars

QB - Nick Foles DT - Marcell Dareus
RB - Leonard Fournette DT - Abry Jones
LT - Cam Robinson DE - Calais Campbell
LG - Andrew Norwell DE - Yannick Ngakoue
C - Brandon Linder WLB - QuincyWilliams
RG - A.J. Cann MLB - Myles Jack
RT - Cedric Ogbuehi SLB - Leon Jacobs
TE - Geoff Swaim CB - Jalen Ramsey
TE - James O'Shaughnessy CB - A.J. Bouye
WR - D.J. Chark S - Jarrod Wilson
WR - Dede Westbrook S - Ronnie Harrison

What to watch for:

1) Competition between backup wide receivers

The battle for the 5th and/or 6th receiver spots has been intensifying in training camp, as several players are impressing. Jaleel Scott has been an offseason standout and is coming off another strong week of performances, this time against the Jaguars defense. So too is Seth Roberts, who is listed as a starter after originally being thought of as a bubble guy. Antoine Wesley, Michael Floyd, and Jaylen Smith have made their fair share of plays, too. Will they be facing Jacksonville’s first-team cornerbacks? No, but they’ll all see a significant amount of reps. A strong preseason debut will go a long way for any of these player’s chances to make the roster and carve out a role.

2) Trace McSorley’s progress

With Lamar Jackson’s status up in the air and Robert Griffin III inactive, rookie Trace McSorley’s only competition for playing time is journeyman Joe Callahan. Expect McSorley to play the majority of the game, though, and it’ll be interesting to see how he performs with extended reps. The former Nittany Lion has had an up-and-down training camp, showing some recent improvement but struggling at times with accuracy and overall throwing prowess. The Jaguars have some talented players on their second and third string defense, so expect the growing pains to continue for McSorley. It’s important that he gains the experience, though. Also keep an eye on whether he’s utilized on special teams at all.

3) Cohesiveness of the first-team defense

Baltimore’s defense is set to feature up to four new starters this season and while the group is still expected to be a strong unit, the early returns are so-so. The Ravens first-stringers struggled a bit against the Jaguars starting offense in camp this week, specifically in the redzone portions of practice on Monday. On Tuesday, the defense gave up a few big plays and starting corner Jimmy Smith was beat deep multiple times. The starters will likely only play one or two drives, but the first preseason exhibition represents a time for them to gain chemistry and begin gelling together. Keep an eye on how the unit does in limited action.

4) Returner battle

As has been the case in several seasons, the Ravens enter the year without a surefire lock at the returner spot. Last season, they acquired cornerback Cyrus Jones and he provided steady production on punt returns. However, Jones missed the majority of offseason work with an undisclosed injury and has been working his way back into the mix during training camp. Along with Jones, other players who have been seeing returner work are Tyler Ervin, Chris Moore, Tavon Young, and Justice Hill. Jones and Ervin appear to be the leading candidates for the role and the returner spot represents their only legitimate shots to make the 53-man roster.

5) Effectiveness of the offensive line

The Jaguars have a deep and talented front-seven, featuring talented pass-rushers like Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and first-round pick Josh Allen, the latter of which will likely see a lot of action considering he’s not listed as a starter. These guys will pose a serious challenge to the Ravens offensive line, even if the first-team from both sides only play a limited number of drives. With Jermaine Eluemunor, Ben Powers, and James Hurst competing for a starting job at left guard, and Bradley Bozeman attempting to upsurt Matt Skura as the team’s starting center, it’s important for these guys to separate themselves from the pack. Doing well against a strong defensive front is a great way to do so.

Key matchups:

TE Mark Andrews vs. LB Myles Jack

Andrews is big-play threat at the tight end position and has appeared to take a big step forward this offseason. His growth will be put to the test against Jack, one of the league’s best linebackers in coverage. Expect these two to be matched up at least a couple times.

WR Seth Roberts vs. CB Jalen Ramsey

These two did battle throughout the week, and Roberts actually got the better of Ramsey on a few occasions during Monday’s practice. Ramsey is the ultimate competitor so now that it’s game time, look for him to return the favor by playing lockdown defense.

LT Ronnie Stanley vs. DE Yannick Ngakoue

Ngakoue is one of the most talented young pass-rushers in the league and recently re-joined the Jaguars after a short hold out. The Maryland product will be returning home on Thursday and poses a challenge for tackle Ronnie Stanley in pass protection.