On Saturday, the Ravens extended their preseason winning streak to 19 straight games by virtue of defeating the Carolina Panthers, 20-3. Baltimore rode a dominant defensive showing and some splash offensive plays to another exhibition victory.
Here are five takeaways from the outing —
1) The Ravens are preseason kings
19 — that’s the number of consecutive preseason victories the Ravens have strung together after defeating the Panthers on Saturday night. The Ravens have still not lost a preseason matchup since 2015. If they defeat the Washington Football Team, they’ll set a new record for most preseason wins in a row in NFL history.
How important is this? Truly, in the grand scheme of things, not all that much. However, whether they take the preseason more seriously than other teams or have better depth, the fact of the matter is the Ravens are the best preseason team in the NFL — bar none.
Against the Saints last week and the Panthers yesterday, early turnovers had the Ravens’ backs against the wall. At times in both games, it looked like the winning streak was in legitimate jeopardy — and yet they prevailed.
2) The No. 3 running back spot is a legit competition
Entering this offseason, Justice Hill was considered by most to be a shoe-in for the third running back slot behind J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. This is no longer the case after two weeks of preseason play.
Hill was ineffective against the Saints, did not practice this past week and missed Saturday’s matchup against the Panthers with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Ty’Son Williams has put together back-to-back strong performances. His 20-yard touchdown run to cement the Ravens’ victory over Carolina was arguably the highlight play of the game.
Also against the Panthers, UDFA Nate McCrary looked spry with a team-high 64 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own on 15 carries. Williams and McCrary’s stocks are on the rise, while Hill has no momentum on his side.
3) Josh Oliver is the No. 3 tight end
In the battle for the third tight end spot behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, Josh Oliver is separating himself from the competition. Against the Panthers, Oliver coughed up the football after making a reception in the first half. The fumble was recovered by the Panthers and cost the Ravens good field position with which they could have scored.
However, aside from this, Oliver was the most consistent pass-catcher on the team. He hauled in seven catches for 50 yards, both of which led the team. Through two preseason games, he’s been targeted 16 times and has caught 11 combined passes. A lot of his damage has come underneath, but he’s still looked the part of a reliable receiving option.
Oliver is a far superior pass-catcher to the likes of Luke Tomlinson and Ben Mason. He’s still a bit raw and developing, but Saturday’s showing against Carolina only increased his chances of winning the No. 3 tight end job.
4) Tyler Huntley is the backup quarterback
After outplaying Trace McSorley in the preseason opener, Huntley was given the key’s to the offense against the Panthers. With McSorley absent due to a back injury, Huntley played the entire game. He started off about as poorly as possible; misfiring on his first four pass attempts, one of which was picked off, and nearly getting stuffed for a safety.
However, what was encouraging is how Huntley overcame this. His accuracy improved as the game went on as he completed 24 of his next 30 pass attempts and finished with 187 yards through the air. He misfired on a couple deep attempts but was otherwise pinpoint underneath and over the middle. A few of his throws were dropped by receivers, too.
Huntley wasn’t perfect on Saturday but did nothing to remove himself from the driver’s seat to be the backup quarterback come Week 1, especially given McSorley’s injury status.
5) Safety depth suddenly a strength?
Against the Saints, a number of young safeties impressed with strong performances; namely Geno Stone, Ar’Darius Washington, and Brandon Stephens. In Week 2 of the preseason, another player re-emerged with a strong outing in Nigel Warrior.
Warrior was inactive against New Orleans but made up for lost time against the Panthers. He was extremely active on defense, flying to the ball and delivering solid tackles on ball-carriers. His performance only further complicates the safety position behind shoe-in starters Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott — both of which also shined against Carolina.
Between Stone, Washington, Warrior, Anthony Levine Sr. and Jordan Richards, the Ravens may only be able to keep two or three players on the 53-man roster. It will not be an easy decision whatsoever. What was once viewed as a potential weakness now looks like a strength heading into late August.