The preseason finale between the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team is hours away and though Ravens fans are more curious as to how the first “final 53-man roster” will be curated, Hogs Haven’s Andrew York and I exchanged questions to inform one another’s audience.
1. What was the offseason like for the Washington Football team? Any significant additions and subtractions?
The biggest free agent addition was QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. He may be an NFL journeyman, but that should still be a big improvement over whatever we had at QB last year. We also added former Bengals CB William Jackson III and former Panthers WR Curtis Samuel in free agency. Both players add speed to their respective sides of the ball, but both are also expected to miss this preseason game due to injury (though both are likely to play once the regular season starts). The team also signed former Bears LT Charles Leno Jr after his surprise cut, former Dolphins FS Bobby McCain, and snagged former Dolphins LG Ereck Flowers through a late-round pick swap trade that still sees the Dolphins paying most of Flowers’ salary this year. None of the latter 3 players are expected to be elite, but they should be slight upgrades at those positions.
I think the team found 4 future starters in the first 3 rounds of the draft. The best so far has been 2nd round pick RT Sam Cosmi, who has been PFF’s highest-graded rookie OT of the preseason. 1st round pick LB Jamin Davis has looked good, but a bit hesitant playing MIKE and I suspect they move him to WILL at the start of the season. 3rd round picks CB Benjamin St-Juste and WR Dyami Brown have also looked very promising so far, though I suspect they start the season as rotational players. St-Just has looked like a good press man CB, while Brown looks to be used as more of a deep-threat WR, though he’s shown excellent route-running ability as well.
The team hasn’t really had any high-level starters leave in the offseason. All Pro RG Brandon Scherff was set to leave as a free agent, but the team used the franchise tag to force him to stay another year (though an extension never materialized). RT Morgan Moses was released and CB Ronald Darby left as a free agent; both played well last year, but were likely replaced by better players (Sam Cosmi and William Jackson III respectively). The team also let longtime EDGE Ryan Kerrigan leave as a free agent. Although that was emotional for fans (especially since he went to the division-rival Eagles), he was on the decline and likely at the end of his career. Still, his departure leaves us with very little depth at DE. After Chase Young and Montez Sweat, all of our DEs are 7th round picks and practice squad guys.
2. How has training camp and the preseason gone for the Football Team so far? Any big news to share?
All in all, it’s been a pretty quiet camp - which is a good thing. I say this with all fingers crossed while knocking on wood, but there haven’t been any new major injuries so far. Curtis Samuel and William Jackson III are nursing nagging soft tissue injuries that have kept them sidelined through the preseason, but both are expected to practice next week. The biggest news and source of frustration among fans was probably the fact that the team had less than a 50% vaccination rate (one of the lowest in the NFL) a month ago, but has since managed to increase that number to 90% in recent days. Having an immune-compromised head coach who just battled cancer and is beloved by the players probably played a part in increasing those numbers.
So far during the preseason games, the defense has looked great and the offense has looked lackluster. On the offensive side, Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t quite looked on the same page as his receivers, has thrown some poor passes, and the passing game overall has been very meh. Backup QB Taylor Heinecke (who flashed in our playoff game against the Bucs last year) has looked fine against the 2nd teams, but not quite like starter quality material. The running game has been much better, with RB Antonio Gibson and rookie UDFA backup RB Jaret Patterson picking up much of the positive yardage. On the defensive side, the 1st and 2nd team defense have looked pretty dominant. They held the Bengals to 2 first downs and less than 60 yards of offense in the first half, though Joe Burrow didn’t play. The defense looked good against the Patriots the week before too.
3. How long do you expect the starters to be in for? Is this a dress rehearsal for Washington?
Ron Rivera has been very coy about how much the starters will play this week, but they’ve been practicing this week and many of them (the 1st team passing offense in particular) could use the reps. My guess is that the starters on both sides will play either some or all of the 1st quarter, since many of them need the experience and they’ll still get an extra week to rest before their first regular season game.
4. Where are the deepest/weakest positions for Washington?
I think WR, RB, safety, and CB are all particularly deep for Washington this year and will force some tough choices at cutdowns. Our OL and interior DL also feature some very good backups and would probably weather injury well, but that depth doesn’t extend to the 3rd team, so I doubt we’ll be cutting anyone from those groups who makes another roster.
Our TE and LB groups are probably the weakest and shallowest groups on the team. At TE, we’ve really just got Logan Thomas and then a bunch of unproven players behind him. The LB group was the clear weakness of the defense last year and though bolstered by the addition of Jamin Davis, it’s still the weakest group.
5. What players are you expecting to be poached off waivers if cut, or traded for before the deadline? Who should Ravens fans watch for?
On offense, undrafted rookie RB Jaret Patterson has been drawing Maurice Jones-Drew comparisons and is playing well enough to force the team to keep 4 RBs. If they can’t make room on the roster, he will certainly be claimed by another team. WR Cam Sims looked pretty good as a 3rd or 4th WR last year in limited action and may get cut this year.
On defense, CBs Torry McTyre and Danny Johnson have looked good in the preseason and may be fighting for the same roster spot. Johnson has also looked good as a kick returner, so he adds special teams value as well. Safeties Deshazor Everett and Jeremy Reaves both looked like possible starters last year when pressed into service due to injury and may be fighting for the same roster spot this year.