The Baltimore Ravens put their historic streak of exhibition victories on the line against the Washington Commanders on Monday night and despite significant contributions from their 2023 rookie class — both drafted and undrafted — they weren’t able to keep it alive in a narrow 29-28 defeat.
On a night when five of the team’s six draft selections dressed for the game, a pair of pass catchers stepped up and shined the brightest.
The only rookie that did not participate was seventh-round offensive guard Andrew Vorhees who is likely to miss his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL at the 2023 scouting combine.
How did the first-year players that suited up and took the field fare in their second real taste of NFL action?
WR Zay Flowers
The first-round rookie out of Boston College built off his impressive debut in Week 1 with an even better one in Week 2 and may have very well played his last snaps in the preseason this year. After only touching the ball just once against the Philadelphia Eagles, which went in the books as a s 1-yard rush because he caught the pass behind the line of scrimmage, Flowers had an explosive outing with a pair of catches for 37 receiving yards and his first NFL touchdown.
His scoring play came on a 26-yard catch and run where he was initially left wide open and ultimately proved to be too fast and elusive for the Commanders’ defenders to coral as he glided into the end zone to cap off the opening possession of the game.
ILB Trenton Simpson
The third-round rookie out of Clemson made his NFL preseason debut after missing Week 1 and had a tough night overall although he did make some nice plays. While he finished with three total tackles and a sack, he could’ve had another sack on a blitz but got pushed to the ground by a running back and he struggled to finish or make tackles in the open field at times.
EDGE Tavius Robinson
The fourth-round rookie out of Ole Miss saw the field early and often and had a solid outing overall. Like several members of the defensive front on the night, he generated some good pressure at times but lacked consistency in his rush but was still able to finish with a solo tackle and a quarterback hit.
CB Kyu Kelly
The fifth-round rookie out of Stanford bounced back from a really rough start to the night when he entered the game in the second quarter against several of the Commanders’ first and second-unit receivers and rebounded in the final two quarters for a strong finish.
He finished with two total tackles and came up with a huge stop in the open field to prevent Washington from successfully executing a two-point conversion when he cutdown veteran running back Alex Armah before he could cross the goal line after catching a pass in the flat.
OG Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu
The sixth-round rookie out of Oregon first checked into the game at left guard on the Ravens’ third drive of the game and played pretty consistently after that. He had some pretty nice blocking snaps in the run game but will likely be credited with giving up the interior pressure that prevented veteran quarterback Josh Johnson from stepping up into the pocket on his throw that wound up being intercepted. Aumavae-Laulu will likely still be competing with fourth-year pro John Simpson, who had a nice game overall, for the only starting spot up for grabs on the Ravens’ offensive line until and perhaps even past the final preseason game.
RB Keaton Mitchell
The undrafted free agent out of East Carolina only touched the ball three times between special teams and offense before exiting the game with a shoulder injury that Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said was “not serious” after the game. However, in that limited sample size, he proved unequivocally, that he is well-deserving of being the team’s fourth running back on the final 53-man roster.
Even though former two-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon ran well between the tackles, Mitchell showed on his lone rush that nearly matched what the veteran earned on eight carries (37-31) that he has the speed and acceleration to get to the corner, get up field, and turn what might be a minimal-to-no-gain into an explosive play.
TE Travis Vokolek
The undrafted free agent out of Nebraska was the second most impressive pass catcher on the night behind only Flowers even though he finished third on the team with 28 receiving yards that included a long of 17. Of his team-leading three receptions, the last two went for touchdowns including one where he ran over and dragged some defenders across the goal line and another where he got behind three defenders and hauled in an accurate pass in the back of the end zone.
EGDE Malik Hamm
The undrafted free agent out of Lafayette College continued his playmaking streak in his home state by forcing a timely fumble that set the Ravens offense up for its fourth and final scoring drive of the game and their shortest by far. He finished with two total tackles and generated some other decent pressures as an edge rusher as well.
DT Kaieem Caesar
The undrafted free agent out of Ohio University made his first notable plays of the preseason when he checked into the game during the fourth quarter by batting a pass at the line of scrimmage that led to a third-and-long and a quarterback hit.
CB Corey Mayfield
The undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas-San Antonio had a rough night in coverage that included being called for a drive-extending defensive pass interference penalty late in the game. He gave up some other catches that helped get the Commanders set up the game-winning field goal and finished tied for the second most total tackles on the team with six total, all of which were solos.
RB Owen Wright
The undrafted rookie out of Monmouth got his most extensive offensive action of the preseason thus far after Mitchell went down and finished with a team-high nine carries although he was only able to gain 10 rushing yards that included a long of six yards and added another touch via his lone reception for four receiving yards.
CB Jeremy Lucien
The undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt was among the third and fourth stringers that checked into the game in the second quarter and played a lot more in the second half. He finished tied for the team league in total tackles with seven solos and broke up a pass as well.
OL Tashawn Manning & Jaylon Thomas
The third and fourth-string offensive linemen had a much harder time opening up consistent holes in the run game as the night went on after the first couple of combinations. The two undrafted rookies, from Kentucky and SMU respectively, were on the fourth-quarter unit that finished the game and kept third-string quarterback Anthony Brown upright for the most part in the second half.