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Ravens News 8/23: UDFA Standouts and more

Baltimore Ravens v Washington Commanders Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 29-28 preseason loss to the Washington Commanders

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens’ young edge rushers are not getting home.

Of all the defenders who started for the Ravens, outside linebacker David Ojabo is probably the one expected to play the most significant role come the regular season. Coaches are trying to get him work after he played just two games in his injury-abbreviated rookie year. To a man, they have expressed excitement about watching him reach for greatness.

For a second straight week, however, Ojabo, generally rushing off the right edge, struggled to shed blockers and left little mark on the stat sheet. Whatever moves he’s concocting with outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith, aka Dr. Sack, they’re not yet fooling NFL tackles.

It’s not time to worry about a player who produced at the highest level of college football as a 2021 breakout star at Michigan. We’re still talking a tiny sample size for a guy who spent most of last year rehabilitating a torn Achilles tendon. But with Jadeveon Clowney now in the mix, it’s no longer a given Ojabo will play 40 or 50 snaps from Week 1 on. He might have to earn his chance to break out.

Asked Saturday how the workload at outside linebacker will be apportioned, Harbaugh suggested the Ravens are now in ideal position not to overwork any of their top edge rushers.

Clowney’s presence also probably means 2023 fourth-round pick Tavius Robinson is on the outside looking in for defensive snaps. Robinson struggled to make an impression Monday as Washington right tackle Cornelius Lucas easily halted his progress and steered him away from the pocket.

Twelve Ravens Thoughts following 29-28 preseason loss at Washington

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

Ar’Darius Washington was the best player on the field for the Baltimore defense with three pass breakups and seven tackles in 49 snaps. He plays bigger and tougher than his 5-foot-8, 177-pound frame and has made a real statement for the wide-open nickel job this summer. Washington finds the football.

Keeping a sixth wide receiver isn’t a given, but Tylan Wallace seemingly solidified his roster standing with a touchdown in a second straight game to continue a good summer. Though Wallace is unlikely to be a big factor offensively, his special-teams presence gives him the edge over other young receivers.

In just nine snaps, Patrick Ricard lined up at fullback and as a blocking tight end to deliver a few impressive blocks as well as a 5-yard reception to move the chains on third down. No, this isn’t Greg Roman’s offense anymore, but Ricard can still contribute for this team.

An early-camp injury didn’t help, but Trenton Simpson hasn’t looked the part of someone ready to be a factor defensively, which is OK with Patrick Queen still being a Raven. The third-round rookie needs more seasoning and more bulk on his frame, but the speed definitely stands out.

The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Ravens-Commanders Preseason 2

Ryan Mink,

The Ravens are going to have some tough calls on undrafted rookies.

Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, the Ravens don’t have much extra space on their projected 53-man roster. A few undrafted rookies made decisions even harder Monday night.

Tight end Travis Vokolek scored two touchdowns, one when he powered his way over the goal line from a couple yards out, and another in heavy traffic. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Nebraska product wasn’t much of a receiver in college (averaged 24 yards per game) but he made his case – and counted it, too.

Running back Keaton Mitchell flashed his explosive speed when he outraced two Commanders defenders to the edge and burned up the sideline for 31 yards. Unfortunately, he left the game early with a shoulder injury, but Head Coach John Harbaugh said it’s not serious. Outside linebacker Malik Hamm, who got a sack in his first preseason game, forced a fumble in the second half.

The Ravens already have their top three tight ends in Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar, who also had a good game with two long catches for 61 yards. They have a Pro Bowl running back, Melvin Gordon III, competing for a fourth running back spot. They just added another outside linebacker, Jadeveon Clowney, to the outside linebacker room.

Finding space on the Ravens’ roster isn’t going to be easy.

Ravens risers and fallers: Zay Flowers, young tight ends shine in streak-snapping loss to Commanders

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

TE Charlie Kolar

Kolar had a quiet preseason opener, held to two short catches in a hurry-up setting, and an inauspicious start in Monday’s game, when he dropped a catchable pass on Johnson’s first drop-back. He made amends on the Ravens’ second drive, catching a pass up the seam for 28 yards. On the third drive, he got open again for a 33-yarder from Johnson.

Kolar, who finished with two catches for a team-high 61 yards, isn’t quite the blocker he needs to be to steal snaps from second-stringer Isaiah Likely. But with his 6-foot-6 frame and catch radius, Kolar can be a useful option in the slot, just as he was at Iowa State.

QB Josh Johnson

Johnson is still a long shot to make the Ravens’ roster, but he bolstered his case to every quarterback-needy team outside Baltimore. After a mediocre start against Philadelphia, Johnson finished the first half 10-for-12 for 145 yards, two touchdowns and an unlucky interception against the Commanders’ second-string defense. He added three carries for 12 yards.

Johnson had some mistakes — he missed wide receiver Tylan Wallace, running wide open down the left sideline, on the opening drive — but he operated the offense with confidence in settled and hurry-up settings. If his second-quarter p had turned into a 21-yard touchdown, as the odds suggested it would, Johnson would’ve finished with a perfect passer rating.

The Ravens’ Preseason Win Streak Should Go Down As One of Sport’s Greatest Records

Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated

The Ravens’ streak died at 24 games Monday night. Baltimore stopped a game-tying two-point conversion attempt with four minutes remaining on a hell of a tackle by Kyu Kelly. A few minutes later, they thwarted an even more serious attempt at a game-winning pass with 26 seconds remaining. A pass breakup by Ar’Darius Washington on a zero blitz was playoff-level dramatic, raising Joe Buck out of his monotone. So was the ensuing pass by Commanders backup-backup quarterback Jake Fromm to set up Slye’s field goal.

Even if all of this mattered to only John Harbaugh in his head starting eight years ago, and Harbaugh considered this little thing a big deal, and he treated it like a big deal, it’s a pretty radical concept.

Harbaugh’s preseason quest in Baltimore was different. We live in a time where what is considered important is often conflated with what is seen and noticed. Taken out of that equation is our ability to appreciate something on its own, to love something for the sake of doing it.