Singular performances and limited sample sizes aren’t always the most accurate indicators of future success, but they do make coming up with bold statements and lofty predictions more fun.
The Baltimore Ravens lost consecutive preseason games for the first time since 2015 on Saturday night in a 26-20 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There were some impressive and lackluster outings by a handful of players that could garner some overreactions.
Here are a few noteworthy showings from the team’s preseason finale that warrant some spicy yet reasonably conceivable takes.
Dontay Demus Jr. could still be in the running to make the roster
The Ravens have the most loaded wide receiver depth chart that they’ve had at any point in franchise history and although they have several players at the position that play bigger than their size, there isn’t a big-bodied wideout among the locks to make the roster. After making the most of his last preseason outing, the undrafted rookie out of the University of Maryland made a strong case on how and why he can fill that role for the Ravens.
At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Demus Jr. is the biggest wideout on the depth chart and he managed to record a game-high 86 receiving yards on a pair of impressive receptions. While he didn’t find the end zone like Tylan Wallace did in each of the previous two games, the fact that he was able to high point and reel in his first catch between two defenders shows he knows how to use every bit of his wide catch radius.
Demus Jr. flipped the field on the longest play of scrimmage of the game by either team on his second catch for 48 yards. He might have done just enough to make the coaches consider keeping him on the active roster as the sixth and final receiver to make plays like that when called upon in the regular season although the tremendous special teams value and improved offensive prowess that Wallace has shown heading into his third season will make him tough to beat out.
David Ojabo’s development starting to get concerning
After being the defensive star of the Ravens’ offseason program and early portion of training camp, the second-year outside linebacker didn’t translate or flash much if any of the disruptive force he seemed to be during practices in exhibition action. He played in every preseason game and most extensively against the Buccaneers but failed to record a sack, quarterback hit, or even generate much pressure.
Even though they recently signed three-time Pro Bowl veteran edge defender Jadeveon Clowney to add more experience and proven talent to their young edge group, the fact that undrafted rookie Malik Hamm has looked like the better pass rusher of the two during the preseason might be a little unsettling some members of the media and fanbase. Given all the hype Ojabo was getting both internally and externally over the last few months, the 2022 second-rounder needs to take his game to another in the regular season if he intends to make a significant leap in 2023 that so many predicted.
Josh Johnson might force the Ravens to carry a third QB
The Ravens haven’t carried more than two quarterbacks on their final 53-man roster since the 2020 season when they had Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, and Trace McSorley. After the preseason opener, it appeared as if the best backup option for Lamar Jackson would be former undrafted gem-turned Pro Bowl alternate Tyler Huntley. However, after balling out the past two weeks, the 16-year veteran journeyman might have them reconsidering how many reserve signal-callers they carry this year.
Johnson followed up a very strong outing against the Washington Commanders in Week 2 of the preseason with an even more impressive showing in the finale. He marched a unit consisting of the Ravens’ second and third-string players down the field for a masterful scoring drive on their first possession of the game against the Buccaneers’ first-team defense. The 37-year-old delivered dime after dime, completing all four of his pass attempts for 80 yards and a touchdown and would finish his final audition 6-of-9 for 95 passing yards and a passer rating of 138.7.
While Huntley is still the better backup for Jackson from a stylistic standpoint in terms of comparable athletic ability, Johnson arguably has the advantage as a passer when it comes to consistency, accuracy, and processing reads. Now that the quarterback run game is no longer the focal point of their offense following the departure of Greg Roman and the hiring of Todd Monken as Offensive Coordinator, the two reserves are on more equal footing when it comes to who best fits the scheme behind a starting offensive line.
Ravens’ 2023 draft class won’t have much of an impact barring injury
The Ravens didn’t have many picks to begin with when they entered the 2023 NFL Draft after trading for All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith midway through last season. They started with five and ended up making six selections after trading back into the seventh round to take USC offensive guard Andrew Vorhees who will miss his entire rookie year while he recovers from a torn ACL.
Now that the preseason is officially in the books and the other five picks saw action in at least two exhibition contests, it appears that first-round receiver Zay Flowers will likely be the only member of the this year’s crop of drafted rookies that will see the field on a regular basis outside of special teams and have a significant impact. He only recorded 38 yards from scrimmage on 3 total touches but it was enough to have fans and even national media excited about his immense potential in the Ravens’ new offense under first-year Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken.
Flowers was so impressive in the first two preseason games that the team didn’t even play him in the finale but his fellow draftmates got another opportunity to showcase their skills in live action but were outshined by some undrafted rookies yet again.
Third-round linebacker Trenton Simpson only played special teams in the first half and didn’t stand out on defense after halftime. Fourth-round edge defender Tavius Robinson saw action in both halves and only managed to record a single assisted tackle with no sacks or quarterback hits. Fifth-round cornerback Kyu Kelly had another mixed bag of results that included giving up a touchdown in the first half and making a nice play in the red zone to prevent a score for the second straight week.
Sixth-round offensive lineman Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu had a chance to be perhaps the only opening-day starter even ahead of Flowers but he had a rough outing in pass protection. After the game, Head Coach John Harbaugh formally announced that John Simpson is going to be the Ravens’ starting left guard this year.
Barring injuries to the established starters ahead of them on the depth chart, the likelihood that any of the four rookies that were drafted after Flowers and before Vorhees will play significant snaps on their respective sides of the ball in 2023.