Recapping Ravens Preseason Game 1: vs. Jacksonville
DL – Michael Pierce, Willie Henry
Edge – Matt Judon, Tim Williams
LB – Patrick Onwuasor, Chris Board
CB – Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
S – DeShon Elliott, Chuck Clark
Nickel – Cyrus Jones
QB – Lamar Jackson
RB – Gus Edwards
FB/TE – Nick Boyle
WR – Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, Chris Moore
OL – Ronnie Stanley (LT), Jermaine Eluemunor (LG) Matt Skura (C), James Hurst (RG), Orlando Brown (RT)
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The Ravens defense took to the field first, and it’s important to point out that Patrick Onwuasor, then Kenny Young, were wearing the “green dot” helmet for pre-snap communication with Don Martindale. It was tough to gauge the defense given that Nick Foles and the Jags first team didn’t start in this game. But not all the 1’s played for the Ravens either. They didn’t allow Jacksonville to do anything of note offensively. You couldn’t tell by this game that rookie QB Gardner Minshew was a prolific passer in college at Washington State in Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack. He finished the night 7/14 for 46 yards and three lost helmets in the entire first half. Not a joke. Check the tape. The Ravens ripped his head off three times, no flags thrown.
Right off the bat on offense, Lamar Jackson’s first pass is a play action bootleg to his right that he completes on the run to Chris Moore in stride for a 30-yard gain. Reports are his passing is coming along great in camp. Looked like it on his first throw of the night.
Just another day at the office for Justin Tucker. Makes a seemingly effortless 52-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead to wrap up the offenses first drive.
Lamar Jackson played for three drives on the night, and another positive note for him was the opportunity for a free play when a Jags defender jumped into the neutral zone. Jackson took a deep shot, though incomplete. Some guys in the league, including Joe Flacco on a few occasions last year, have tunnel vision, don’t see the flag, or hear a call, and will continue through progressions to a check down when the play can be all reward and no risk. Aaron Rodgers is the king of taking advantage of the free play at the defenses expense. One of those underrated awareness traits.
Bad habit crept in as we would see Jackson make a throw back across the field from right to left which you never, ever do. No harm done though. He would finish his night throwing a short pass in the red zone to Willie Snead who scores after some fancy footwork, making it 10-0. Jackson on three drives was 4/6 for 59 yards and 1 TD. He did no running, and we’re all quite alright with that. Save the weapons for when it counts.
Kaare Vedvik, Justin Tucker’s understudy, made it 13-0 after nailing a 55-yard FG. Later he’d make a second one from 45 out to make it 16-0, a third in the 3rd quarter from short range made it 19-0.
Preseason game 1 also means first live action for rookies. However, Marquise Brown didn’t dress for this contest. Trace McSorley quarterbacked the majority of the game from the 2nd through the first part of the 4th quarter. Highlights came between he and fellow rookie Miles Boykin who connected late in the first half on three straight plays to cover 50 yards, including a would-be touchdown, called back for holding. Boykin was targeted the most (9) and caught the most (4) balls. He got some separation on the touchdown pass that wasn’t, but on a lot of the short routes, he’s going to have to be more aggressive in snagging the ball out of the air. A couple of times a smaller defender would win the play if he let the ball come to him rather than snatching it out front.
Justice Hill was the third running back to see action on the night, and on a swing pass he showed his burst ability once he turns the corner if you don’t contain him. Blocking wasn’t great on the night given most of the game was played by backups. Not much was happening up the middle.
On defense, Jaylon Ferguson looks like a raw product. He entered the game in the 3rd quarter and was immediately targeted in coverage on a tight end who ran open. Ferguson is strong, set the NCAA record for sacks, but technique to succeed at this level is going to be a work in progress.
One of the undrafted rookies creating buzz of late is slot receiver Sean Modster. Mainly because he is going to draw Wes Welker comparisons for all the wrong reasons. He’s a small, tough, white dude. So, he must be Wes Welker. The Ravens have kept one UDFA each year for the last 16 years. If getting speed on the field is the goal given Jackson, and the drafting of Hollywood Brown and Justice Hill, expect Modster to get a healthy look in the coming weeks. He did catch all three of his targets for 17 yards.
We got our first look at new coordinators in this matchup. Greg Roman working the offense from up in the booth. Chris Horton on special teams who wasn’t pleased with his unit allowing a would-be TD on a first quarter kickoff, called back for holding.
Another thing we got our first look at is the challenge flag for pass interference. Coaches are going to it early to see how the booth is going to call it. Everything is exaggerated in preseason but consider that you still have to use your challenges wisely. I’d expect once the regular season comes that the challenge flags will only come if it is a game changing call. Something resulting in a score, a ball placed on the 1-yard line, or a crucial call in a close game.
Cyrus Jones isn’t guaranteed a spot on the team, but he’s one of the safer bets among the bubble players and maybe locked it in. Jones picked up a pick six in the 3rd quarter, making the game 26-0. Given that he is one of the team’s punt returners, a position the Ravens typically have to audition heavily for, Jones’ spot on the team is likely safe. Especially if he keeps making plays deeper into the preseason, and if he shows some quality reps against some better receivers and quarterbacks.
Vedvik capped off the Ravens 14th straight preseason win with another FG, making the final score 29-0. Vedvik is a unique player, appearing in a small sample size to be an elite kicker and punter. Two roster spots occupied by one guy, allows you in theory to employ an extra player. Some think Vedvik has trade value, but I’m curious because teams know the Ravens won’t keep him. How many teams are going to just wait to try to sign him when cuts come and he’s ultimately one of the Ravens cuts? While we have been lucky in Baltimore when it comes to kickers, kickers are often like closers in baseball. Sometimes a switch flips and they can’t kick/close anymore. What is the trade value for a kicker? I don’t want to be the you know what in the punch bowl, but if a two roster spot player gets hurt, now you have to cut another guy to fill the kicker and punter spots with traditional guys. I just hope he does awesome for three more games, and earns a nice, year overdue shot at a regular season gig with a team, preferably in the NFC where he’s less likely to stick it to the Ravens.
End of the night, the offense under Jackson scored points on two of his three drives. The defense was aggressive all night and didn’t let Jacksonville cross the 50-yard line. But the most reassuring thing is that the Ravens put this game behind them injury free. A win, even a meaningless one, feels better than a loss. Lots of questions still to be answered, and the Ravens have three more games to sort it all out before the tough decisions need to be made.
Next Thursday, the Ravens stay home to host the Green Bay Packers at 7:30pm.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]