The Ravens officially announced a pair of joint practice sessions again this year, and it gives us just enough to start looking forward to football again.
Baltimore will host the Jacksonville Jaguars and travel to Philadelphia prior to their preseason matchups on Aug. 8 and Aug. 22, respectively.
Last year, the Ravens had two mutually beneficial and highly interesting joint sessions with the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts.
Here’s what fans can anticipate this year:
Lamar Jackson Squares Off With Supporter Jalen Ramsey
Lamar Jackson’s development is perhaps the most important aspect of the Ravens’ offseason. We’ll get an early gauge on where he’s at as a passer when he faces a stiff test from the Jaguars’ talented secondary.
Jacksonville allowed the second-fewest passing yards in the league last year, led by Pro Bowl cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. They’ll also challenge the Ravens’ reassembled and young wide receiver corps, which is still under construction right now.
Ramsey is known for his harsh critiques of NFL quarterbacks, but he’s a supporter of Jackson’s.
"He's the truth," Ramsey said at the Pro Bowl in January.
Baltimore’s Run Game vs. a Top Front Seven
Jacksonville’s defense is also loaded with talent up front, including veteran four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Calais Campbell, sack artist Yannick Ngakoue (a University of Maryland product), and linebackers Myles Jack and Telvin Smith.
That will give the Ravens’ beefed up offensive line and run game, which is expected to be the centerpiece of Baltimore’s offensive attack, a good battle. New running back Mark Ingram will show off his physicality. The Ravens could have some young offensive line additions via the draft, and it would be their first action against another team.
Ravens’ Secondary Challenged by Carson Wentz
The Ravens had arguably the NFL’s best secondary last year, and have no plans of relinquishing that title this season despite the loss of safety Eric Weddle. Baltimore brought back all of its cornerbacks and added playmaking safety Earl Thomas alongside Tony Jefferson.
They’ll get to go against a top-flight passing attack in Philadelphia, featuring quarterback Carson Wentz, tight end Zach Ertz and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor. The Eagles can air it out, and they have some creative offensive wrinkles including a slightly familiar read-option attack.
Ravens’ Front Seven vs. Four Eagles Pro Bowl O-Linemen
The Eagles are really strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Their defensive line will give Baltimore’s upgraded offensive line a good push. But let’s focus on the other side, where Philadelphia’s offensive line is one of the best in the league.
The Eagles boast an experienced and dominant tackle duo in Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, the league’s top center last year (according to Pro Football Focus) in Jason Kelce and guard Brandon Brooks. All four are Pro Bowlers with 15 combined appearances (nine from Peters).
The Ravens lost Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley from the front seven. How their replacements step up in 2019 will be critical to Baltimore’s defensive strength, and their practices against the Eagles will give some indication of whether they’ll be ready. The one-on-one pass rush drills will be a must-watch.
A Philly Reunion
It’s always fun to watch Head Coach John Harbaugh return to his NFL coaching roots in Philadelphia, where he was from 1998 to 2007. The Ravens also traveled to Philadelphia for joint practices in 2015, and it was clear that Harbaugh enjoyed being back in the City of Brotherly Love. The local media also loves having him back, and there are some good stories swapped.
It will also be a bit of a reunion for the Ravens and Eagles scouting departments. Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel Joe Douglass, Director of Player Personnel Andy Weidl and Director of College Scouting Ian Cunningham were all longtime scouts in Baltimore alongside new Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta and Co.