Five thoughts on the Ravens' 24-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night at State Farm Stadium:
The Ravens felt very good about their 2022 rookie class as soon as this year's draft was over. Watching them in Sunday night's 24-17 preseason win in Arizona, General Manager Eric DeCosta, Head Coach John Harbaugh, and Co. must be feeling like they have a fist full of winning lottery tickets.
It was the Ravens Rookie Show, broadcast on FOX national television. Let's breeze through the lineup. Tight end Isaiah Likely had eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Defensive tackle Travis Jones bulldozed his way into the backfield with regularity. Jordan Stout was a machine, pinning two punts inside the 5-yard line and booming a 58-yarder out of bounds. Cornerback Pepe Williams got an interception. Running back Tyler Badie scored a touchdown. Quarterback Anthony Brown ripped a perfect touchdown pass to undrafted wide receiver Raleigh Webb. Undrafted rookies Chuck Wiley and Rayshad Nichols helped seal the win with back-to-back sacks on the Cardinals' final drive.
"I feel like we've got the best rookie class in all 32 [NFL teams]," Likely said. We don't have a front-row seat to every training camp in the league, but he may be right. And keep in mind, two of the team's top three picks (Tyler Linderbaum and David Ojabo) didn't play due to injuries.
The FOX broadcast opened the game talking about how much the Ravens care about their preseason winning streak, which is now up to 22 games. Sure, Baltimore is proud of it. But it's not like the Ravens do anything beyond other teams to win them. They're just coached well and Baltimore's depth is better than other teams' depth. Sunday night's win was case in point. A group of mostly Day 3 rookies beat the Cardinals' backups.
The nation saw what Baltimore has been buzzing about with Likely. There were three mighty good tight ends in the building with Mark Andrews and Zach Ertz on their respective benches and Greg Olsen in the FOX booth. Likely has been so good that it makes you wonder if he'll join their ranks in the not-so-distant future.
Much of it was what we've seen a lot of so far – a great feel for finding openings in zone coverage and slippery ability to separate in man-to-man. The new eye-opener was how Likely can pick up yardage after the catch, something we don't get to witness in training camp. Likely broke through tackles on both of his longest plays of 20 and 31 yards. We got a taste last week with his quadruple juke move to pick up a first down, but Likely's second preseason game displayed even more of that wide receiver hybrid quality that will make him a featured part of Baltimore's 2022 offense.
If you hadn't gotten on this bandwagon before, it's Likely full by now. (I can't promise to chill on the puns.)
Even though he didn't rack up wins, Tyler Huntley proved he's a more than capable backup quarterback last year in relief of Lamar Jackson. This preseason, "Snoop" is showing the rest of the NFL that he could be a starter on a number of other teams. Going through the projected Week 1 starting quarterbacks around the league, a strong case could be made that a dozen teams would probably be better served with Huntley as their guy.
Huntley has completed a whopping 91% of his passes through the Ravens' first two preseason games. That's 29-of-32 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. It's good enough for a passer rating of 118.4. Harbaugh said he played "masterfully" Sunday night.
The Ravens are lucky to have Huntley as their backup, just in case of another injury to Jackson. And, no, I wouldn't be looking to trade him.
Travis Jones' hyperextended knee injury was the bummer of the night. The Ravens dodged a bullet that it's not a serious injury, but it would still hurt if the rookie third-round pick isn't ready for Week 1.
Jones was looking like an immediate difference-maker in the trenches, and former Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley felt it when Jones shoved him into another dimension Sunday night. Thankfully Jones won't be out too long and the Ravens are brimming with defensive line talent and depth. Broderick Washington has quietly been on the rise too, and even depth pieces such as Isaiah Mack and Nichols are showing some juice.
Quick Hits: Top draft pick Kyle Hamilton saved a touchdown with a leaping pass breakup at the goal line. He did come unglued from his receiver, however, on a scramble drill a few plays later that should have been a Cardinals touchdown if not for a flat drop. Still, another rookie who had a good night. … It was good to see Kyle Fuller come up with an interception. He's had his hands full in training camp, but the veteran keeps hanging tough. … Give credit to Daniel Faalele. Not only did he get in shape this summer, but he also shook off what looked to be a tough shot to the knee and kept playing in a preseason game. Tough dude. … The next thing Huntley needs to learn is when to protect his body. He's too much of a commodity to be taking shots like that near the sideline. Even Kyler Murray cringed at that one during a live sideline interview. … Stout's 58-yard punt that went out of bounds at the 15-yard line, in a "clutch" situation by preseason standards, is a great sign. The rookie doesn't seem nervous at all. … The FOX broadcast had some head-scratching moments, like when it said Jackson has been plagued by injuries over his career (he hasn't), or how the Ravens won't be able to sneak Likely onto their practice squad now (they weren't planning to). They also had Stout scoring a touchdown. I guess everybody is working out the preseason bugs.