Eisenberg: Issue or Non-Issue As Ravens Training Camp Closes

082019_Eisenberg

It’s time for another issue of that classic game show, Issue or Non-Issue, when I consider various Ravens talking points and judge whether they’re important or … not.

The list is long so let’s get to it!

Topic: The possibility that “Hollywood” Brown might not be at his best for the start of the regular season.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-Issue.

Why: Before you start shouting, I realize the Ravens would be better with their top draft pick at his playmaking best on Sept. 8 against the Dolphins in Miami. But to me, that game, as well as the home opener against the Arizona Cardinals a week later, shape up as contests the Ravens possibly could win relying on a run-heavy offense not unlike their 2018 model. They’re going to be passing more in the long run, which means it’s certainly important (yes, an issue) that Brown fully recovers from his Lisfranc injury and becomes a major contributor by, say, midseason at the latest. But I think they can survive the first weeks as he eases his way into his role. And of course, all that matters is he eventually is 100 percent, which is why they’re being so careful with him.

Topic: The possibility that slot cornerback Tavon Young won’t play in 2019.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: The Ravens are fortunate their first major injury of 2019 came at a position where they’re so deep. If Young is lost, as feared, they could use Cyrus Jones, Brandon Carr, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett, or some other combination to cover slot receivers. That’s an extensive Plan B. But there’s a reason Young received a major contract extension during the offseason; he has played so well that the Ravens see him as a cornerstone of the defense. They could get by without him, but his energy, consistency and playmaking will be missed.

Topic: The lack of a clear-cut starter at left guard.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: The Ravens hoped someone would emerge by now; Head Coach John Harbaugh said in June that the picture should be clearer after two preseason games. But is it? All that has happened, really, is several candidates have been eliminated. Alex Lewis was traded. It seems the Ravens don’t believe rookies Ben Powers or Patrick Mekari are ready. They prefer James Hurst as a swingman. That leaves Jermaine Eluemunor, who has been and an up-and-down performer. The good news is he was effective against the Green Bay Packers, so his arrow might be pointed up. The bad news is he left practice on a cart Monday in Philadelphia.

Topic: Through two preseason games, the offense has generated one touchdown in five possessions with Lamar Jackson at quarterback.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-Issue.

Why: It would be two touchdowns if not for the penalty that nullified Jackson’s touchdown run against the Packers. And since that drive eventually led to a field goal, Jackson has produced points on all but one of his five possessions. (One touchdown, three field goals.) Jackson, unabashedly self-critical, has said he needs to work on being more effective in the red zone. But here in the preseason, what’s truly important is how the Jackson-led offense is consistently moving the chains. Three lengthy drives. Only one three-and-out. The Ravens would take those ratios in September.

Topic: The injury that will shelve guard Marshal Yanda for the entire preseason.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-Issue.

Why: Since Yanda is 34 and has discussed how long he’ll keep playing, it should be somewhat concerning to see him miss any extended time. But Harbaugh said it’s just a “minor” foot injury keeping him out, and Yanda, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, certainly doesn’t need to take a few meaningless snaps to help him prepare for the season. I fully expect Yanda, one of the Ravens’ toughest guys, to be ready on Sept 8.

Topic: Keeping all of the running backs satisfied with their touches.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: The Ravens’ backs averaged 23.6 carries per game in 2018, and that number might decline this season if/when Lamar Jackson goes to the air more. Meanwhile, with rookie Justice Hill coming on strong, it appears there’ll be at least three capable backs wanting the ball – Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards are the other two, and if Kenneth Dixon makes the roster, he’d be another. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman called it “a good problem,” the kind he invites. But he does have some figuring out to do.

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