Lamar Jackson ‘Very Much in Command of the Offense’
So, that went well.
Sure, the Jacksonville Jaguars sat 32 players and played their backups, but there was a lot for Ravens fans to like in Baltimore’s preseason-opening, 29-0 victory at M&T Bank Stadium, which extended their preseason winning streak to 14 games (more on that later).
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ rebuilt offense are the story of the offseason, so let’s start there. While the offense wasn’t revolutionary – you didn’t really expect the Ravens to reveal too much, did you? – it was efficient under Jackson.
The second-year quarterback led the team to a touchdown and field goal in his three offensive series. He finished 4-for-6 for 59 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 138.2. His rushing stat line: 0 carries for 0 yards.
As The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer noted, it was a stark contrast to Jackson’s first preseason game as a rookie, when he went 4-for-10 for 33 yards, a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 42.9 against the Chicago Bears. He ran the ball eight times for 25 yards.
“It was not a virtuoso night for Jackson, but it was the kind of mistake-free, hope-raising performance he has delivered almost every day in training camp,” Shaffer wrote.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote: “His best throw came when he hit Chris Moore for 30 yards along the sideline. It is the type of pass that Jackson sometimes overthrew last season. In leading Baltimore to scores on two of his three series, Jackson put together a performance that showed he is very much in command of the offense.”
One of the highlights of Jackson’s third drive – which ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead IV – was an 18-yard pass to Moore that appeared as if it might have been intended for tight end Nick Boyle.
Rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin had a couple drops, but the third-round pick out of Notre Dame showed why many believe he has a high ceiling. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin finished with four catches for 39 yards on a team-high nine targets. He had a 17-yard touchdown pass from Trace McSorley called back.
“Boykin really stole the show late in the second quarter,” Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote. “He showed plenty of exciting potential.”
Another rookie, speedy running back Justice Hill, showed a glimpse of what he’s capable of doing with the ball in his hands in open space.
“His most impressive play might have been a simple swing pass out into the right flat, as he beat the defender to the edge and quickly turned upfield for a 14-yard gain,” PressBox’s Bo Smolka wrote. “Hill didn't do much pass catching at Oklahoma State, but he showed an intriguing dimension on that play.”
Perhaps the biggest standout was backup kicker Kaare Vedvik, who went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts, converting kicks of 55, 45, 29 and 26 yards. He also had two punts for an average of 55.5 yards.
“Kaare Vedvik had a game to remember,” NBC Sports’ Andrew Gillis wrote. “Vedvik showcased himself as a potential trade chip for the Ravens.”
Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens wrote: “I’d expect Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta to have a few voicemails tomorrow morning from other teams seeing what it’ll take to make a trade. For Vedvik, who suffered a traumatic assault on a Baltimore street last year that ended his season prematurely, that’s a huge comeback.”
Ravens’ Defensive Depth Was on Display
Super Bowl-winning quarterback Nick Foles didn’t play, but the Ravens defense limited the Jaguars to 112 yards and eight first downs. That’s a smothering performance regardless of who is on the field, and the Ravens didn’t start many of their defensive starters either.
“With a strong front seven and a secondary that didn’t allow much, the Ravens’ depth shined on defense — with some key defensive figures out of the lineup,” Gillis wrote.
One of the areas of concern for the Ravens is their pass rush, but they had four sacks on the night, including two by fullback/defensive tackle Patrick Ricard.
“Ricard really should be the player of the game,” Stevens wrote. “He played Baltimore football both on offense and defense, just blowing people up on a regular basis.”
Smolka wrote of Ricard: “The Ravens will have to make some tough calls to get down to a 53-man roster. Ricard's ability to play both fullback and defensive lineman could allow the Ravens to keep an additional player elsewhere.”
Schisler noted that third-year linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser “both looked good coming off the edge.” He added: “Chris Wormley was impressive as well with a tackle in the backfield after dominating the offensive lineman in front of him. Jaylon Ferguson had some good moments in the second half. He didn’t have a sack but he was the reason Pat Ricard got one.”
Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, who has the daunting task of replacing C.J. Mosley, got off to a good start.
“Onwuasor was charged with leading the Ravens defense and setting the tone, which he did immediately,” Stevens wrote. “Onwuasor came out with serious intensity, something that can be infectious, especially among the younger players. While he didn’t play very long, he made Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark regret trying to bring a short catch inside, cracking him so hard it echoed throughout the stadium.”
The hit of the night, however, went to linebacker Kenny Young.
Even though the secondary was missing safeties Earl Thomas III and Tony Jefferson, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young, the Jaguars had just 44 net yards passing.
“The secondary lived up to the billing throughout the contest,” Schisler wrote. “Anthony Averett’s tight coverage held up under the new pass interference penalty and Cyrus Jones had a pick-six. Bennett Jackson had an interception in garbage time. The Ravens’ talent shone through the entire depth chart. It was exactly what we expected and it’s what we got.”
Harbaugh: ‘Winning Is Better Than Losing’
The preseason games don’t count, but don’t use the term “meaningless exhibition” to Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh.
“We like to win,” Harbaugh said in the post-game press conference. “The haters out there are going to have their own little snide comments. I think winning is better than losing.
“We like winning around here. Let’s keep doing it — in the regular season, also — for all the haters out there.”
The Ravens’ 14-game winning streak is the longest for any team over the past 25 preseasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Ravens’ last preseason loss was on Sept. 3, 2015, when the Falcons edged them, 20-19.
“I’m still mad about that one,” Harbaugh said with a chuckle.
· NFL Network’s Mark Sessler would like to see more in-season philosophical shifts akin to what the Ravens did last year on offense.