Tight end Nick Boyle has played in each of the Ravens’ last 15 preseason games. The Ravens have won them all.
Don’t tell Boyle that winning in the preseason doesn’t matter.
“There’s always a benefit to winning,” Boyle said. “You never play this game to lose. Every time you step on the field, you want to win. It’s a credit to what we do and our work ethic.”
The Ravens can make it 16 straight preseason wins Thursday night by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The chance to go 16-0 over their last 16 preseason games has a nice ring to it. Not as nice as going 16-0 during the upcoming regular season, but the Ravens’ players are aware of their preseason streak, and they don’t want it to end.
Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, who may only play the first quarter Thursday night, mentioned the streak without prompting Tuesday while meeting with the media.
Asked what he wanted to accomplish against Philadelphia, Jackson said, “Score points, come out with a ‘W.’ I want to win and keep the streak going.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh has also mentioned the streak. After the Ravens defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars to open the preseason, Harbaugh was reminded that his last preseason defeat came in 2015, when Baltimore lost 20-19 to the Atlanta Falcons.
“I’m still mad about that one,” Harbaugh said, drawing laughter.
Harbaugh believes winning sets the right tone, whether it’s preseason or regular season. He wants players in the habit of making game-winning plays, to be aware of situational football while they’re preparing for Week 1. Like all teams, the Ravens play their backups more than their starters during the preseason. They substitute frequently and give playing time to their entire 90-man roster. They don’t show much of the game plan they will use during the regular season, both offensively and defensively.
Yet, while evaluating players and deciding on the 53-man roster, Harbaugh would rather win than lose.
“We like to win,” Harbaugh said. “The haters out there are going to have their own little snide comments. I think winning is better than losing, and we don’t do much different than anybody else.
“It’s not like we’re game-planning games, we’re playing like everybody else. I give our players a lot of credit, and our coaches. We like winning around here. Let’s keep doing it – in the regular season, also – for all the haters out there.”
Boyle doesn’t think the preseason winning streak is a coincidence. The roster changes from year to year, but the Ravens’ culture does not. They practice at a fast pace and with purpose. Players who have been with other teams say Baltimore’s pre-training camp conditioning test is one of the NFL’s toughest, if not the toughest. Boyle thinks those factors contribute to the Ravens performing well during the preseason, regardless of which players are on the field.
“It’s a combination of everything,” Boyle said. “It’s a credit to the coaches and the fact you bring 90 players in, with everyone seeing playing time in the preseason. They load the roster up pretty well. It basically goes back to how we practice, how we prepare.”
Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead IV played his first three NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints before joining the Ravens in 2018. It didn’t take him long to grasp that winning matters to the Ravens, even during the preseason.
After the second of two joint practices against the Eagles on Tuesday afternoon, Snead left the field drenched in sweat after two hours in the 90-plus degree heat. Practices in August are hard work. Why not win preseason games as a reward for all that effort? Snead hasn’t lost a preseason game since joining Baltimore, and he doesn’t want to start Thursday night. He likes the possibility of 16 straight preseason wins.
“I think to us and this team it means a lot,” Snead said. “It’s not easy to win in this league, regular season or the preseason. It’s tough because everybody’s good, and everybody’s working toward the same goal.
“Harbs sets the tone with making sure we win and imposing our will on teams. We have a sense of urgency to get the job done. We practice this hard. We’re doing all this work to win games, whether it’s the preseason or the regular season. The leaders want to win, the coach wants to win, so that’s what we end up doing.”