Five thoughts on the Ravens’ 26-15 preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field:
On a night when Lamar Jackson didn’t play, the focus was on rookie wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, the team’s top draft pick, who made his long-awaited debut in purple after rehabbing a Lisfranc foot injury throughout the offseason and the start of training camp. By any measure, it was an encouraging debut. On his first snap as a pro, he split wide and caught a pass for a 7-yard gain. One play later, he lined up in the slot, went in motion and took a handoff on a reverse. Right away, you could see how Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman intends to get him the ball. By the end of the night, Brown had caught three passes, and a fourth reception, a successful two-point conversion, was nullified by a penalty. It was irrelevant that he didn’t deliver any “chunk” plays. He got open, exhibited sure hands, looked right at home, and in the best sign of all, handled a significant load of snaps, i.e., made much more than just a cameo appearance. The Ravens couldn’t have asked for more. Brown looks like a young player who can grow into a role.
I think we can assume that the two tough, hot joint practices that the teams shared earlier in the week took a lot out of everyone – so much that both teams elected not to suit up some key players, including their starting quarterbacks. But while Jackson wasn’t there, it was interesting to see the youngest pieces of his new supporting cast on the field together for the first time. Brown and his fellow rookie, Miles Boykin, were the starting receivers. Justice Hill, another rookie, was the starting running back. Hill didn’t do as much with his nine touches as he did a week earlier against Green Bay, but he still looked the part, as did Boykin, whose 44-yard reception set up the game’s first touchdown. The Ravens would love to see Boykin and Brown take command of the depth chart at receiver. That could be in the process of happening. Hill is unlikely to supplant Mark Ingram II as the starting running back, but he has played his way into a role that could become significant.
With Wentz sidelined, the Eagles started Cody Kessler and then subbed in 40-year-old Josh McCown after two series. Quite simply, they were no match for the Ravens’ starting defense, which took the field intact (with Earl Thomas and Jimmy Smith in the secondary) and completely dominated. Although Baltimore has faced only backup quarterbacks in the preseason, Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale surely likes what he is seeing. His unit might not be cut straight from the marauding, ultra-physical mold of Baltimore defenses from Ray Lewis’ heyday, but it is a NextGen version, if you will – extremely fast at all three levels, smart, highly unpredictable and (OK, this was true before) surely no fun to play against. Who stood out on this night? My nod goes to linebacker Tyus Bowser, who held the edge effectively against the run, led the team in tackles and produced a quarterback sack. The Ravens are hoping to see their 2017 second-round pick take a jump forward in 2019. Performances like this are just what they’re looking for.
Halfway through the preseason, rookie quarterback Trace McSorley was perceived to be on the roster bubble. He had struggled a bit with interceptions both in games and during practices. But with Jackson out and Robert Griffin III still sidelined with a broken bone in his thumb, he had this game pretty much to himself – and he took full advantage of the opportunity, generating a soaring quarterback rating of 112.7 with 19 completions in 28 attempts for 203 yards and two touchdowns. McSorley’s arm constituted the majority of the Ravens’ offense, as their running game never materialized behind a patchwork offensive line. McSorley started slowly, but then warmed up and hit a succession of receivers in stride on a variety of routes. Whether he makes the 53-man roster might depend in part on several factors outside of his control, like the pace of Griffin’s return and the bubble situation at other positions. But regardless, on a night like this, he sure looked like a quarterback the Ravens are going to want to keep in their program and develop.
The Ravens have now won 16 straight preseason games … Brandon Carr, Maurice Canady and Chuck Clark were prominent among the many slot cornerback candidates who took snaps at Tavon Young’s position. It may take a village to replace Young … Due to injuries, the Ravens’ starting offensive line consisted of left tackle James Hurst, left guard Bradley Bozeman, center Matt Skura, right guard Ben Powers and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. Only Skura and Brown are projected to start at those positions in the regular season … Whew, the Eagles were flagged for 15 penalties while the Ravens had nine. It seemed like more … As he soared for a touchdown catch, second-year receiver Jaleel Scott sure looked like a potential red-zone weapon.