By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens start the three-game preseason next Saturday on the 14th. They host the New Orleans Saints for their first preseason bout. Here is a look at what I see going down in the three preseason games:
1. A slow start for the offense:
The Baltimore Ravens offense hasn’t had a great start to training camp. There have been some injuries hampering their receivers, while Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards haven’t been able to practice due to Covid-19. Getting everything going isn’t an instant thing. With very limited practice time with the starting quarterback, if we see the starting offense against the Saints it may be a little less sharp than fans want to see.
2. Ben Cleveland is going to make an obvious push for being a starter:
The Baltimore Ravens need the offensive line to be a strength in the 2021 season. Ben Cleveland literally a huge addition to the unit. His massive size and power will shine through. The preseason is a good chance to develop Cleveland. Cleveland has some on-the-job training ahead of him. I could see him getting preseason reps against starters and backups. It’s going to be the most game-like scenario the Ravens will see Cleveland in. Expect him to work out some rookie kinks and to win a starting job.
3. At least one receiver on the back-end of the depth chart will get the Baltimore Ravens Flock way too excited:
I’m not talking about the receivers we keep talking about here. I’m talking about the players like Deon Cain and Binjimen Victor. There will be at least one wide receiver who doesn’t have a realistic chance at a roster spot, that will make plays. It happens on a yearly basis. One of these receivers will make plays against backups. The fans will fall in love with him and the Ravens will cut him. I’m not talking about a Miles Boykin or a James Proche here. I’m talking about the camp bodies who will have to look for chances elsewhere unless maybe, they impress enough on special teams. It happens every year, especially in a receiver starved city.
4. Odafe Oweh gets two sacks in the preseason:
Oweh is in an interesting position going into the preseason. He’s supposed to be a raw player with the goods athletically. Most first-round picks are protected and reserved for most of the preseason action. I could see Oweh getting more playing time than you might expect. If Oweh plays against backups he’s going to win the battle. I think he may be able to beat some starters off the edge just because he’s so explosive. Give Oweh two preseason sacks that will get Baltimore going.
5. Jaylon Ferguson will come on strong:
Jaylon Ferguson is on the roster bubble. When the Ravens signed Justin Houston, that bubble became just a little bit more uncomfortable. Ferguson is going to be hungry. The good news for Ferguson is that he looks like a lean machine. He had the traits that you look for when he was drafted and this could be Ferguson in his best shape. I expect a strong showing from the former Louisiana Tech product. We’ll have to see if it’s too little too late though.
6. The Ravens will go 3-0 this preseason
Do the Ravens ever lose in the preseason anymore? They’ve won 17 straight games in the preseason. These games don’t matter from a results perspective, but you have to think the Ravens put emphasis on winning these games.
The Ravens never treat these as throwaway games, they treat them as work in a game setting. After years of watching John Harbaugh coached Ravens teams in the preseason, the biggest compliment I can give is that they almost make the preseason fun football.
More importantly, the Ravens have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. The Ravens have role players and backups that are better than what’s out there on most NFL rosters. The Ravens have a tendency to win preseason games and one of the most stacked rosters. This makes me see three meaningless wins coming right up.
7. The Ravens won’t give much away about their new passing game:
One of the big advantages of the Ravens is that nobody knows what to expect from their new passing game. The Ravens have Keith Williams and Tee Martin as the new passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. It’s a given that the passing attack will change. Expect the Ravens’ offense to be very vanilla in the preseason. They probably have no motivation to give things away. Much like Eric DeCosta played us when he talked up his comfort level at wide receiver before the draft, I expect the coaching staff to keep their secrets.
One thing I do expect though is you will see a higher level of quality out of the wide receiver group as a whole. This is a position group that needed a coaching update. With mostly young receivers the coaching should take incredibly well and show its impact in the games.
8. Rashod Bateman will shine:
Sticking with the wide receivers, Rashod Bateman will have a nice preseason. I’m done saying that Bateman will be good because football season is here and he obviously is good. The Ravens have never had a rookie wide receiver with more talent. Bateman will become one of the best receivers in the NFL soon enough. For now, he’ll have a nice little highlight reel in the preseason.
9. Tyler Huntley will earn QB2:
My expectations for Tyler Huntley are high. In a year where there is no promise that the Ravens hold on to three quarterbacks, Huntley has a chance to earn the second spot at quarterback. Arm talent is what I believe to be the biggest separator between Huntley and McSorley. Huntley has a more powerful arm. He has a lot of skills in common with Lamar Jackson and he makes the most sense as the backup.
Is he ever going to be a Jackson-level quarterback? Probably not. I could see him becoming the best backup in the league and earning a starting spot elsewhere eventually. That’s on the table. Huntley is talented.
10. Nate McCrary makes a legitimate run for the third running back spot:
Justice Hill hasn’t been the player I was expecting him to be. To be fair, the Oklahoma State product hasn’t had much of a chance behind Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards in 2019 and Edwards and Dobbins in 2020. The third running back spot is arguably up for grabs. The player that Justice Hill has to worry about is Nate McCrary, an undrafted free agent out of Saginaw State.
McCrary looks the part with a 6-1 and 225-pound build. He had 1060 yards in the 2019 season and he scored 10 touchdowns. It may just be at Saginaw State, but McCrary is an interesting player to watch. That’s my only promise here, that McCrary makes it interesting. He may not make the roster, but he’s going to make a strong argument for himself that will be worth the price of admission.
Doesn’t it feel good to start thinking about football games again? We’ll be here all season. Let’s go!