(Image Credit: Kevin Oestreicher/ Ravens Wire)
Written by: Connor Pelesh
After nearly seven calendar months, Ravens football was back in action vs the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens, riding a 17-game winning streak in the preseason, arrived at M&T Bank Stadium looking to turn the page and answer many questions regarding their personnel for the upcoming season. In this recap, I will give a quick game summary along with an analysis of some players/position groups. Those whose stock went up made a great impact on the Ravens and their fans; others whose stock went down, took some steps back.
Well, I can sum up the game in about one number and one word, here it is: 6 turnovers. 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions by one Baltimore Ravens defense in the game (3 turnovers coming in the first quarter alone). The Saints were able to force 2 turnovers vs Ravens QBs Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley via an interception and a fumble. The low-scoring affair saw its share of sloppy play by both sides, particularly on offense. The Saints held a steady lead throughout the game until a late TD drive with a 2pt-conversion gave the Ravens the lead and their 18th straight preseason win. The Ravens, not having lost a preseason game since 2015, now look for their 19th straight vs the Carolina Panthers on August 21st. I will now take a closer look at players/position groups that I feel either moved their stock up or down after this game.
1. Ravens Inside Linebacker Core
I was absolutely blown away by the play I saw from the Ravens linebackers (LBs) with shoutouts to Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. On the first drive of the game, Harrison puts his helmet on the ball and knocks it loose for DeShon Elliott to recover. Harrison looks much more comfortable from last year when he split time with LJ Fort for the starting spot next to Queen. The number of plays Patrick Queen made in about a quarter and a half blew Ravens nation away. Queen had 4 tackles, one tackle for about a 5-yard loss, and one sack. He ran to the ball with improved speed from last year and did a great job in defending the run, pass protection, and pass rush. Rob Ryan is the new LB coach for the Ravens, and after their performance vs the Saints, he must be very excited. Baltimore should be very encouraged by the LB core potential for the upcoming season.
2. Geno Stone (Safety)
Sometimes it's about being at the right place at the right time. Geno Stone happened to be on the receiving end of passes from Taysom Hill and Jamis Winston who play for the other team. Showing great movement and ability, Stone notched two tackles and one assist to pair with his two interceptions. Both from subpar passes from Saints QBs, Stone made the most of his opportunities playing with the first and second-team defense of the Ravens. While Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are the definite starters for the Ravens this upcoming season, Stone has made a big impression in camp and in the first preseason game to almost all but guarantee him the backup role. The Ravens defense lives on forcing turnovers and with Stone proving his ability to do just that he should have a comfortable spot on the roster in a few weeks.
3. Tyler Huntley
The last time we saw Huntley, he was battling the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round on a windy night after Lamar Jackson was sidelined with a concussion. He finds himself as QB3 currently on the Ravens depth chart and is in a position battle with Trace McSorley to back up Lamar for the upcoming season. Although McSorley did not play terribly, he didn't play well leaving Huntley an opportunity. Huntley has many attributes to his game that are similar to Lamar making him an ideal QB to play in the same system. Huntley displayed his great running ability gaining 43 yards on the ground (6.1 average per carry). He was able to lead the Ravens to a game-winning TD drive and played relatively mistake-free until he was slammed by two Saints defenders and fumbled. With McSorley now having a back injury, it seems all but likely that Huntley will earn the QB2 nod.
1. Ravens Offensive Line
Perhaps the most important unit of the Ravens roster is their offensive line. It is the driving force behind Baltimore’s dominant running game and will greatly help the passing development of Lamar Jackson. But what I saw vs the Saints (primarily from depth players) was an offensive line that was not ready for the task at hand. The Ravens running game was essentially nonexistent, other than a few scrambles by Huntley, and allowed constant pressure in the backfield. Although many of the starters including Ronnie Stanley did not play, it was not a great sign to see many of the remaining players and depth guys get pushed around for 60 minutes.
2. Trace McSorley
Coming into the game second on the QB depth chart behind Lamar Jackson, McSorley was looking for a strong outing. As previously stated, his play was not bad by any means, but he didn’t do much to prove he should remain QB2. McSorley now has back spasms and is expected to miss a few weeks. This leaves the backup job for Huntley assuming he keeps his steady level of play. McSorley’s stock amongst the team and fans certainly went down after this game for these reasons.
3. Ravens Wide Receivers
This statement here is more for what I didn’t see rather than what I did. The Ravens, finishing dead last in passing during the 2020 season, are looking to have a revival in 2021 with the help of new and current wide receivers. Hollywood Brown has been out since the second day of training camp with a hamstring. Miles Boykin has been out since the first week of camp with a hamstring. Rashod Bateman has been out for a few weeks and had recent groin surgery. Finally, Sammy Watkins has missed the last few days of camp with a minor injury. You can see the pattern and the point here. These receivers need to be on the field as much as possible building chemistry amongst themselves and with Lamar. Every rep taken away is an advantage for another team’s secondary. Hollywood, Boykin, and Watkins are expected to return very soon to practice and Bateman will make his Ravens debut around weeks 2-4. It will take some time in the regular season for the passing game to really gel and take shape due to the lack of preseason reps and missed training camp time. Shoutout to James Proche II who has been making big plays in camp and has not missed time with injury.
The Ravens will take on the Panthers looking to build off of a strong defensive performance by all units. The offensive line will be a bit healthier as well as Lamar Jackson potentially making his season debut. Check back next week where I will go over the Ravens' second preseason game and analyze who made an impact and who didn't.