Ravens-Commanders preseason primer: Five players to watch

- Advertisement -

After hosting Washington for two days of joint practices last week, the Ravens now make the short trip to FedEx Field to face the Commanders for a preseason edition of Monday Night Football.

Baltimore’s starters received their most valuable work of the preseason in those sessions, but we won’t see that continue in the second exhibition contest as star quarterback Lamar Jackson and other starters will sit out as they did against Philadelphia. In fact, only one of the Ravens’ projected 22 starters — whoever ultimately mans the left guard spot — on offense and defense played in the preseason opener.

“It will be in that neighborhood,” said head coach John Harbaugh about the plan for playing time against Washington. “I don’t know exactly which way we’ll go with certain guys, but it will be along the same lines.”

Even the backup quarterback competition has lost steam with Tyler Huntley sidelined with a strained hamstring and out for Monday’s game. Veteran Josh Johnson is expected to play the first half before handing the reins to second-year quarterback Anthony Brown for the final 30 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Washington head coach Ron Rivera officially named Sam Howell his starting quarterback for Week 1 just a couple days after the joint practices in Owings Mills.

This marks the 15th time the Ravens and Washington will meet in the preseason with Baltimore owning an 11-3 all-time advantage. The Ravens have prevailed in 24 straight preseason contests going back to 2016, which is the longest preseason win streak in NFL history. 

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to put out an injury report like they do in the regular season, but I’ve offered my best guess of what one would look like if it were to be released ahead of Monday’s game.

Most of the players estimated to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not include the many established players who will be held out due to the coaching staff’s decision.

Below is the unofficial injury report:

OUT: CB Marlon Humphrey (foot), OLB Tyus Bowser (knee), CB Rock Ya-Sin (knee), QB Tyler Huntley (hamstring), CB Arthur Maulet (hamstring), CB Damarion Williams (ankle), LS Nick Moore (Achilles tendon), G Andrew Vorhees (knee)
DOUBTFUL: WR Rashod Bateman (foot), CB Jalyn Armour-Davis
QUESTIONABLE: FB Patrick Ricard (hip), ILB Trenton Simpson, WR Laquon Treadwell, WR Sean Ryan

Five players to watch Monday night

CB Brandon Stephens

With Baltimore expected to be without Marlon Humphrey through the early weeks of the season, Stephens is likely to remain at outside cornerback, especially with veterans Rock Ya-Sin and Ronald Darby carrying injury concerns. Harbaugh noted over the weekend that Stephens has played his best as an outside corner this summer after beginning spring workouts and training camp working at the safety and nickel spots, and the 2021 third-round pick could still earn a starting job with a strong finish to the summer. Stephens is usually in position to make stops in coverage, but his problem has been playing the ball to force the incompletion. That’s a major part of playing the position, of course, but his ability to simply stay on the field this summer has been a stark contrast to the rest of the cornerback group.

G John Simpson

Rookie sixth-round pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu took the first-team reps at left guard during mandatory minicamp in June and over the first two weeks of training camp, but the 26-year-old Simpson has manned the starting spot ever since, notably holding that position in practices after the preseason opener. It would be premature to assume Simpson has won the job, but he was the more consistent performer in that first exhibition contest and can improve his chances of lining up between left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum for Week 1 with a strong showing against the Commanders. This is right around the time in the summer when the Ravens have preferred making a decision for a contested offensive line spot to allow the starting group to build chemistry for Week 1.

OLB Tavius Robinson

The addition of Jadeveon Clowney wouldn’t figure to dramatically change the projected role for either Odafe Oweh or David Ojabo at this point, but the same can’t be said for the rookie fourth-round pick Robinson, who has had a quiet summer and is now in danger of falling out of the pass-rush rotation. That’s not meant to be a criticism of the developing 6-foot-6, 258-pound edge defender as general manager Eric DeCosta was always likely to add a veteran pass rusher, but Robinson’s clearest path to a game-day role will likely be on special teams. For what it’s worth, he ranked behind only fellow outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon with 14 special-teams snaps against Philadelphia.

RB Keaton Mitchell

The son of former Ravens safety and Super Bowl XXXV champion Anthony Mitchell, the undrafted rookie out of East Carolina has been a preseason fan favorite and has done plenty to put himself in position to win a job in a crowded position group. With J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both entering contract years, Mitchell could force Baltimore’s hand to keep him on the 53-man roster if he shines over these final two preseason contests, and his strong presence on special teams helps his cause as Chris Horton can find ways to utilize such a speedy athlete in different phases. If the Ravens keep a fourth running back, it will likely come down to Mitchell or veteran Melvin Gordon.

DL Angelo Blackson

Little has been said about Blackson since former Chicago teammate Roquan Smith offered a strong endorsement for the Ravens to sign the 30-year-old in late May. Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver also coached Blackson for three seasons in Houston, so Baltimore should have a good feel for what the 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive lineman can offer and whether he can help a position group trying to replace six-time Pro Bowl selection Calais Campbell. Blackson flashed early in the preseason opener, but is a sixth defensive lineman really necessary behind Michael Pierce, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Travis Jones, and Brent Urban?

- Advertisement -