Ravens-Eagles preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Even if the exhibition opener is little more than a required checkpoint on the way to the regular season, there’s still excitement about seeing the 2023 Ravens in a game setting for the first time as they host the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night.

After more than two weeks of full-team workouts on the back fields in Owings Mills, Ravens players will be looking forward to the opportunity to hit someone else.

“A lot of excitement about that. We’ve gone against each other. We’ve probably done about enough for now,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll get back at it next week, but then we have the Commanders coming in, so we’re looking forward to those practices and that game. But the next step is to get on the field and play a game with the guys that are going to play and see how they do.”

Harbaugh confirmed star quarterback Lamar Jackson and the “established” starters won’t play, which comes as no surprise after the way the Ravens approached last year’s preseason. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be numerous veteran bubble players and rookies with plenty to gain on Saturday as they try to earn a spot on the 53-man roster or practice squad.

This marks the 14th time the Ravens and Philadelphia will meet in the preseason with Baltimore owning an 8-5 all-time advantage. The Ravens have won 23 straight preseason contests going back to 2016, which is the longest preseason winning streak in NFL history.

“In the big grand scheme of things, OK, people have their opinions, and I get it. Different things are important to different people,” said Harbaugh about the significance of the preseason streak. “I know that the guys who played in those games, the guys that made the plays to win those games in the fourth quarter — because most of those games were won in the fourth quarter with guys making plays — they’ll remember it. It’s important to them for the rest of their life, and therefore, it’s important to me. It’s meaningful in that sense.”

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 Saturday’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: RB J.K. Dobbins, OLB Tyus Bowser (knee), FB Patrick Ricard (hip), WR Rashod Bateman (foot), CB Rock Ya-Sin (knee), S Geno Stone (ankle), ILB Trenton Simpson, CB Arthur Maulet (hamstring), LS Nick Moore (Achilles tendon), G Andrew Vorhees (knee)
DOUBTFUL: CB Damarion Williams
QUESTIONABLE: CB Jalyn Armour-Davis, RB Gus Edwards

Five players to watch Saturday night

G Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu

The 6-foot-5, 325-pound rookie has been one of the interesting stories of training camp after emerging as a serious candidate for the starting left guard spot late in spring workouts. A sixth-round pick out of Oregon, Aumavae-Laulu has split time with veteran John Simpson working with the rest of the starting offensive, but Saturday should provide a good test. Though it’s unclear how much Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni will play his starters, Philadelphia has one of the best and deepest defensive lines in the NFL. How Aumavae-Laulu holds up should give offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris a better idea of where he is in his development at the next level.

CB Kevon Seymour

There were already depth concerns at cornerback before training camp began, and the Ravens have since lost Trayvon Mullen to a potential season-ending toe injury and been without projected starter Rock Ya-Sin and depth pieces Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion Williams, and Arthur Maulet in recent practices. That’s led to quite a collection of defensive backs lining up opposite three-time Pro Bowl selection Marlon Humphrey on the outside, but Seymour, a 29-year-old special-teams standout, has played as well as anyone early in camp. Hamstring issues limited Seymour for much of his career, but Harbaugh recently stated that his “talent is really starting to express itself.”

TE Charlie Kolar

Clearly behind three-time Pro Bowl selection Mark Andrews and fellow fourth-round pick Isaiah Likely in the position’s pecking order, Kolar added some weight in the offseason and is trying to show he can carve out a role as more of an in-line tight end, which wasn’t his forte at Iowa State. Even if the duties previously held by Josh Oliver end up going to fullback Patrick Ricard or former fifth-round pick Ben Mason, Kolar needs to take advantage of preseason snaps to distinguish himself after missing much of his rookie year recovering from sports hernia surgery. Otherwise, he may not find much of a game-day role, especially with the offseason investments made at wide receiver.

OLB Malik Hamm

Questions persist at outside linebacker, especially with Tyus Bowser nursing a knee issue on the non-football injury list and the door closing on the potential return of Justin Houston. The Ravens have had recent visits with veterans Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney, but in the meantime, Hamm will be a good story playing in his hometown on Saturday night. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound City College standout played his college ball at Lafayette and has flashed just enough to put himself in the conversation for a spot on the practice squad. General manager Eric DeCosta needs to add a veteran, but Hamm and 2022 practice-squad member Jeremiah Moon will see plenty of snaps on Saturday.

QB Josh Johnson

The 37-year-old is in his third stint with the Ravens and has his best chance yet of landing a full-season role in Baltimore as he competes with Tyler Huntley for the primary backup job. Having played for an NFL record 14 teams, Johnson appeared to have the early edge during spring workouts, but the seasoned veteran has probably been outplayed by Huntley since the start of camp. Harbaugh acknowledged the preseason games going “a long way of deciding that pecking order” behind Jackson that also includes second-year quarterback Anthony Brown, who is pretty clearly behind the other two based on rep distribution. This could be Johnson’s last chance for a legitimate No. 2 job.

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