Ravens

Ravens vs. Dolphins: Key Takeaways, Stock Watch & MVP

The Ravens defeated the Miami Dolphins Saturday night, improving to 4-0 in the preseason. Baltimore used a big second half to expand their lead and win in convincing fashion.

The Ravens played very few starters throughout the game, specifically on offense. Joe Flacco, Michael Crabtree and John Brown, among others, were absent from the contest. The only notable offensive starter to suit up was Alex Collins, but he was taken out after just one carry.

It was a smart move by John Harbaugh. With Ronnie Stanley and Hayden Hurst recently suffering injuries, there is no need to risk losing any other key players in the fourth preseason contest.

With Joe Flacco out, Robert Griffin III got the start at quarterback. The Ravens offense as a whole struggled for the entirety of the first half, mustering just three points. They failed to establish the run game and were similarly ineffective through the air.

However, the offense came to life in the second half. Led by Lamar Jackson, Baltimore scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter to erase a seven-point deficit. Another ten points in the fourth quarter and stifling defense led to a 27-10 victory.

Lamar Jackson’s Best Performance

Jackson has had a shaky start to his NFL career. Entering this contest, he had completed just 41.9% of his passes in the preseason, with a quarterback rating of 62.3. Both marks represent the lowest among all qualified AFC quarterbacks in the preseason. 

After a dismal showing against the Colts, Jackson himself admitted he was disappointed in his play. Against the Dolphins, however, Jackson looked like a different player. It was by far his best performance yet, and he was the most electric offensive player on the field.

Jackson took over in the second half and immediately ignited the offense. He appeared far more comfortable in the pocket and made timely plays to move the chains.

Following a 65 yard rushing touchdown by De’Lance Turner, Jackson orchestrated an eight-play, 62 yard touchdown drive. He connected with several different receivers and ran for seven yards on third-down to keep the drive alive.

Jackson capped off the series with a nineteen yard, stumbling touchdown run off the read-option. It was his second rushing touchdown of the preseason and gave the Ravens the lead.

Jackson’s elusiveness a rusher is well-documented, and his athletic ability was on full display with this touchdown run. Much like his rushing touchdown earlier in the preseason against the Rams, Jackson utilized his athleticism in space to score.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Jackson led another six-play scoring drive in just under two minutes. After completing a 33 yard pass to Tim White, Jackson connected with DiVier Posey for a 21 touchdown. Jackson hit Posey in stride over the middle and he ran almost untouched into the endzone.

It would be foolish to place too much stock into just one preseason game, but this could potentially represent a breakthrough performance for Jackson. John Harbaugh even said as such in his post-game press conference.

Jackson looked far more polished than in the three previous preseason contests. He continued to make plays on the ground, but was far more accurate through the air. Jackson stayed with his progressions and spread the ball around to his receivers and running backs.

Jackson played a total of five drives, three of which resulted in touchdowns. He completed seven of ten passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his touchdown run, he rushed for 39 yards on just three attempts.

Receiver Battle Continues

Every year, it seems as though the final two or three wide receiver spots on the roster are decided at the end of the preseason. This year is no different. The top four spots on the depth chart are currently locked in, but after that, it is anyone’s guess as to who makes the final roster.

Assuming they opt to keep six wide receivers on the roster, it appears the final two spots are being fought for between Breshad Perriman, Tim White and rookies Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott and Janarion Grant.

The Ravens have been waiting for someone to step up and separate themselves from the pack, but it has yet to happen this preseason. Each of these guys are talented and possess potential, but it has yet truly translate on the field.

Against the Dolphins, Jordan Lasley and Tim White had impressive performances. White’s best chance at making the roster was perceived to be his ability as a return man, but he finally made an impact as a receiver Saturday night. White caught three passes for 70 yards.

Lasley, who had struggled this preseason, finally made an impact against the Dolphins. He caught three of five targets for 30 yards. Lasley was the most-targeted Ravens receiver and tied for the team-lead in catches. He showed some potential as a possession receiver.

In comparison, Breshad Perriman caught just two passes for 13 yards. Undrafted free agent Janarion Grant was quiet as a receiver, but made a big impact on special teams. Grant returned three kicks for 66 yards and four punts for 36 yards. It was interesting to see him, not Tim White, as the Ravens’ primary returner.

Either Grant or Tim White will likely make the roster as a returner. However, that means whoever does not win the returner job is a candidate to be cut. The other receiver spot is shaping up to come down to Perriman, Lasley and Jaleel Scott.

Scott has essentially done almost nothing this preseason, and it would take a huge performance in the final preseason game for him to have a shot at sticking around. My bet is the Ravens take a chance on Lasley over Perriman, given he is a rookie and boasts higher upside.

Stock Up

Kenny Young – The rookie linebacker had another productive performance with four tackles and a sack, further closing the gap between him and Patrick Onwuasor for a starting job.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste – For the second consecutive week, Jean-Baptiste made an impressive interception. With Jimmy Smith suspended for the first four games, he is playing his way into a roster spot.

Chuck Clark – Clark also had an interception to go along with six tackles, which led the team. He figures to be a valuable depth piece in the defensive backfield this season.

De’Lance Turner – The undrafted free agent had arguably the biggest highlight of the night, breaking loose for a 65 yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

Tim White – White was the most effective Ravens’ receiver against the Dolphins, tying for the team-lead in catches with three and totaling 70 yards.

Stock Down

Gus Edwards – Edwards was again given a heavy rushing workload but made little of the opportunity. He gained just 38 yards on sixteen carries, and caught one of two targets for seven yards.

Robert Griffin III – While Jackson shined, Griffin had his worst performance of the preseason. He was not terrible, but Griffin missed several throws early and led the offense to just three points in the first half

Breshad Perriman – While Tim White and Jordan Lasley had productive outings, Perriman caught just two passes. He needs to do more if he wants to stick around.

Mark Andrews/Maxx Williams – In the wake of Hayden Hurst’s injury, the Ravens need a tight end to step up in the passing game. Nick Boyle, the presumed week 1 starter, is primarily a blocking tight end. Williams caught just one pass for nine yards, and Andrews failed to record a catch on three targets.

MVP

Lamar Jackson – Jackson had the performance that Ravens’ fans had been waiting for. He was arguably the most impressive offensive player on either team, and bounced back significantly after a poor showing against the Colts. In just over a quarter, Jackson totaled 137 yards and two touchdowns. Hopefully, he will build upon this performance and continue to improve his game.

What’s Next?

The Ravens will head home to conclude the preseason against the Washington Redskins on Thursday, August 30 at 7:30 PM.

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