Baltimore Ravens vs. Washington Redskins: Preseason Week 3 Game Preview
The third preseason game is typically when teams play their starters for two to three full quarters, making it a dress rehearsal for the regular season.
That's because the starters by now usually have a full camp under their belt, so they should be able to operate effectively for at least a half.
For Baltimore, this is a very important game because of the turnover this team has undergone over the offseason. They're breaking in a new offensive coordinator, two new starting offensive lineman and potentially five new defensive starters. Baltimore is also looking to rebound from an 8-8 season in 2013 after missing the playoffs for the first time since John Harbaugh became the head coach in 2008.
Here's what to look for between the Ravens and the Redskins in their preseason matchup.
Week 2 Recap
After a dominating Week 1 performance, it looked as though Baltimore was once again cruising to an easy win in Week 2. Baltimore's first preseason game saw them dominate the San Francisco 49ers, 23-3.
Early in the third quarter of the Ravens' Week 2 game against the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore led 34-10, and it looked like another dominant performance.
However, Baltimore's lack of depth began to show, and the second- and third-string Ravens struggled to hold off Dallas. The offense stalled while the defense allowed the cowboys to go on a 20-0 run to draw to within four points late in the fourth quarter before Baltimore held on for the 37-30 win.
Quarterback Joe Flacco passed for 113 yards and one score in two quarters of work, but Tyrod Taylor and Keith Wenning combined for just 67 passing yards and no scores in the second half.
Part of that had to do with the lack of production from Baltimore's wide receivers, who combined to catch just eight passes for 117 yards. Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith combined for 68 yards and one score, and neither of them played in the second half.
That was a bad sign Baltimore is still lacking depth at wide receiver, just as they did last year. Another concerning sign to come from this game was the defense.
Baltimore is dealing with a host of injuries to players that will either start or currently project into the 2-deep depth chart.
Starting cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, as well as backup Asa Jackson, are all dealing with injuries, causing seldom-used corners to play more. That helped Dallas pick apart the Ravens secondary to the tune of 280 yards passing and three touchdowns.
The Ravens need those guys to get healthy. In the meantime, Baltimore needs more production from the guys who are having to step up and play more than they normally would.
News and Notes
Ravens down top three corners vs. Redskins.
When the Ravens face Washington, they'll do so without Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson. That's two starters and the first backup off the bench Baltimore will be without.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is staying positive though, calling it an opportunity for other players to step up in their absence.
The one player who needs to step up the most is Chykie Brown. He entered training camp with a great chance to win the third cornerback spot, but Jackson has taken hold of that role.
With Jackson and the top two corners out, that means Brown will not only start, but play extensive snaps Saturday night. This will be a great chance for him to earn more playing time once the regular season opens.
Owen Daniels sidelined indefinitely with "leg soreness."
When Baltimore hired former Houston head coach Gary Kubiak to be its new offensive coordinator, one of the first free agents they went after was former Texans tight end Owen Daniels.
Daniels was released in March by Houston after he broke his right leg last October and played in only five games. He had 24 catches for 352 yards and five touchdowns. For his career, the 6'3", 249-pounder has 385 catches for 4,617 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Daniels has been unable to get on the field consistently for Baltimore due to what's being called "leg soreness."
The Ravens were counting on him to a be a solid No. 2 tight end behind Dennis Pitta while also helping other Ravens get acclimated to Kubiak's offense.
Terrence Cody continues rehab from offseason hip surgery.
The fifth-year defensive tackle is still recovering from offseason procedure on his hip that's caused him to miss all of training camp and the preseason. The good news is he was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. That means Baltimore can hold on to him for the first two months of the 2014 NFL season without using a 53-man roster spot on him.
Once he comes off PUP though, Baltimore has to cut him, place him on the active roster or place him on the Injured Reserve list.
Players to Watch
Regarded as the Ravens' best offensive lineman, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe hasn't lived up to that status through two preseason games.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Monroe's 24.0 grade in 2013 was the highest any Ravens player received in 2013. That was the best grade given to any Baltimore lineman.
While he's not been terrible, he still hasn't lived up to the 5-year, $37.5 million deal he signed this offseason. Being the Ravens left tackle, Monroe protects Joe Flacco's blindside.
He's not done a good job at that this preseason, and Monroe needs to start playing better with the regular season nearing. The Redskins feature a pair of solid pass-rushers in Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, who combined for 18.5 sacks in 2013. They will be a good test for Monroe.
OT Ricky Wagner
While Monroe has been the underperforming veteran, Ricky Wagner is still an unknown commodity at offensive tackle. As a rookie in 2013, Wagner registered just 131 offensive snaps.
However, because starting right tackle Michael Oher left in free agency, Wagner was left as the likely replacement. He eventually earned the starting job, but it's still unclear if he can hold up as a full-time starter.
So far this preseason, Wagner has played in 71 snaps while receiving a minus-0.3 grade. How well Wagner holds up against the likes of Orakpo and Kerrigan could help give us a better idea of how well he'll perform this upcoming season.
CB Corey Graham
Cornerback is a position the Ravens have done a poor of job of addressing this offseason. They let Corey Graham depart in free agency and did nothing in free agency or the draft to replace him.
Graham played in 1,293 defensive snaps over the past two seasons, essentially being a starter for Baltimore.
As of now, Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are the only returning cornerbacks from the 2013 roster. Webb and Smith are two quality starters, but as mentioned before, are both dealing with injuries.
Entering his fourth NFL season, Brown has a great chance to make an impact on the Ravens defense in 2014. With Jackson, Webb and Smith set to miss Saturday's game against Washington, Brown will get the start and probably play into the third quarter.
Two years ago, the Ravens and Redskins had a shootout in Washington that saw starting quarterback Robert Griffin III leave the game in the second half before backup Kirk Cousins led Washington to the win in overtime.
I believe this matchup will feature a very similar storyline. Because of Baltimore's lack of secondary depth combined with the Redskins' already-weak defense (ranked 18th in overall defense in 2013), this game will be another shootout.
Griffin, along with receivers DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon, will torch Baltimore's thin secondary while they're in the game.
When Griffin leaves, Cousins will come in and keep the Redskins offense rolling.
As for Baltimore, they too will put up a lot of points, but they won't have the depth to keep pace for four quarters. The Baltimore ground game, highlighted by Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro, will keep the Ravens in the game, but it won't be enough to outscore Washington.
Prediction: Washington 31, Baltimore 27