Offensive Storylines for the Ravens’ First Preseason Game

Ravens Tyler Huntley

Getty Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley participates in practice at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Baltimore Ravens will kick off their season tonight in their first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints.

With star quarterback Lamar Jackson and other starters spending little, if any, time on the field, the Ravens will get a good look at the rest of their roster today as they begin to build their final roster for the regular season.

The passing offense is likely to be the focus tonight, as the Ravens have led the league in rushing for three years in a row. The front office worked to improve the passing game this offseason, bolstering the offensive line and adding new weapons for Jackson. But the potential for injuries and COVID-19 to impact the roster means the Ravens will want quality depth to ensure they can weather whatever storm the season brings.

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Here are two key offensive storylines to follow in tonight’s game against the Saints. Check out yesterday’s article on defensive storylines for more!

Will Any Receivers Step Up?

The Ravens wide receiving corps has been hit hard by injuries, with Rashod Bateman, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin all missing recent practices. Veteran Sammy Watkins is unlikely to play more than a series or two, so the Ravens’ backup wideouts will have a golden opportunity to shine.

Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace will get plenty of snaps against the Saints, looking to show they can separate from corners and win at the catch point.

Duvernay flashed some playmaking potential last season, but his speed was best utilized on screens and end-arounds. He primarily played in the slot in college, but has spent time on the outside in the NFL. His ability to improve as a vertical threat will likely determine where he lines up and how much playing time he gets. If he can beat opposing cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, Duvernay could be much more than just a yards-after-catch speedster.

Proche has drawn rave reviews throughout training camp and could be in line for a sophomore breakout season. Though the 2020 sixth-rounder doesn’t possess Duvernay’s elite speed, he’s been locked in during practice, making several tough contested catches against the Ravens top-ranked secondary. Proche could develop into a reliable target for Jackson in short-yardage situations, especially with his excellent hands and strength at the catch point.

Wallace, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State, is known for making tough catches with top-tier body control and ball skills, but it remains to be seen how he’ll stack up against NFL corners. He’s got the speed to be a deep threat, but if he wants to develop any kind of consistency, his release package and route running will have to improve. Contested catches are good for highlight plays, but separation is king in the NFL.

Though not a wide receiver, Josh Oliver is another player to watch tonight.

The former third-round tight end has struggled with injuries in his career, but if he stays healthy, he could be an intriguing playmaker at tight end. He’s got the physical profile of a productive tight end, with speed, hops, and a pair of massive hands – 10.75 inches, which is in the 96th percentile of  NFL Combine attendees all-time, per SB Nation’s Spencer Schultz. He’s got the size to be a serviceable blocker, a must in the Ravens’ run-heavy offense. With Nick Boyle yet to come off the injured list after his early end to last season, Oliver could play an important role in Baltimore early in the season.

Who Will Win the Backup Quarterback Job?

Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley will split the bulk of the snaps at quarterback against the Saints, continuing their training camp competition to back up Lamar Jackson this season.

Jackson, who missed the first two weeks of training camp due to a positive COVID test, will play one series at most, giving McSorley and Huntley plenty of time to show their ability to run the offense.

McSorley, who was drafted in 2019 out of Penn State, has one more year of experience than Huntley and has consistently demonstrated his knowledge of the playbook when asked to step up. He’s probably a safer option than Huntley, but has limited upside due to his below-average arm. The former Nittany Lion is certainly capable of stepping in to run the offense, but he’ll struggle to move the ball through the air. Tonight’s game against the Saints will give him a chance to prove he can contribute to the passing game just as much as the ground attack.

Huntley is a tantalizing backup, with electric speed and athleticism that is capable of burning defenses. Though both Huntley and McSorley excel as dual-threat quarterbacks, Huntley’s play style more closely mimics Jackson’s. He’s got a stronger arm than McSorley, but he’s more mistake-prone, unable to keep the ball away from the Ravens’ secondary in recent practices. If he can take care of the football get points on the scoreboard, against New Orleans, Huntley’s upside may win him the backup QB job.

Pay close attention when the Ravens attempt to move the ball through the air tonight. While preseason games are of little individual importance, how players perform can have a massive impact on roster cuts and their position on the depth chart.