On Thursday night, the Ravens continued their record preseason win streak with a win over the Titans. Even in the preseason, there are takeaways to be had. Here are ours.
The Baltimore Ravens continued their exhibition perfection this past Thursday night with a 23-10 win over the Tennessee Titans. Baltimore got on the board early with a short touchdown run from starter Mike Davis. He finished with five carries for 22 yards. The Ravens remained in control for the majority of the game. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley got the start and went 16 for 18 with 109 yards and with a touchdown to rookie wide receiver Shemar Bridges in the corner of the endzone.
The Emergence Of Shemar Bridges Is A Welcome Sight For Ravens
All offseason and for most of training camp, the talk of the town has been centered around the wide receivers. Which wideout would step up? Who will make the 53-man roster? Well, Thursday night, the towering 6-foot-4, 210-pound wide receiver from Fort Valley State College made the most of every opportunity given.
Bridges managed to make a few notable catches, one being a beautiful jump-ball thrown by Huntley into the corner of the endzone. He high-pointed the football and came down in-bounds using his size and reach over the defender. The Ravens have lacked that type of physical play at wide receiver for quite some time. Will Bridges work his way up the depth chart? It remains to be seen.
To be fair, Makai Polk had a pretty good debut as well. It paled in comparison to the night Bridges had. He finished the night with five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Bridges led all pass catchers in targets and receptions.
With Tylan Wallace expected to miss significant time, the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots remain wide open. Bridges managed to solidify himself for early consideration of making the team. Hopefully, he builds off the performance.
Isaiah Likely Looks To Be The Real Deal For The Ravens Offense
The Ravens’ rookie tight end, Isaiah Likely, had a great game against Tennessee. The young man caught everything thrown his way. On one particular catch, Likely put a couple of Titans defenders on skates with a series of juke moves often seen in the Madden video game franchise. With the hype surrounding Likely for most of the offseason, it was a pleasant surprise to see him translate this into results on the field. He finished the night with four catches for 44 yards.
Baltimore has often relied on the tight end position to make the offense click. Back in 2019, Lamar Jackson had his best campaign while leaning on the duo of Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. Jackson went on to win his first unanimous MVP award. After trading Hurst, the team has never replaced him with another pass-catching tight end to compliment Mark Andrews. Likely will look to be a better version of what Hurst provided Jackson three seasons ago.
The young tight end has a unique opportunity this year. Andrews led the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns amongst all tight ends in 2021. He is the best tight end in football. There is little doubt that Andrews will be double covered by most opposing defenses. With his combination of size and speed, Likely will be a matchup nightmare this season. By season’s end, the Ravens could potentially have the best group of tight ends in all of football.
Additional Takeaways From The Ravens First Preseason Game
Travis Jones showed up and made his presence known early and often Thursday night. The massive rookie defensive tackle was all over the field. Starting alongside Isaiah Mack, Jones tallied two tackles and one quarterback hit in limited snaps. While it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, Jones was eating blockers and allowing the linebackers and safeties to make plays untouched.
With Calais Campbell entering the twilight of his career, having Jones will help with the 18-week wear and tear on the veteran tackle. Campbell, who will be 36 years old by week one, has admittedly played far more snaps than he has wanted to the last few years. The rookie Jones is the answer. Campbell can be better utilized in a rotation with Jones.
While the sample size was small, Jones looks to have first-round talent that was found in the mid-third round. While he may not start immediately, Jones will push Justin Madubuike and Campbell for snaps.
After a brief stint in Minnesota, former undrafted nose tackle Michael Pierce made his way back home to Baltimore. The 345-pound monster nose tackle has been missed in Charm City. On Thursday night, number 58 was a bright spot on the defensive front. He looked healthy and had some pep in his step.
During the first drive of the game, Pierce pushed the pocket on a Malik Willis drop-back and had the rookie signal caller scrambling to evade a sack. Baltimore has not had an inside pass rush in many years. Pierce showed flashes of this in his first stint for the Ravens. Former nose tackle Brandon Williams was not a pass rush threat. Seeing him collapse the pocket on more than one occasion should bring joy to fans and the coaching staff.
If Pierce can stay healthy, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will not have to rely on throwing the kitchen sink at opposing offenses to create pressure. This will allow the defense to play their personnel in the proper areas to ensure cohesiveness. Baltimore is surely fortunate to have Pierce back in purple and black.
Safeties Tony Jefferson and Geno Stone were the starters this week. Rookie Kyle Hamilton was relegated to rotational play. Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams did not dress. Jefferson and Stone took full advantage of the situation.
Veteran Tony Jefferson was around the ball seemingly every play. He had great pre-snap awareness helping players get into position. He had three solo tackles, with one being a tackle-for-loss. Jefferson looked comfortable in pass coverage and didn’t give up any big plays.
Geno Stone continued to be the preseason star that he has been known for in recent years. Stone had the first of two interceptions by the Ravens defense. The young safety made every snap count. He was often in position to make plays and, like Jefferson, was constantly around the football.
Both safeties know that it will be an uphill battle to make the team. Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton are roster locks. Chuck Clark appears to be a lock after some offseason trade chatter. Carrying five safeties would be sacrificing another roster spot on defense, potentially at the expense of a linebacker spot or cornerback spot. Jefferson and Stone both made solid cases for consideration in the first game. Time will tell how the roster shapes up.