The Baltimore Ravens took down the New Orleans Saints at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night. A strong effort from the Ravens defense that forced the Saints to commit six turnovers, paved the way for a 17-14 Ravens victory to open the preseason.
While the newest addition to the Ravens roster, Justin Houston did not play much of the first team defense got at least one series. The Saints marched down the field as the Ravens struggled to get off on third down, a common theme on the night. But inside the Ravens 10-yard line defensive lineman Broderick Washington forced a fumble on Saints running back Latavius Murray, which was recovered by Ravens safety DeShon Elliott.
Justin Madubuike, as well as undrafted rookie Ar’Darius Washington also forced Saints fumbles.
Likely the biggest surprise of the night on the Ravens defense was the play by second year safety Geno Stone. Stone was waived by the team in December but was re-signed in March. Stone made the most of his preseason debut, intercepting two passes while adding three tackles. Rookie cornerback Shaun Wade would also add an interception to seal the win for the Ravens.
Rookie first round pick Odafe Oweh and rookie fifth round pick Daelin Hayes both saw a lot of action throughout the night playing long into the third quarter. Hayes rotated in with the first team during the first series finishing with two tackles including a quarterback hit. Oweh on the other hand got the start and finished with one tackle. While the stats don’t jump off the page both rookies showed their abilities to pass rush and bring pressure to opposing quarterbacks and were very active in the run game running to the ball.
Another notable rookie who had a strong night was safety Brandon Stephens. Stephens who is playing both safety and situational corner also saw a lot of game action, he rotated in with the first team at safety and finished Saturday night leading the team with seven tackles including one quarterback hit and recording a half sack. While the rookie out of SMU didn’t show much in the pass game, his quickness and ability to blitz off the edge is a dynamic skill set that could allow Stephens get more reps with the first defense.
The Ravens offense however had a rough night overall. Star quarterback Lamar Jackson did not play, giving the start to Trace McSorley.
The Ravens were beat in just about every offensive category as they were out gained by the Saints 366-350. The Ravens finished the night with 160 yards passing and 190 yards rushing.
McSorley struggled throughout the night completing 11 passes on 16 attempts for 86 yards while also throwing one interception. McSorley would also add four rushes for 25 yards. While McSorley played with the first team many of the players we will see come week one were not playing, either due to injury or coaches decision. McSorley would play every offensive snap in the first half.
Tyler Huntley got the start in the second half and while he didn’t make any note worthy throws going 12-for-16 for 79 yards, it was his legs that moved the Ravens offense for the first time all night. Huntley was impressive in his ability to scramble and turn broken plays into positive yards rushing for 43 yards on seven attempts, including the game winning seven yard scrabble with 6:35 remaining in the fourth. Huntley would have his own struggles however, fumbling in the redzone late in the fourth quarter.
McSorley and Huntley are both competing to backup Jackson this season.
Standouts on the offensive side of the ball included receiver Jaylon Moore, who led the team with two catches for 32 yards. Moore made a great catch along the sideline for 17 yards midway through the second quarter, and on the following play beat his defender but was just overthrown by McSorley in the end zone.
Newly acquired tight end Josh Oliver, who is competing for the third tight end spot behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle had a solid night making four catches for 22 yards on six targets.
But likely the most noteworthy performance came from second year running back Ty’Son Williams. Williams spent last season on the Ravens practice squad after going undrafted out of BYU. In his first NFL game Williams did not disappoint. Williams carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards, while also converting a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter on a one yard run off the right tackle. Williams would also add five catches out of the backfield for 23 yards.
The Ravens strong eye for seeing special teams talent is once again on display. Justin Tucker got the scoring going converting a 56-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter. But it was undrafted rookie out of ECU Jake Verity who put his kicking ability on display. Verity made a 42-yard attempt four minutes into the second quarter, while also making a 53-yard kick to end the first half.
While there is no kicking controversy in Baltimore, Verity’s strong leg could allow the Ravens to trade the rookie similar to what the Ravens did in 2019. Trading kicker Kaare Vedvick to the Vikings in exchange for a fifth round pick after Vedvick’s strong performance in the preseason.
The Ravens have struggled throughout camp to remain healthy, especially at key positions, and while the preseason is about trying to execute, learn, and ultimately win. The biggest win for NFL team in the preseason is coming out of the game with no major injuries. However, for the Ravens on Saturday night they saw center Bradley Bozeman go to the locker room at the end of the first half with what head coach John Harbaugh described as a minor ankle sprain. Its believed to not be serious and keep Bozeman out long. Trystan Colon came in at center after Bozeman’s injury.
The Ravens head to Carolina for a joint practice with the Carolina Panthers, ahead of there second preseason contest next Saturday night.