Hall of Fame Game: What we can and can’t learn from the Ravens efforts
The Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears are going to give us the watered down football that comes with the preseason. It’s important to take it seriously, as the process is actually quite important. The thing that we must not do is over analysis on the first of five preseason games:
The Baltimore Ravens are going to play the Chicago Bears in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game. That being said you won’t see Joe Flacco or much of the starters. You won’t be able to read into the play-calling too much. You won’t be able to see what the 2018 Ravens are actually going to look like. This is a game much more like a fourth preseason game than the standard opener. This game is for backups, bubble players and young studs to be.
The number one thing the Ravens are going to display in Canton, Ohio is their depth. The Ravens have more depth than they had last year. The secondary for example added DeShon Elliott and Anthony Averett and Tavon Young is back from injury. The Ravens couldn’t find seven viable receiver options last year, that isn’t the case this August.
The back-end of the Ravens receiving depth chart has a chance to make things interesting. The Ravens started the 2017 preseason with an already makeshift offensive line. In 2018, the Ravens are much more healthy along the offensive line. Marshal Yanda won’t play Thursday night, be he probably wouldn’t even if he was at full strength. The Ravens depth will be the first thing we actually get a glimpse of. If the Ravens look strong throughout the contest, it is a positive sign about the stuffed nature of their camp roster.
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The Ravens will also get to see which players are ahead of schedule. If for example, a player like Jordan Lasley steals the show, it is a sign that he is ready for bigger opportunities. The Ravens and their fans go into the game with certain expectations for their players. If players exceed those expectations, it doesn’t mean they are the next big thing. It does however mean that they are ahead of where they were expected to be. Some players are gamers who will shine more in a game than they ever will in practice. That’s why we could be in for some surprises.
Ravens fans will get their first glimpse at Lamar Jackson. While his first NFL action is incredibly important, we must not overreact to what we see. If Jackson lights Chicago up, it changes nothing. If Jackson fails to excite, it changes nothing. He is vying to be the backup and he is a developing quarterback getting important reps. Ravens fans will get their first tease of the Jackson era, but no grand prognostication can come from Jackson’s play against the Bears. That same thought could be applied to any rookie in this game.
Baltimore will not find out what changes are coming from the defense. Don Martindale isn’t trying to put on a show before the real games even start. Martindale’s job is to get young players in a position to be successful. He will want to test his young players, but he’ll be restrained with what he calls.
This doesn’t mean that he won’t be more aggressive than Dean Pees was as defensive coordinator, just don’t expect to see that aggressiveness on Thursday night. Play-calling this early in the preseason is calculated so the Ravens can evaluate what they want to evaluate. It’s also very early into the preseason, especially because the Ravens and Bears get a head start to the exhibition affairs. Many of the players who will be on the field, aren’t totally up to speed with the entire scheme. The same exact things can be said about Marty Mornhinweg and the offense.