The Ravens open the preseason portion of the schedule Aug. 8 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium, the first true look -- incomplete though it may be -- at the 2019 team.
Many starters will play little if at all, so trying to draw any conclusions from these first couple of preseason games is a fool's errand. Still, make no mistake: These are enormous games for those sitting on the roster bubble. They have put practice plays on tape, but now they have four games against another team to show their value to the organization before the final roster cutdown to 53 players Aug. 31.
With that in mind, here are five players to watch against the Jaguars:
WRs Jaleel Scott, Antoine Wesley
The prevailing wisdom is that Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts and rookie draft picks Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin are locks to make the team. It's possible that the Ravens keep just five receivers among their 53 players. If they keep a sixth, Scott and Wesley are the leading contenders for the final spot.
Scott, a fourth-round draft pick last year who spent the entire season on injured reserve, has returned this year looking stronger and more confident, and his 6-foot-5 frame is hard to ignore. He has shown good hands this summer, and it would be interesting to see the Ravens try to use him as a fade target in the deep red zone, something they haven't done much yet.
The 6-foot-4 Wesley, an undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech, has also impressed this summer with his size and consistent hands. He's not as fast as Scott, but he has put himself in the conversation.
In joint practices with the Jaguars, Scott was running as a second-team punt gunner, while Wesley was on the third team. A sixth receiver will need to have special teams responsibilities, so their play in those areas will also be scrutinized.
RB De'Lance Turner
With Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill safely on the team, and with Kenneth Dixon in the mix as well, Turner is something of a sleeper in the running back group. An undrafted rookie last year out of Alcorn State, Turner had the longest play of the preseason last year, a 65-yard touchdown run at Miami.
Turner was promoted to the active roster in Week 2 -- before Edwards -- but then went on injured reserve in October, which paved the way for Edwards to emerge. Turner figures to get a heavy workload in the backfield this preseason, and it's worth noting that unlike Dixon, Turner has been lining up with a couple of starting units on special teams.
OLB Shane Ray
The Ravens signed Ray to bolster their edge rushing group, but the former first-round pick has had a quiet training camp. A four-year veteran, Ray was bothered by a wrist injury in Denver and faded out of the picture there. He was a game day inactive for the final three games last year and told the
Denver Post, "I will be a starter the next place that I go."
Barring injury, that doesn't appear to be the case. Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee have been working as the starters, with Tim Williams also getting some reps with the top unit. Ray, Tyus Bowser and rookie Jaylon Ferguson are among others in the mix. Ferguson has been quiet, but as a rookie third-round draft pick, his roster status is secure. There might just be two other spots for a group that includes Williams, Bowser and Ray. The time is now for all three of them.
ILB Otaro Alaka
Anyone with any knowledge of Ravens history would pay attention to undrafted inside linebackers in the preseason. Bart Scott, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Zach Orr, Albert McClellan, and both of this year's presumed starters at inside linebacker -- Patrick Onwuasor and Chris Board -- all went the undrafted route to find success in Baltimore.
Alaka (6-foot-3, 239 pounds) had a team-high 79 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss for Texas A&M last year and has seen the most second-team reps among undrafted linebackers. He had a 25-yard fumble return touchdown in a joint practice with the Jaguars earlier this week, and with only three inside linebackers returning, it would seem a roster spot is there to be had.
But the Ravens can use a versatile safety such as Anthony Levine or Chuck Clark as a dime linebacker, reducing the need for a fourth inside linebacker among their 53 players. Board and Onwuasor both spoke of winning jobs as rookies with their special teams play. Whether Alaka sees action on any top special teams units could suggest his roster status.
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