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Ravens at Dolphins preview: A closer look at Baltimore

It’s Miami Dolphins gameday! Tonight, the Dolphins will host the Baltimore Ravens in the third preseason game for Miami, a game which the team will use as a dress rehearsal for when the regular season opens. The Dolphins have struggled, to put it nicely, against the Ravens in recent years, losing eight of the last ten meetings between the clubs (including the playoffs), including a 40-0 loss last year and a 38-6 loss in 2016.

Baltimore should be a perfect test for the Dolphins tonight. Playing the Ravens also gives us a chance to catch up with one of my favorite SB Nation team sites, Baltimore Beatdown. In between our trash talking on Twitter, Kyler Barber, Baltimore Beatdown’s managing editor, and I got down to actually previewing what each team will bring to the game tonight. It is still a preseason game, so there will be plenty of questions that need to be answered for both clubs, and there will be plenty of players who are not household names on the field. There should also be extended playing time for the starters for both teams.

What should we expect to see from the Ravens tonight and this year? Barber gives us an idea:

1. There has been a lot of fascination about the Ravens’ quarterback situation this year, with people expecting Lamar Jackson to immediately assume the starter’s role and somehow shove aside Joe Flacco. As the preseason has continued, now it seems the talk is turning to Robert Griffin III’s role with the team and the possibility that he could make the roster, forcing Baltimore to keep three quarterbacks. What is your view of the situation, and how much should we expect to see each quarterback in the traditional “dress rehearsal” game?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I’m uncertain how this game will play for the Ravens. Though this is the traditional Week 3 game, there are still two more preseason games for the Ravens. This season, the Ravens have been cautious about injuries. I am uncertain if they’ll play this game as the traditional third game. Even being so cautious, the Ravens nearly lost Ronnie Stanley to a knee injury and yesterday news broke of first-round pick Hayden Hurst suffering a foot fracture, keeping him off the field anywhere from 3-4 weeks to two months.

All this being said, I expect the Joe Flacco to come out and throw some great passes. He’s looked great in camp and during his preseason appearances. He currently ranks highest in QBR during the preseason.

As for Lamar Jackson, you’ll see exactly what Baltimore Beatdown has preached from the beginning. He is a rookie quarterback who is prone to make mistakes, yet still can create plays with his arm and legs. He’s truly exciting to watch, which is the reason for the national hype, but he has some growing to do.

Robert Griffin III is suffering from receivers dropping his passes. He tossed one right into the breadbasket of rookie WR Jordan Lasley for a deep touchdown but Lasley, who was known for catching issues coming out of college, dropped it. Otherwise, RGIII has played with poise and I believe he’s back as an NFL quarterback.

2. Hayden Hurst; Lamar Jackson; Orlando Brown, Jr.; Mark Andrews; Anthony Averett; Kenny Young; Jaleel Scott; Jordan Lasley; DeShon Elliott; Greg Senat; Bradley Bozeman; Zach Sieler. That’s a ridiculous 12-man draft class. Who is standing out from the group? Who is struggling? How can the Ravens possibly fit a draft class that big onto their roster/who is not going to make it to the 53-man roster?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It is easier to share the names of those not standing out, than those who are. Only Scott, Lasley, Bozeman and Senat aren’t flashing. Lasley has looked sharp in practices, even beating Aqib Talib during the joint practices with the Rams, but has produced negative results during preseason games as I mentioned he dropped the pass from RGIII.

Starting talents include Hurst, Zeus Jr., Andrews, Averett and Young. Both tight ends look good, but Hurst is now out for an uncertain timetable. Zeus Jr. is a starting-caliber right tackle and for some reason the Ravens are keeping him back on the depth chart for James Hurst, who is not, in my opinion, playing better than Orlando. Kenny is vying for the starting ILB position next to C.J. Mosley, but Patrick Onwuasor is holding on with everything he has.

I don’t believe the Ravens are keeping all 12 players, though most roster projections include everyone. I was not impressed with Jaleel Scott during camp and Lasley is also dropping far too many passes for what he’s producing. Senat will stay on the roster because the Ravens desperately need another tackle, but he’s also looked alright in camp. Shaky play, but nothing out of the ordinary for a backup tackle.

3. The Monday Night Football game this week against the Indianapolis Colts featured shaky offensive line play for the Ravens. What is happening there, will Baltimore be able to fix it before the regular season, and do you expect Miami to be able to exploit the offensive line this week?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The starting line is still getting mixed around. Marshal Yanda has not participated in a preseason game. As every NFL fan knows, once Yanda returns, expect stability. The center position is struggling as Alex Lewis isn’t grasping the role well enough while Matt Skura isn’t big/strong enough. There are a few weeks still to fix the issues, but I’m confident it will sort out once the starters gel.

Yes, the Dolphins are capable of exploiting the Ravens O-line weaknesses. Once the starters exit the field the second-string players step onto the gridiron it becomes a battle of hanging on. Watch for the left side specifically.

4. Baltimore was sixth in scoring defense last year, but 12th on overall defense. For a team that has always relied on its defense to dominate, what should we expect to see from that side of the ball this year?

The Ravens look great on defense. The years of defensive drafting and adding players feels as if its culminated towards this defense. Now, with Dean Pees and the ‘play-it-safe’ defense gone, we are expecting far more tenacity and aggressive play, which new defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale is known for.

However, there is still a weakness. The middle of the field is an Achilles heel for Baltimore. There are no linebackers with exceptional coverage skills capable of defending tight ends. I’m expecting a team early in the season to run routes towards the center until the Ravens adjust, which will allow deeper shots to the outside.

5. Given that it is still the preseason and players who may not be known outside of a team’s fan base will see plenty of playing time this week, what names on offense and defense should Dolphins fans watch for on Saturday?

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Gus Edwards Jr., an undrafted running back, is a player fighting for a roster spot. He’s competing with Kenneth Dixon right now, who finally played a preseason game and looked good. There’s also a competition between Tim White and Janarion Grant for the returner job, unfortunately, both of them fumbled against the Colts.

On defense, watch rookies Averett and Elliott. Both are incredibly talented defensive backs. Also, all the pass rushers. Both Za’Darius Smith and Tim Williams have generated big-time pressure and sacks.