The Ravens sat most of their top defensive players for Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium but started second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson and four of their five projected regulars on the offensive line. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda did not dress for the game.
The Ravens played far more key performers than the Jaguars, who withheld quarterback Nick Foles, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Calais Campbell and more than 20 others.
In three drives, Jackson completed 4 of 6 passes for 59 yards, including a 30-yarder on the run to Chris Moore and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead IV.
Safeties Earl Thomas III and Tony Jefferson, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and running back Mark Ingram II were among the front-line players who did not dress for the Ravens.
Ravens first-round pick Marquise Brown caught passes in pregame warm-ups but, as expected, did not play. He’s participated only in one-on-one drills since he began practicing last week.
Outside linebacker Tim Williams briefly left the game in the second quarter to be examined by team doctors but returned shortly thereafter. As of halftime, there were no other notable injuries.
Kicked up a notch
Kaare Vedvik’s future won’t be in Baltimore, not with Justin Tucker still on the roster, but the Ravens are going to give the kicker every opportunity to win a job elsewhere.
After an inconsistent start to training camp in which he has struggled with deep kicks, Vedvik looked as if he might have trade value by the end of the preseason. On his first field-goal attempt of the preseason, Vedvik drilled a 55-yard field goal to increase the Ravens’ lead to 13-0. He added a 45-yarder to extend the lead to 16-0 just before halftime, a 26-yarder in the third quarter and a 29-yarder in the fourth to finish 4-for-4.
Vedvik also punted twice for an average of 55.5 yards per kick. Only 12 NFL players, and none since 1973, have made two field goals and averaged 50 yards per punt in a game, according to Pro Football Reference data.
As an undrafted free agent last year, Vedvik made eight of nine field-goal attempts. But he was assaulted in East Baltimore before the Ravens could trade him, ending his season. Coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL league meeting in March that he expects Vedvik to “kick well enough for us to trade him. That’s kind of, I would say, the goal.”
The Jaguars went nowhere in their second drive, and a first-of-its kind challenge didn’t help. After going three-and-out, Jacksonville challenged a noncall of defensive pass interference on a pass to wide receiver DJ Chark. The home crowd groaned at the announcement loudly.
In the offseason, NFL owners approved a rule proposal that allows for offensive and defensive pass interference, including noncalls, to be subject to review. Coaches can challenge those calls in the first 28 minutes of each half. In the final two minutes, they’ll be subject to a booth review.
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But it took less than a minute for referee John Hussey to come back with the ruling: No pass interference. The crowd cheered.
Eluemunor starts at left guard
Jermaine Eluemunor started the preseason opener at left guard, the most unsettled position on the Ravens’ roster.
With Eluemunor and three other starting linemen in the game, the Ravens kept Jaguars defenders away from Jackson but did not generate much room for running backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. Eluemunor did pull to help set up a 16-yard gain by Dixon in the second quarter. He played the entire first half, with rookie Ben Powers replacing him to start the third quarter.
Eluemunor’s 6-foot-4, 335-pound frame suits the Ravens’ plans for a run-first offense. But the third-year lineman from England hardly has the position locked down. The Ravens drafted Powers in the fourth round out of Oklahoma with the thought he could push for early playing time. Veteran guard/tackle James Hurst is also in the mix, though the Ravens would like to keep him in a swing role if possible.
On Monday, the Ravens traded their former starter at left guard, Alex Lewis, to the New York Jets for a conditional seventh-round pick.
With the departure of Terrell Suggs, the Ravens had a new man in the middle of their pregame huddle Thursday. Actually, it was two.
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, a former teammate of Suggs’ who re-signed with the Ravens this offseason after four seasons away, started the pep talk before ceding to safety Thomas, who was known for giving team talks at Seattle Seahawks games.