The Ravens’ historic preseason winning streak has always mattered to coach John Harbaugh — “Winning is always good,” he said after the team wrapped up its fifth straight unbeaten preseason last August — but it seemed to matter less entering Thursday night.
The Ravens had just three projected starters available for their opener against the Tennessee Titans. The best among them, outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, played just one snap before his pads came off along the M&T Bank Stadium sideline. A debilitating 2021, maybe the worst any NFL team had suffered this centruy, had made health even more of a priority for the Ravens, who changed up their medical staff and training camp schedule this offseason to better protect their players.
What hasn’t changed, at least not yet, is their preseason dominance. The Ravens’ 23-10 win over the Titans extended their streak to 21 games, the longest by any team confirmed by the Elias Sports Bureau since 1995. The Ravens’ last preseason loss came Sept. 3, 2015, when rookie safety Kyle Hamilton was only a freshman — in high school.
“It means a lot to the culture, just to show that we’re a winning team,” quarterback Tyler Huntley said. “And we don’t care what kind of game it is, the Ravens are going to fight to get a win. So we’ve just got to keep going and just keep grinding and making ourselves better.”
With both starting quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson and Ryan Tannehill, looking on from the sideline, the Ravens outgained the Titans 389-299 and forced three turnovers. And they seemed to avoid serious injury, too, with wide receiver Tylan Wallace suffering only a minor knee sprain.
A month out from their season opener, the Ravens were far from perfect. They missed blocks, whiffed on tackles and struggled with penalties. But their preseason streak? That remains unblemished.
“It’s always a good time to be back in ‘The Bank’ and playing football,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “There were a couple plays here and there that we wish we could have back, but overall, I feel like everybody is playing fast. There are a couple things we can clean up, but it’s the first game, and like I said, it’s just exciting to be back out there.”
Here’s a look at the risers and fallers from Thursday’s game.
QB Tyler Huntley
Huntley’s first half won’t change the perception of anyone who watched him replace Lamar Jackson last season. He was accurate (16-for-18), careful (6.1 yards per attempt) and effective on the ground (three carries for 14 yards). His 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Shemar Bridges capped a well-run four-minute drill. Huntley’s performance did mark a highwater mark for his first half of the camp and preseason, though. In Tuesday’s final team drill for the offense, he missed two receivers running their routes against air. He missed just two passes against an actual defense Thursday.
“Tyler played great,” Harbaugh said. “His numbers were off the charts, and really ran the offense well. The timing was really good in the passing game.”
WR Shemar Bridges
If he hadn’t already, Bridges separated himself from the Ravens’ pack of undrafted rookies at wide receiver. He had four catches for a game-high 62 yards, linking up with Huntley for a 14-yard score on an end-zone fade, then with Anthony Brown for a 38-yard bomb. Bridges arrived in Baltimore with little fanfare; he played in just six games over his final two seasons at Division II Fort Valley State, recording 41 catches for 693 yards and three touchdowns. But with his size (6 feet 4, 207 pounds) and hard work, he’s quickly endeared himself to quarterbacks and coaches alike.
“He’s a big, physical guy,” Harbaugh said. “He goes up and gets the ball. He posts a lot of good speeds in practice. He plays hard on special teams in practice. And not just him. That young receiver corps put up a battle. Every guy stepped up and made some plays. That’s going to be interesting. It’s good to see, and we’ll see how it plays out.”
CB Kyle Fuller
Until finding his footing recently, the Baltimore native had struggled over the first 10 days of camp. With the Ravens’ veteran depth and rookie investment at the position, it was fair to wonder whether Fuller might need to shore up his roster spot over the next three weeks. His $1.2 million salary makes him somewhat expendable. But when the Ravens took the field for warmups, Fuller was among the group of defensive backs out of pads. That’s a good sign for his job security.
OT Daniel Faalele
In offseason workouts, the fourth-round pick labored through practices, sometimes dropping to one knee as he worked to get reacclimated. But Faalele passed the team’s conditioning test ahead of the Ravens’ first full-team practice and has been among the team’s steadier tackles in training camp. He saw considerable time at right tackle Thursday and seemed to hold up well in pass protection. On the Ravens’ opening score, Faalele’s down block helped carve out a block of space for running back Mike Davis.
“Faalele, compared to the first week when he got here, just going all the way is amazing,” Harbaugh said. “He’s come a long way, and I thought he played well.”
S Geno Stone
An even deeper safety room is low on the Ravens’ wish list, but Stone’s solid camp continued with another good outing. The 2020 seventh-round pick packed a game’s worth of plays into one fourth-quarter drive, dropping running back Trenton Cannon for a loss before breaking up a deep shot to wide receiver Treylon Burks, then making a juggling interception over the middle. With Kyle Hamilton’s arrival, Stone might have to settle for special teams glory this season. But he’s doing what he can to earn the Ravens’ trust in the secondary.
“I’m just trying to do as much as I can for this team,” Stone said. “If that’s special teams, finding my role on defense, just try to be more of a leader this year — that was one of my biggest goals. Just try to do everything I can for the team.”
TE Isaiah Likely
Defenses understand what players do best. As offensive coordinator Greg Roman said last week, “You’ve got to try to make the players as well-rounded as possible, so you can kind of mask any tendencies.” And for as much as Likely offers as a receiver (four catches for 40 yards), there’s still a lot of room for improvement as a blocker. In the first half, he didn’t get any push on an end-around for Wallace. On another carry by running back Justice Hill, he seemed to leave his defender after a quick engagement. Likely was also twice flagged for holding penalties that nullified first downs. (On the second, Hill seemed to bounce outside unexpectedly, leaving Likely’s position somewhat compromised.)
“It’s just adversity,” Likely said of the penalties. “Coming into your first game, there are a lot of things happening at once and your excitement level is at an all-time high, especially playing in the National Football League. So there are just things I’ve got to clean up myself, in blocking, hand placement, and just keep on building upon them.”
WR Tylan Wallace
Wallace, quiet for much of camp, got two early touches with the starting offense: a 3-yard catch and the reverse stopped in the backfield for a 4-yard loss. But the 2021 fourth-round pick left the game in the first quarter with a minor knee sprain and did not return. A lingering injury would be a big setback for Wallace, who dealt with knee injuries at Oklahoma State, and hurt the Ravens’ special teams.
Running back clarity
Baltimore Ravens Insider
Mike Davis (five carries for 22 yards) opened the Ravens’ scoring with a comfortable goal-line run but didn’t really move the pile between the tackles. Rookie Tyler Badie got the most action (six carries for 19 yards and two kick returns for 46 yards), but his pass protection remains a question mark. Hill looked like he’s regained his burst, but his action was limited (three carries for 11 yards). Nate McCrary had the Ravens’ longest carry (21 yards) but remains a long shot to make the roster. Thursday was never going to settle the competition, especially with J.K. Dobbins still rehabilitating his knee injury, but the night also revealed no obvious winner.
“They all look pretty decent,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just a matter of looking at the tape and grading it, really.”
Preseason, Week 2
Sunday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.
TV: Ch. 45
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM