LANDOVER — Finally, the Ravens gulped up yards in familiar form, with their starting offensive line protecting franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson in his preseason debut.
After they zipped into the red zone on their first drive Saturday night, Jackson flipped a simple screen pass to running back J.K. Dobbins, expected by many to be one of the NFL’s breakout offensive stars this season. Everything about the 2-yard play seemed routine, except Dobbins did not rise from the pile. He lay on the turf at FedEx Field clutching his left knee, the one sight coaches and teammates never want to see, especially in a preseason game.
After Dobbins left the field with help and rode to the locker room on a cart, nothing else about the Ravens’ evening felt as meaningful. It hardly mattered that Jackson and left tackle Ronnie Stanley saw their first game action of the 2021 preseason or that backup quarterback Tyler Huntley shredded the Washington Football Team’s defense in the best performance of his young career.
After the game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Dobbins would be tested Sunday and “we’ll see where we are at that point.”
Surely, the Ravens would have traded their 20th straight preseason victory, an unofficial NFL record, for a healthy Dobbins.
But they did not have that option, so they had to be content with Jackson’s lone drive of the preseason, on which he completed three of four passes, including a neatly lofted deep out to tight end Mark Andrews for 23 yards. They got a brief glimpse of their likely Week 1 offensive line, with Stanley protecting Jackson’s blind side and Ben Powers at left guard, and another long look at Huntley, who continues to impress as Jackson’s No. 2. Their reserves outclassed those of another overmatched preseason opponent as the Ravens won 37-3.
Huntley completed 14 of 17 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone as the Ravens built a 23-3 lead going into the locker room. He finished with passing 285 yards and four touchdowns. His statistical line would have been gaudier still if wide receiver Deon Cain had not dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball.
“We’re deep, man,” Andrews said. “We have a lot of players on this team who can play. ‘Snoop’ [Tyler Huntley] is a hell of a player, and you saw that this preseason. He’s going to be a special player.”
“This is the deepest offense that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Stanley added. “We have talent all over the place.”
The scoreboard told a story of triumph. The injury news left a harsher taste.
The Ravens counted on Dobbins, their second-round pick in 2020, to take a step forward as an all-around threat after an excellent rookie season in which he averaged 6 yards per carry and ran for nine touchdowns. He had spent the offseason honing his pass catching “because I know it will help the offense tremendously, because you can get a lot of mismatches that way, [and] you can cause a lot of confusion on the defensive side.”
A terrible twist of fate then that the magnetic 22-year-old star hurt his knee after catching the ball.
If there was any ray of light in the situation, it was the continued excellence of second-year running back Ty’Son Williams, who was already making a surprise push to claim a roster spot. Williams, an undrafted free agent from BYU, carried four times for 42 yards against Washington. If the Ravens are without Dobbins for an extended period, Williams and his determined style could become essential to their league-best running attack. They stopped handing him the ball shortly after Dobbins left the field, indicating that Williams had quickly gone from an afterthought to a player the Ravens could not afford to lose.
The Ravens complemented the Huntley-led offensive outburst with another smothering performance on defense. Washington starting quarterback Kyle Allen completed just 10 of 22 passes, and the Ravens didn’t allow a run longer than seven yards in the first three quarters. They didn’t do it with sacks or turnovers this time; Washington simply could not find any open space.
Sept. 13, 8:15 p.m.
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