The Washington Football Team closes out their 2021 preseason against the Baltimore Ravens this Saturday at FedEx Field. As we all try to gather as much information as we can about what to expect in the finale, given that this is the first year where there are only three preseason games instead of four, head coach Ron Rivera has been extremely vague in his approach against Baltimore. He stated that they would treat this game week as a regular-season preparation exercise; however, he did not explicitly state how involved the starters would be on game day. So, therein lies the mystery of it all. Regardless of the nuggets that Rivera has dropped over the course of the week, the truth of this matter will involve the starters playing for at least a quarter again, in my opinion. So, which five starters need an impressive showing vs. the Ravens Saturday?
Rookie offensive tackle Sam Cosmi has been a pleasant surprise to most; he has essentially cemented his name as the starting right tackle for the team. However, we understand that he still has a ways to go before he’s solidified as one of the better tackles in the league; he is still raw and still has to sharpen up his technique. This week provides an opportunity to improve it.
In the off-season, the Baltimore Ravens lost linebacker Matthew Judon and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, which accounted for 31 percent of the team's sack production from a year ago. However, Baltimore acquired veteran edge rusher Justin Houston and has two rising stars in linebacker Patrick Queen and edge rusher Tyus Bowser who may see a good amount of time on Saturday. So what do the linebackers have to do with Cosmi? Well, Baltimore has one of the highest blitz rates in the NFL and led the league in blitz rate over the past two seasons. So the Ravens won’t stop now against Washington; how will Cosmi react to the blitzes he’ll see? It’ll be important to note Cosmi’s progression in that regard.
As a player whose coaches had essentially carved out a specific role for him in the defense, Khaleke Hudson has had a lackluster preseason to this point. He has been quiet on the field, and that’s not really good for a player who was expected to take a leap in year two. Hudson has a chance to redeem himself against the Ravens on Saturday, though. Baltimore’s starting quarterback may not play Saturday, as well as some of their offensive linemen; however, the Ravens will have a heavy dosage of run plays regardless. In turn, Hudson will have to get active in the trenches on Saturday. How physical can Hudson be? But more importantly, his instincts and awareness would be worth notating to see how reactive the young linebacker is at this point.
Davis, similar to Hudson, will have plenty of opportunities in the run game. However, as Davis is the projected starter, he’ll see most of Baltimore’s first and second-string players. Furthermore, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley poses a threat in the ground game like their starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. Not in the literal sense of those two being just alike, but just the mobile aspect in general. How will Davis handle the responsibilities of accounting for that 11th man on the field, whether that is Jackson or Huntley? Davis won’t be the only player accountable for the quarterback, but given his youth and role as the mike linebacker, I would have my eyes on him Saturday.
Gandy-Golden had a big game against the Bengals last week, which helped increase his chances of securing that sixth and presumably final spot at the receiver position. But the job is not finished yet; Gandy-Golden is not in a position where he can casually step onto the field and go back to being a non-factor; he needs to parlay his Bengals performance into a better game versus the Ravens. The Ravens aren’t expected to play cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, or Marlon Humphrey, their three best cornerbacks on the team. So, assuming their three starters are not active on Saturday, Gandy-Golden has a great opportunity to capitalize against a weakened secondary in Baltimore.
Each of the backup defensive ends
Did I say, five players? Whoops, let’s do four players and one position group; that’s what I really meant. As mentioned previously, the Ravens have two mobile quarterbacks who may play on Saturday and a coordinator with a strong desire to run the football. Washington’s backup defensive ends have not really been tested like they will on Saturday yet, and it’ll be a good measuring stick to see how this team is being coached on handling mobile quarterbacks and good run offenses. Defensive Ends James Smith-Williams, William Bradley-King, Bunmi Rotimi, Shaka Toney, and Casey Toohill are first- or second-year players. So Washington’s coaches, specifically defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, will be itching to see how these guys will react to Baltimore’s power runs and read-options. How disciplined are these ends, but more importantly, can a couple out of that group actually make plays in the Ravens backfield?
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Honorable Mention)
Fitzpatrick is an easy honorable mention in this week’s game. As mentioned before, it has been hard to decipher how Rivera will truly play his starters against the Ravens. However, on the assumption that Fitzpatrick will play quite some time Saturday, he has to be much sharper than what he showed against the Cincinnati Bengals last Friday. It’s important to note that Fitzpatrick mostly made every right read that a quarterback can make; however, his accuracy in the red zone left touchdowns on the board, and with him and receiver Adam Humphries being out of tune with one another, there was also room for turnovers in opponent territory, too. Fitzpatrick has to be more efficient and react well against a tough, disciplined defense.
Who are the five that need to stand out for you?
Which of the four players I specifically named do you agree with the most?
Who needs to stand out vs. the Ravens?
This poll is closed