Resting offensive starters for the remainder of preseason could give the Baltimore Ravens a clean bill of health going into the regular season and other players a chance to showcase their talents.
Baltimore Ravens offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley (mild knee sprain) and James Hurst missed practice on Wednesday. Running back Kenneth Dixon and tight end Mark Andrews also missed practice. Marshal Yanda is also presumed to be sitting out the entirety of the preseason. He has practiced each day since returning from offseason shoulder surgery earlier in camp.
With their absences, it is assumed that they will not play on Saturday against the Miami Dolphins. They may not play for the rest of the preseason and it could be the case for some of their other key offensive players.
Behind a makeshift offensive line and playing three games in 11 days, the Baltimore Ravens could opt to rest Joe Flacco and Alex Collins to protect them for the regular season opener on September 9 at home versus the Buffalo Bills. Flacco has injured his knee and back in recent seasons and Collins has dealt with migraines. The time could be ripe to give them extra rest.
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Flacco has played in two preseason games already and has taken the necessary hits to be prepared for the regular season. He has also worked on his timing with Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV on the side during practice to build a stronger connection.
“When we first came in, every day we were working, we were talking,” Brown said about building his rapport with Flacco. “When the play came up — if the play didn’t work, I’m always going to him and talking to him or when I mess up on the play, I talk to him and try to figure things out and a way to get it right. We continue to bond and it’s not just with me, but it’s with every receiver and tight end.”
The results have shown for Flacco, as he leads the NFL in preseason passer rating (141.4). His success shows that he is currently in midseason form and doesn’t need to risk an injury to get extra work in during the preseason.
“I will tell you that the biggest thing with Joe [Flacco] is that he’s healthy and he’s getting a lot of individual work and James [Urban] has done a great job that way,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said on Wednesday. “But he’s healthy, so he can get all of the work in — a lot more reps for him that he’s had in the past several years.”
The same thought process goes into the decision for not playing Collins. Despite only having two carries during the preseason, has gotten an ample amount of touches during camp. Collins finished the 2017 season as Baltimore’s leading rusher with 212 attempts for 973 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.
If Baltimore holds out Flacco and Collins, it will give more opportunities to players who need the extra work (Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III) or others that are fighting for a roster spot (Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson and De’Lance Turner). Jackson specifically gets another opportunity to showcase himself, as it could determine whether or not Baltimore keeps two or three quarterbacks.
“Ultimately, John [Harbaugh] and Ozzie [Newsome] will decide that,” Mornhinweg said of keeping both Jackson and Griffin III. “Certainly we have some input there. That’s gonna be a choice that will be well-discussed within the next couple of weeks and already has been.”
The rookie quarterback has completed 18-of-43 (42 percent completion percentage) passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His play has been up and down throughout the preseason and with most teams gearing up for their third preseason game, this could give him the opportunity to get a larger taste of true NFL play. against Miami’s defensive starters.
Griffin III can now seal away his spot on the Ravens roster as a backup or display his abilities to suitors around the league. As things stand after three games, Griffin III has been good, going 18-for-26 on passes (69 percent completion percentage), 177 yards, two touchdowns and one interception off of the hands of Breshad Perriman.
As for Edwards, Thompson and Turner, they have can make the most out of Dixon’s presumed absence on Saturday. The latter has missed a good chunk of training camp practices and the preseason, only receiving carries in Monday night’s game, but the others could show why they also belong.
Edwards has so far gotten the most burn out of the three undrafted running backs with 37 carries for 136 yards (3.68 yards per carry). Thompson has 13 carries for 38 yards (2.92 per carry). Turner has the highest yards per carry (4.43) but has the lowest amount of carries (seven) and yards (31).
If the Baltimore Ravens decided to give their starters the rest of preseason off, it could do one of two things — keep them healthy going into the regular season and not risking injury and it could give new contributors a chance to make the roster, have a larger role or get the necessary work to become better players.