Lamar Jackson is back with a new contract, and the Ravens are ready to open their 2023 schedule with a preseason matchup against the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles. The season might not start for Jackson until the Week 1 game against the Texans on Sept. 10 — it’s unclear if he’ll play in the preseason — but Baltimore has a few things to monitor in the three games before then.
Jackson, along with other veteran Ravens starters, won’t play in Saturday’s game against the Eagles, coach John Harbaugh told reporters Thursday.
“You won’t be seeing any of the established starters in this game,” Harbaugh said. “If a guy’s a real young starter, maybe he’ll get a few reps, but none of the established starters.”
That doesn’t include most of the 2023 draft class and potentially first-round pick Zay Flowers, who is slated to start at slot receiver. Flowers was the talk of the offseason program and has impressed through the first three weeks of training camp.
“It’s a possibility, yeah,” Harbaugh said of Flowers’ availability Saturday. “You’d like to see him out there in terms of having a sense of the game before the first regular-season game. We’ll have to see how healthy he is and where we’re at.”
Tyler Huntley will start at quarterback in Jackson’s place, with journeyman Josh Johnson and Anthony Brown getting in the mix as well.
The Ravens haven’t lost a preseason game since 2015, recording a 23-0 record dating to 2016.
The Eagles, coming off a narrow loss in Super Bowl LVII to Kansas City, look to make another deep playoff run that results in heading to Las Vegas in 2024. Philadelphia has a loaded roster, with talent on both sides of the ball, and that depth is likely to be on display against the Ravens.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni declined to say if his starters will play, but it’s safe to say MVP candidate Jalen Hurts likely won’t play more than a series, if any, and the majority of the reps will be for backup quarterback Marcus Mariota.
What we’re looking for
An early look at Todd Monken’s offense
The Ravens are implementing a new offense under coordinator Todd Monken: creating space, attacking sideline to sideline and using the talent at its disposal. This game will offer a glimpse of how it may look during the regular season, albeit with backups instead of starters.
The offense has had some rough days during camp. Saturday, it struggled in third-and-long situations, throwing nine interceptions and losing the day to the defense. Monken said recently that the tempo of the offense isn’t where it needs to be, calling it “a work in progress,” but that’s expected.
There isn’t cause for concern because it’s just the first preseason game, but this game should give us a look at how far away or close this offense is to where it needs to be.
The starting job at left guard
The Ravens have one obvious question to answer about their offensive line before the regular season: Who will start at left guard?
It seems like a tight race between veteran John Simpson and rookie sixth-round pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, who have split first-team reps throughout camp.
“He’s done well,” Harbaugh said of Aumavae-Laulu at the beginning of camp. “I haven’t seen any step back, nothing to make you think he’s been slowed down or nothing to disappoint. He still continues to make steady progress. I’ll also say, John Simpson, you know, same thing. ... We’ll look at both guys with both groups of guys. So that’s how we set it up.”
Harbaugh has said he prefers to settle position battles during preseason games, so Saturday’s will give an update on the current standing of the race. Baltimore’s second game is against the Washington Commanders on Aug. 21. The preseason finale is days later against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Can Tyler Huntley lock down the backup QB job?
The backup quarterback job is Huntley’s to lose.
After signing his restricted free agent tender last spring, Huntley is again slotted to be the top backup for Jackson, but there’s added pressure for him to perform well. Despite making the Pro Bowl last year as an injury replacement, Huntley has struggled as a passer and has a 3-5 record as a starter. His QBR dipped last season, and he had a costly turnover in the playoff loss in Cincinnati.
The Ravens brought the 37-year-old Johnson into the quarterback room to add experience and competition behind Jackson. If Huntley struggles, is there a chance he loses his job? Harbaugh said Thursday the preseason will help determine the winner.
“Absolutely,” Harbaugh said. “I think the games will go a long way in deciding that pecking order. I would say this: All those guys have shown that they’re capable of being that guy. All the three quarterbacks after Lamar have proven that they’re capable of being the backup quarterback here and doing a great job. Now we’ll see who separates.”
How to watch
Where: M&T Bank Stadium
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Television: WBAL (Baltimore), WJLA (Washington, D.C.), WGAL (York/Lancaster/Harrisburg, Pa.), WWCW (Roanoke, Va.), WUPV (Richmond, Va.), WTVZ-TV (Norfolk, Va.), WMDT (Delmarva area) & NFL Network
Local Radio: 98Rock (97.9 FM)