5 thoughts from Ravens' preseason defeat to Commanders: Zay Flowers, left guard battle and more

2RH7CW6 Baltimore Ravens safety Ar'Darius Washington (29) in action during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

• The Zay Show: Flowers ran just four routes in the game but forced two missed tackles and found the end zone, displaying an uncanny shiftiness.

• Has the left guard battle come to an end? Late-round pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu appears to be a developmental prospect at this point, whereas John Simpson has looked solid.

• What to make of David Ojabo: A lone quarterback pressure across 21 pass-rushing snaps is all Ojabo has to show for himself this preseason.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Baltimore Ravens’ preseason win streak may be over, but there was a lot to be learned from their preseason Week 2 loss to the Washington Commanders on Monday Night Football.

From the flashes shown by their first-round draft pick to the roster battles at left guard and in the slot — plus a note of concern on one of their young edge defenders — here are five key thoughts from the game.

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Zay Flowers is as advertised

We got a glimpse of what Flowers could do last week when he motioned into the backfield and took a screen pass — officially scored as a rushing attempt — for five yards and made a Philadelphia Eagles defender miss in the process. Monday night’s loss saw him get more targets, and he looks ready to make an impact in the NFL.

Flowers ran just four routes in the game but was targeted and had a reception on two of them. He looks smooth and shifty with the ball in his hands, forcing a pair of missed tackles in this game. That takes him up to three missed tackles forced on three touches through two games in August. All six of his snaps Monday night came as an outside receiver, and he has just four snaps from the slot so far.

With Rashod Bateman nearing a return to full health and Odell Beckham Jr. in the mix, this is shaping up to be the best set of receivers Lamar Jackson has ever had in the NFL.

The left guard battle should be over

For the second straight week, the Ravens rotated John Simpson and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu at left guard, with Simpson seeing quarters one and three and Aumavae-Laulu playing quarters two and four. The difference is striking. Through two games, Simpson has been solid enough, earning a 77.5 PFF run-blocking grade and an 84.1 PFF pass-blocking grade. He has allowed no pressure from 44 pass-blocking snaps.

Meanwhile, the sixth-round pick out of Oregon looks every bit a late-round prospect. On the field for 64 snaps this preseason, he has earned sub-40.0 PFF grades in both pass blocking and run blocking, allowing four pressures from 40 pass-blocking snaps. He’s a developmental prospect, and it will be interesting to see where he is a year from now. But if he’s starting for the Ravens in 2023, it’s a problem.

Ar’Darius Washington looks like the best option in the slot

The injury to Marlon Humphrey has severely shaken things up in the Ravens' defensive backfield. The signing of Ronald Darby, along with Brandon Stephens being used almost exclusively on the outside, makes it seem as though it will be between Ar’Darius Washington and Arthur Maulet for the slot job. Maulet has yet to feature due to injury.

For the second straight week, Washington impressed from the slot. He has earned a 79.7 PFF coverage grade when lined up inside over the first two weeks of the preseason. More importantly, he has seen 86 snaps at slot cornerback this preseason, with no other Ravens player even reaching 30. The team is giving him every chance to earn the starting role when the season begins. Baltimore also has the option of using Kyle Hamilton as a matchup weapon against tight ends from the slot, and that feels like a likely solution to their slot problem for now.

Temper expectations for David Ojabo

We saw the Ravens' 2022 second-round pick flash late last season, notably by forcing a fumble in their Week 18 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, prompting Ravens fans to get excited about Ojabo’s potential with a full offseason behind him. The potential is very much still there after an impressive final season at Michigan in 2021, but his play through two weeks of preseason is enough to press pause on that excitement, at least for now.

From 21 pass-rushing snaps this preseason, Ojabo has recorded just one pressure. He’s struggling to get off blocks, and the power just isn’t there when he tries to bull rush. The Ravens added Jadeveon Clowney last week, which raises the floor of their edge defender — something that looks like it might be needed early in the season at this stage.

Undrafted free agent watch

The Ravens are traditionally one of the best teams in the league at unearthing undrafted talent, and this year looks no different. Running back Keaton Mitchell has received most of the headlines and leads the Ravens with a 91.5 PFF rushing grade through two preseason games. Thirty-seven of his 42 rushing yards have come after contact and he has shown tremendous burst with a pair of 30-plus-yard runs, albeit one of which was called back in the win over the Eagles in preseason Week 1.

Right guard Tashawn Manning has looked good enough to be in contention to make this roster, but the numbers game along the offensive line could force the Ravens to try to sneak him onto the practice squad instead. The deciding factor could be whether the Ravens decide to keep Ben Cleveland, who has seen time at both right guard and tackle so far this preseason. That versatility might be key to him making the roster, or it could be something that makes him an attractive trade candidate.

On defense, both defensive back Jeremy Lucien and edge defender Malik Hamm have earned 65.0-plus PFF grades. But it’s tough to see either making the roster, given how the position shakes out for the team. Hamm had a sack, a hit and a hurry in the Ravens' preseason opener against the Eagles and would be a good fit for the practice squad as he develops before making a push for a roster spot a year from now.


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