Football is finally back! And for New Orleans Saints fans, Saturday simply can’t come fast enough. After another eventful offseason, to say the least, it’s time to actually watch a game versus predicting, charting, speculating, and gossiping. While it’s only Week one of the preseason, the Saints have a laundry list full of names to watch at several key positions, which could make Saturday’s game more intriguing than in past years.
Welcoming New Orleans into town will be the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is coming off of consecutive playoff appearances, and they’ll be looking to hit the ground running in preparation for another year in which high expectations should surround their building. With a more detailed look into the Ravens, we were lucky to ahold of the Baltimore Beatdown’s managing editor, Kyle Barber. You can follow Kyle and all of his work on Twitter @KylePBarber. Hope you enjoy your first of many weekly Football editions of “Outsider’s Perspective.”
The Baltimore Ravens were picked by a lot of analysts to make the Super Bowl last season. While Baltimore ultimately ended up coming up short, the talent is still there for another deep run. What are the expectations around the team and fan base for this season?
The “Super Bowl or bust” mantra has extended into this season. Both because Lamar Jackson has constantly talked about how badly he wants to win a championship, but also because the Ravens boast a lot of veteran talent and after this season Jackson will be on either a long-term contract or a franchise tag. Regardless, he won’t be on a cheap deal and instead the team won’t be able to allocate cap space from a cheap rookie quarterback contract anymore.
Most Saints observers will be keying in on QB, WR, DT, and CB play during Saturday’s matchup. What positions must be played close attention to for the Ravens?
I think it’s critical to observe offensive and defensive line play during preseason. In training camp, neither can go full tilt as an injury could occur to the teams’ quarterback and their season could be over before it begins. We see highlight-reel catches every day in training camp but that’s because cornerbacks aren’t allowed to play as physical. Same with linebackers tackling running backs. Key in on the trenches as that is what preseason is for. Judging the blocking on one end and the penetration from the other.
Who are some under-the-radar Ravens that Saints fans may be upset about during the game?
The biggest names entering this first preseason game are wide receiver James Proche, cornerbacks Chris Westry and Anthony Averett, as well as linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. Many times, Ravens fans become enamored with a training camp wide receiver or the late-round receiver who has upside. But Proche appears to not just be a camp standout. He’s dazzled against the Ravens’ secondary, which is by far one of the best groups in the NFL. He’s competed well and is mentioned each day as a standout.
Chris Westry is a unique cornerback to keep your eyes on. He is 6-foot-4 and uses his length quite well. He has been targeted less often this past week of camp because he was consistently swatting away targets thrown his way.
Anthony Averett is another player to watch. He hails from Alabama and is a fast and physical cornerback. He would start on many NFL teams but the Ravens starting tandem of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters has kept him from too much playing time. This is the final year of his rookie contract and he’ll likely be playing a lot of first-half reps on Saturday.
Finally, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. The Ravens liked him in the NFL draft a few years back and he hasn’t quite demonstrated his full potential. The Ravens signed veteran pass rusher Justin Houston and I think a part of that is due to Ferguson’s inability to get after the quarterback last year. He has a great motor but hasn’t put it all together yet.
What’s the biggest misconception about the Baltimore Ravens heading into the 2021-22 season?
In truth, I believe the Ravens aren’t being misrepresented. They are a run-first team. They have a strong special teams unit alongside a top-five defense. They do need to get more from their passing attack. I think the only thing that could be argued as misrepresented is the “lack” of wide receiver talent. More than anything, they’re consistently struggling with healthy wide receivers. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown excels when on the field, but he hasn’t been 100%. Rookie receiver Rashod Bateman is now getting groin surgery which sidelines him through September. It’s not lack of health alone, however, as some talent hasn’t panned out, but I think most have a reasonable perspective on the Ravens. This all coming with the understanding that the Lamar running back comments are either trolls or fools.
Your outsider’s perspective on the Saints?
I haven’t paid much attention to the New Orleans Saints, outside of national headlines. I know they have some great offensive line talent, Alvin Kamara is brilliant and so is wide receiver Michael Thomas, but I am clueless on the quarterback situation outside of who are the competitors. I’ll be interested to watch this game to learn more about the NFC South counterpart.
That was our time with Kyle Barber and the Baltimore Beatdown. Be sure to enjoy the game on Saturday, we’ll catch you next week.