NFL preseason games typically allow veterans to readjust to game speed, while rookies and unproven players use the opportunity to try and make a strong impression in front of coaches and fans.
When the Ravens face the Tennessee Titans in their 2022 preseason opener Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium, there will be much more at stake than just a roster spot. Baltimore will be seeking to extend its NFL-record 20-game preseason win streak, which dates to 2015.
Even though some of the Ravens players said the streak hasn’t crossed their minds, they still think it’s cool to be undefeated in exhibition games over the past six years.
“We haven’t lost in a while, right?” veteran tight end Nick Boyle said. “It’s cool. Everything you do, you always want to win. So, I think it’s something special.”
With a 37-3 over Washington at FedEx Field last August, the Ravens broke the NFL record set by the Green Bay Packers, who won 19 straight preseason games from 1959 to 1962 under Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi. That run of dominance is nothing new for the Ravens, who are 67-32 all-time in preseason play, including 40-12 under coach John Harbaugh.
Fullback Patrick Ricard said he doesn’t talk about the winning streak, fearing something bad will happen. Still, he couldn’t help but admire the organization for keeping it going this far — and outscoring opponents 477-219 along the way.
“I think it just proves the depth we have here, the type of scouting and the draft [acumen] that the front office has,” Ricard said. “It just shows that we’re always a ready team when it comes to preseason.”
Veteran safety Tony Jefferson II said the streak stems from preparation and focusing on the details.
“Everything we do is 100%,” Jefferson said. “As long as you’re not making the same mistakes, I feel like that gives you the ability to play fast, and I think that’s kind of the main key when you go out in preseason games — just play fast. It’s not like a big game plan that you really have to study; it’s pretty vanilla.”
Last preseason, the Ravens dominated their opponents. After defeating the New Orleans Saints, 17-14, they outscored the Carolina Panthers and the Washington Commanders a combined 57-3.
However, starting running back J.K. Dobbins and linebacker L.J. Fort each tore their ACL during those victories, keeping them sidelined for the entire regular season. Dobbins, a 2020 second-round pick, finally returned to practice Monday as the Ravens slowly bring him back up to speed nearly a year after he suffered the knee injury against Washington.
Harbaugh said Saturday that he doesn’t plan to play experienced starters such as quarterback Lamar Jackson, outside linebacker Justin Houston, newly acquired safety Marcus Williams, tight end Mark Andrews and cornerback Marlon Humphrey as he guards the health of his front-line players after an injury-riddled 2021 season.
“I think you can kind of extrapolate who will play and who won’t, and then there will be some decisions with some guys that we haven’t completely made yet,” Harbaugh said.
For Boyle, just playing at all is something to be thankful for. The veteran tight end suffered a knee injury in a road loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 15, 2020, and didn’t return to the field until Week 10 last season. The initial procedure, which he called “the worst surgery of my life,” repaired meniscus, PCL, MCL and fracture damage. A clean-up procedure, which he underwent last summer, further delayed his return to the field.
Even though it’s just a preseason game, he’s looking forward to playing Thursday.
“I think that would be really good for me,” Boyle.