BALTIMORE — The Ravens and Jaguars took vastly different approaches into their preseason opener.
Baltimore chose to play the majority of its starters. Nearly all of Jacksonville’s top players had the night off.
The opposing strategies led to a predictable result as the Ravens crushed their visitors, 29-0, Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens started their entire first-team offense with the exception of established veterans Marshal Yanda and Mark Ingram. Rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown, the team’s first-round pick, also sat out while he eases back into action following foot surgery.
Defensively, Baltimore did not dress its starting secondary – arguably the NFL’s best – but played the starting front-7 aside from linebacker Pernell McPhee and defensive tackle Brandon Williams.
Jacksonville’s defense was without one of the NFL’s best cornerback tandems in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, standout linebacker Myles Jack and several starters along the defensive line. The Jaguars sat starting quarterback Nick Foles, star running back Leonard Fournette, top wide receiver Dede Westbrook and many offensive lineman.
“Their quarterback has been playing for how many years?” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of the teams’ differing strategies. “He’s a Super Bowl champion. Do you think he needs the first game of the preseason? Our guy is in his second season. That’s an easy decision.”
Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson played the entire first quarter. He completed four of six pass attempts for 59 yards and hit Willie Snead IV for a 10-yard touchdown on his third and final series of work. Jackson twice connected with wide receiver Chris Moore for gains of 30 and 18 yards.
“We felt good. We’re trying to get in a rhythm. It’s the first preseason game, so we’re trying to work out the kinks and see what works for different players and what works for us,” Snead said. “I think it was a good first three series, and I think we got a lot of things done.”
Jackson led a six-play, 35-yard drive on the Ravens’ first possession of the 2019 preseason that resulted in a 52-yard field goal from Justin Tucker. The second offensive series gained only three yards on as many plays and ended with a Sam Koch punt.
“I feel we did pretty good for the most part. We got taken off the field one time, but we came back and scored some points,” Jackson said.
The starting offense returned for one more drive with just over four minutes left in the opening quarter. A defensive pass interference against Jacksonville on third down kept the possession alive, allowing the Ravens to score their first touchdown of the preseason four plays later. Jackson hit Snead along the left sideline, and the slot receiver broke one tackle on his way to the end zone with 1:23 remaining in the opening quarter.
The touchdown pass was Jackson’s final play of the night, exiting with a quarterback rating of 138.2. The freakishly-fast, dual-threat quarterback did not run the ball once.
“The plays weren’t set for me to run. There weren’t any RPOs for me,” Jackson said. “I did what I was coached, threw when I had to. The pocket was good, so why would I run?”
The Ravens defense predictably stifled Jacksonville’s offensive reserves in the first quarter, but the dominance continued even after Baltimore’s starters had called it a night. The Jaguars managed just 27 yards of total offense in the opening quarter and 83 in the first half. The Ravens outgained Jacksonville 288 to 112 for the game.
“The defense played great. They didn’t cross the 50-[yard line],” Harbaugh said.
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon, the most established player on Baltimore’s defense to play Thursday, did not know the Ravens kept Jacksonville on the opposite side of midfield for the entire game.
“I really didn’t realize that. We have a lot of hungry guys out here, a lot of players that know how to win, and we’re stacked,” he said. “It is always good to get that shutout. It is good to have a goose egg on the board, and a lot of players made plays to make that happen. Even in the preseason, it’s sweet and says a lot.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig