What does all this mean exactly? Probably nothing, since the results of these exhibitions are completely meaningless. But the Ravens, who last lost a preseason game in 2015, have some pride in the streak and what it means for their organization.
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“It’s one of those things where you know there’s a lot more important things you want,” veteran defensive end Calais Campbell said Thursday at the team’s practice facility. “But I think it’s a testament to how people prepare, the training camp process [and] The type of guys that we bring in here that are trying to fight to make the team.”
There’s something to be gained, the Ravens believe, in the effort and performance levels of even those players who won’t see the field much during the regular season — or won’t even be on the roster until then.
“There’s a certain quality of guys who respect the process and go hard,” Campbell said. “And I think that shows in the preseason games. You have your third and fourth teams playing, playing good football and executing at a high level. I think that’s a testament to the coaches and a testament to the front office for bringing in the right type of guys.”
The Ravens have a preseason record of 42-12 during John Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach. That hasn’t happened because he’s put his frontline players at unnecessary risk to win preseason games. Harbaugh announced Thursday that quarterback Lamar Jackson will not play against the Commanders. Backup Tyler Huntley will likely make the start.
Harbaugh said he will make determinations on other starters on a case-by-case basis.
“There are some starters that need work,” Harbaugh said. “Some beginners don’t. Maybe most beginners don’t. And some of those guys will play, too. We are only managing some of those guys. … It’s not one size fits all.”
The Ravens’ summer exploits can be easily dismissed. After all, there’s no trophy handed out for the NFL’s August triumphs. There’s an argument to be made, especially with a 17-game regular season, that the most reasonable approach to the preseason is to keep all key players idle, avoid season-ending injuries and handle the first two games of the regular season as the junior preseason.
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But maybe that’s too dismissive. Maybe there’s something to be said for aiming to win every time the score is kept. Lombardi’s Packers won NFL championships, in the days before the Super Bowl, in the final two seasons of their preseason winning streak. The Ravens, even though they are coming off an 8-9 season, have been among the league’s most consistent winners; they have two Super Bowl titles this century while ranking fifth among all NFL teams in total wins in the 2000s.
So while Saturday’s result won’t mean much when the Ravens open the season against the New York Jets on Sept. 11 at MetLife Stadium, with Jackson in the lineup instead of next to Harbaugh on the sideline, it will probably be reflective of a approach. this matters at least a little.
“I think that’s something you can hang your hat on and say, ‘Okay, we prepare in a certain way that allows guys to be successful,'” Campbell said. “It’s something to be proud of. But obviously we want more things that are bigger. We would love a string like that.”