Ravens HC John Harbaugh Mum On Whether Lamar Jackson Will Play In Preseason Opener

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he has already decided whether quarterback Lamar Jackson would play in the preseason opener on Aug. 14 against the New Orleans Saints, but he said he won’t divulge his decision.

“I’m not sharing any of that, probably,” Harbaugh said after the team’s practice on Aug. 12. “We have a rotation for every different person. … For specific players, age-related, position-related, we’ll approach it individually that way.”

Jackson has had just five practices in training camp after self-isolating for the first 10 days of camp because he tested positive for COVID-19.

The Ravens have also been without several presumed starters on the offensive line, as well as multiple receivers for most days of camp. That has made it difficult for Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman to get a true sense of what their offense might look like in 2021, and that’s not likely to change when the Ravens host the Saints at M&T Bank Stadium Aug. 14 in their first preseason game in two years. The entire 2020 preseason was canceled because of COVID.

Regardless of who plays quarterback, the Ravens are likely to be missing All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and starting right guard Kevin Zeitler (foot), who have been sidelined for most of training camp. In additional, rookie guard Ben Cleveland missed practice Aug. 12 after leaving a day early, and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva has sat out the past two workouts.

The Ravens have mixed and matched a lot up front, and it would be sensible to not subject Jackson to undue risk behind a patchwork line in an exhibition game just a week after Jackson returned to practice.

In the Ravens’ last preseason opener, in 2019, Jackson played the first quarter, a total of three possessions and 16 snaps.

Harbaugh has traditionally increased the workload for starters gradually throughout the course of the first three preseason games, then sat most starters for the fourth preseason game. This year, the preseason has been reduced to three games with the addition of a 17th regular-season game.

Jackson said earlier this week that he’s looking forward to preseason action, whenever it comes.

“If I’m able to go, if coaches say I can go, doctor says I can go, I’m out there,” Jackson said. “I want to be out there with my guys, just like practice.”

If Jackson sits out, third-year quarterback Trace McSorley is likely to start, with Tyler Huntley backing him up. Those two each got extensive work with the first team while Jackson was on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and each had good days and bad days.

McSorley appeared to get most of the reps in practice Aug. 12 and made some strong throws, though he also threw a pair of interceptions. One of them bounced off running back Nate McCrary and into the arms of linebacker Kristian Welch, who returned it for a touchdown. Later, McSorley’s pass sailed just beyond the reach of Devin Duvernay, who tipped the ball into the hands of safety DeShon Elliott.

McSorley and Duvernay, though, connected early in practice for one of the plays of the day, a deep pass when Duvernay beat cornerback Davontae Harris. And during a red-zone drill, McSorley lofted a touchdown pass to tight end Josh Oliver just over the reach of Marcus Peters.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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