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The first team offensive line played well and the potent Eagles’ first unit pass rush was really only a factor when the Ravens faced third and long, such as the third and 14 situation the Ravens faced with 2:05 left in the first half on the Eagles 23 yard line. On that play, Jevon Kearse beat Tony Pashos and forced a Steve McNair fumble and turnover. Other than that, the offensive line played well and they even executed a flawless screen play during which Mike Flynn effectively sold the pass and then led the way down the right sideline, helping to spring Musa Smith for a 36 yard gain. Other than the fumble, the only blemish for the offensive line was a sack of Steve McNair when Mike Flynn with the help of Eagles’ defensive tackle Sam Rayburn was sent tumbling into McNair.
Back to that third and 14 situation – a hard snap count could have sucked in Kearse and it could have created some hesitancy on his part during subsequent snaps. That split second of hesitation could be the difference in containing a player of Kearse’s ilk or giving up a sack.
Jason Brown and Chris Chester both played well with the second unit although this writer was surprised to see a player that won’t even make the team playing center (Thatcher Szalay) with the second unit instead of a player who should be pushing for time with the first unit (Jason Brown).
Both fullbacks (Justin Green and Ovie Mughelli) played well both as lead blockers in the I-formation and on special teams. Their places on the final 53 man roster appear to be a near certainty at this time.
Staying with the backfield, Musa Smith continues to impress and shows a burst that he’s never shown before as a Raven and possibly never before during his football career. His performance should inspire anyone that is determined to achieve a goal despite the overwhelming odds to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. His 43 yard touchdown blast in the third and his athleticism on display during his 36 yard jaunt after a short pass from McNair are two more reasons for Ravens’ fans to exclaim, “Chester who?”
Steve McNair adeptly moved the chains although he failed to strike in the red zone. His poise and ability to sell the pass during the screen to Smith was textbook execution. He also reconnected with Derrick Mason and the former Titans’ tandem showed us all once again that they haven’t skipped a beat despite being apart in 2005. Kyle Boller showed grit and toughness while withstanding a barrage from the Eagles second team defensive line. Criticize all you want but what you hope for during the preseason is progress and Boller certainly delivered that in Game 2 of this preseason.
Devard Darling stepped up and made a few nice plays. I’ve taken some criticism for promoting his play in camp and most have shot back that he’s a bust and he should be cut, etc., etc. I’ve heard folks say that he always gets it done in practice but he can’t get it done on the field.
That’s not true. At least it’s not true about the practices.
I’ve watched Darling closely over the past three Training Camps. In 2004 and 2005, he couldn’t even get open in practice much less a game. He’s improved and he’s now getting open on the field. One game doesn’t establish a career yet it is one game in the right direction.
Props also to Jim Fassel for showing a wide variety of offensive looks. There was a time when you could predict a Ravens play with a fairly high degree of certainty. That’s no longer the case! Props also to Demetrius Williams for a nice block to assure Musa Smith’s jaunt to the house.
On the defensive side of the ball, a few of the linebackers did a very nice job scraping down the line of scrimmage and making tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. Deserving of such props are Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs, Dan Cody and Gary Stills. Stills’ solid play on the second unit defense coupled with his Pro Bowl special teams’ creds places Rod Green squarely on the bubble.
Kelly Gregg was busy and disruptive; Dwan Edwards made a statement with 6 tackles and defending the screen very well. He showed a high motor and relentless pursuit; Ray Lewis had a nice strip of the ball on Reno Mahe.
Samari Rolle showed perfect cover technique twice on long sideline passes, finding his man, positioning himself and turning to find the ball. Too bad the official didn’t see it quite that way on the game’s first offensive play when Rolle was called for pass interference. Just remember the refs are in preseason mode too. Other showing solid technique in coverage includes Ronnie Prude and Evan Oglesby. Oglesby made a nice interception on a pass intended for Greg Lewis and he later showed some physical play breaking up another pass intended for Lewis.
The second team defensive unit showed much more discipline than the first unit and the second team defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage.
In the return game, B.J. Sams looks a bit more explosive this year and Cory Ross had a nice 20 yard punt return enabled by a crushing block from Bobby Blizzard.
The Ravens defense is extremely aggressive and the aggressiveness is being used against them by teams that can execute a screen. Until they can prove they can stop it, they’ll keep seeing it. They knew that the Eagles would run the screen and they practiced defending it. It didn’t pay off.
The defensive alignment with Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas is vulnerable to running plays between the guards. Both players were easily pushed aside during that nickel alignment; Haloti Ngata was a bit slow off the ball and didn’t work his way upfield and disengage from blockers.
Jarret Johnson was lucky to get away with a silly would-be penalty for delivering a helmet to helmet hit to Koy Detmer on a third and long; If P.J. Daniels wants to make this team, he better step up his pass blocking. That was supposed to be one of his strengths coming out of Georgia Tech.
Adam Terry struggles against speed rushers with the body style of Gary Stills and Rod Green. He’s beaten easily by smaller more athletic rushers.
While Kyle Boller played well under intense fire, he failed to look off the safety on a long pass to Daniel Wilcox down in the end zone near the right hash. Boller locked in on Wilcox early attracting the attention of the safety who was largely responsible for breaking up the play and nearly sending Wilcox out on a stretcher.
Steve McNair failed to deliver a couple passes on time. One pass to Todd Heap was broken up easily by Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. Dawkins also broke up a lofty pass intended for Mark Clayton that lacked zip. McNair is still working through the learning curve of the Ravens’ offense but something needs to be done about burning those unnecessary time outs. All three of the Ravens first half time outs were wasted (2 by McNair and the third during an ill-advised challenge of the McNair fumble).
Ronnie Prude needs to be more aware of the ball during punt returns. One punt deep in Ravens territory caromed off his leg. Fortunately the Ravens recovered. Cory Ross’ courage and toughness is admirable but not his lack of awareness when he attempted to return a punt with a tackler barreling down on him. Had it not been for a punt return tackler releasing downfield too soon negating the play, the Eagles would have recovered Ross’ fumble in Ravens’ territory.
The Ravens second string offensive tackles should start looking for jobs as bouncers in area night clubs. They have no immediate future in the NFL; the clock management at the end of the first half was a joke. Spin it any way you want, that handoff to Musa Smith with 18 seconds left was inexcusable. With no timeouts and facing a third and three, that run made absolutely no sense. You either take a shot at the end zone or you throw an out to get the first and buy another play considering they were already on Philadelphia’s 17 yard line.
The penalties in the first half kept the Eagles in the game when the Ravens dominated the clock and the play on the field. The poor display was frighteningly familiar and reminiscent of the ragged and uneven play at times in 2005; Romby Bryant has had a decent camp but dropping a perfectly thrown ball from Brian St. Pierre isn’t a way to make an impression. At this point, Bryant is hopeful of a practice squad spot.
The scoreboard pregame presentation lacks energy. With all of that technology you would think that even a little creativity could deliver a solid punch and jolt or stir the crowd. Instead the punch couldn’t break glass – it’s the equivalent of giving Grandma the keys to the Ferrari. Someone please get a clue!
And speaking of getting a clue, the TV presentation of the Ravens game was hardly big league. The replays were few and far between and Moose Johnson’s solid color commentary was lost in the long-in-the-tooth delivery of Dick Stockton.