As last week, I have given a number of Ravens a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much I think their chance to impact the 2009 Ravens changed by their play Monday. I’m trying to go through the players who are either rookies, on the bubble, or for whom there are special circumstances. I’m not rating starters (unless returning from injury), players who have no real shot to make the team, or anyone for whom I don’t think I have data for a judgment. Each player has a number associated with this game and a total for the 2 games to date, in that order.
Ayanbadejo (-2/-2): I don’t think Brendan’s fate is in his own hands, but he did not play well Monday night. The Ravens have a young LB corps and they seemingly all are core special teams players. Some will have to be dealt, sent to IR, or sent to the PS. Despite 4 tackles, Brendan was one of the reasons the Jets were able to run effectively as he was consistently pushed around by Alan Faneca. Walker was clearly a frequent target for the pass and I think Rex may also have singled out Ayanbadejo as weak against the run. I don’t know the cap implications if he is cut, but I think it’s safe to say both he and Walker are hoping the Ravens don’t make a big WR splash.
Barnes (0/0): I don’t see why his roster spot is a lock at this point. He had a nice QH (Q2, 2:00), but otherwise contributed just a single tackle despite perhaps 15-20 snaps played. That’s been the story of his career to date…very low productivity stats per play on the field.
Burgess (0/0): I don’t see how he makes the team at this point barring a string of injuries. He had 2 tackles on defense and now has 6 defensive tackles (all in exhibition games) since the beginning of the 2007 regular season. He had some tackles on special teams in 2007, but has yet to record his first defensive snap during the regular season.
Cook (0/0): Numbers game. Looks like the Ravens may carry 4 RB’s with McClain the only FB. I can’t point to anything he’s done exceptionally well and I have a feeling the Ravens might have a couple of moves left that will leave him on the practice squad.
Cousins (-2/-5): Played very poorly for the 2nd straight game. He was bull rushed by backup DE Pitoitua for a sack (Q3, 9:12). After a false start by Stallings, Cousins was flagged for a 15-yard face mask. Troy Smith should be demanding hazard pay. On the plus side, Cousins had 2 nice pancake blocks on the Ravens 3rd drive in Q3. Those give me hope he could still be effective as a guard some day. It’s not something the team would be likely to do, because it would split the 1st team offense, however if the Ravens can’t find another tackle before game 3, I would very much like to see Gaither and Oher staggered on the left side with Cousins, Reitz, etc. sharing time on the right. It’s simply a big injury risk to have Cousins at LT.
Drew (-2/-4): For the 2nd straight game, Drew was not even the target of a single pass. Folks have commented that Drew doesn’t look like he’s in shape. I’m not sure he isn’t also having issues with the playbook that have relegated him to 4th or 5th on the TE depth chart. I’m not a doctor (neither was the school nurse who diagnosed Bart Simpson), but those sound like symptoms of Amoria Phlebitis to me. The suggested treatment is a diet rich in vitamins B, C, and E along with extensive weight training, playbook study, and a trip to IR.
Edwards (0/+1): Edwards still looks a little slow off the snap, but he is the normal line partner of Justin Bannan, who is extremely quick. Pryce and Gregg were and are injury concerns. The Ravens vacillation re the 3-4 or 4-3 benefits the alleged swingman since he gives the Ravens some flexibility in case of injury.
Ellerbe (-1/0): Inactive on Monday night. With the Ravens surplus at LB, his timing was poor.
Figurs (-2/0): The Gamebook shows he played Monday, but he didn’t have a pass thrown to him, did not run the ball, did not return a KO, did not return a punt, and did not make a tackle on special teams. That’s about as invisible as you can get. He should see significant playing time in the last 2 preseason games. Yamon may back into a spot if there are further injuries to the WRs. However, to nail down a spot, I think he needs to be effective as a punt gunner.
Foster (-1/+1): It’s apparent the coaches want to give Foster a good look. He entered the game late in the 1st half and immediately dropped Smith’s gorgeous head-high pass in the clear. It didn’t appear to me that Foster’s drop was a function of impending contact since Leonhard was still perhaps 5 yards away when the ball arrived. With the Ravens liberal drop amnesty program for receivers that can generate any separation, he’ll do a few hours of rookie hazing and get another chance in games 3 and 4. He also slid into the backfield to fake the option with Smith on a run up the gut. Why bother to design a play like that unless you think that’s an effective use of a small man who might make the team? Size will limit his effectiveness on KO returns and this team simply has too many players that can return punts. Do you recall the Ravens Hard Knocks series? That team was so desperate for a backup punt returner they were considering Reggie Waddell. This Ravens team has Webb, Figurs, and Zbikowski all ahead of him.
Gerard (-1/-1): Played some special teams and may have been in defensively late in the game. Per Figurs, there is no evidence he showed up other than his substitution line.
Godfrey (0/0): He played, but if he was in as a receiver, I missed it.
Gooden (+2/+2): I didn’t rate him last week. Was active and flowed to the ball well. He was among the leading tacklers for the 2nd straight game and shared time from start to finish.
Gregg (0/0): So far, while I’m glad he’s feeling healthy, he does not seem to have the same explosiveness, nor would I expect it.
Hale (0/0): I expect him to make the team based on his versatility, but see comments about Yanda. Have the Ravens decided he can’t play tackle, because let’s face it, no one else is after the starters.
Harper (+2/0): Still getting some separation and did not have a drop vs. the Jets. At this point the Ravens are praying like heck there is not another injury, but Foster and Harper took steps in opposite directions to clarify who is the likely 5th WR.
Jones (0/0): Very versatile player, but unfortunately for him, the Ravens have a surplus of everything he does well. He’s a serviceable pass rusher and core special teamer, but he’s going to need to produce as a TE. Jones did not get a look as the intended receiver of any throws on Monday. LJ Smith appeared to pull up lame after a very unimpressive game. That would be a break for Jones, but if Smith can go, I have a feeling the Ravens will want an extra OT as a 3rd TE.
Kruger (+3/+4): Another terrific game. Played 4 quarters and accumulated some accomplishments against men with existing drywall orders from their teammates, but he reminded me a little of Ray Lewis circa SB XXXV. In pass coverage, he made a nice tackle to hold Smith to a 2-yard gain and force 4th and 1 (Q4, 2:38) and also had decent coverage on Simmons who was unable to hold on (Q1, 4:02). He batted 3 separate balls at the LoS and made a total of 5 tackles. He didn’t show any great pressure on the QB, but I’m being picky.
Lawrence (-1/0): After a big 1st game, he went dark with 1 carry for 3 yards. He’s going to have to play very well on special teams to beat out players like Peerman and Parmele for a spot.
Martin (0/+1): Came in late at safety and didn’t do anything I noticed to embarrass himself. With Walker and Oglesby taking big steps backwards, this could be good news for a player like Martin.
J McClain (+2/+1): Overall it was a good game for Jameel. The TD pass allowed was to Washington, a faster man who he’s supposed to have trouble covering. He was, however, unable to find the ball and might have been able to distract the Jets RB had he been a step closer. On the plus side he had a very nice pick-6 for a TD where he had to maneuver past his assignment to collect the ball. He also had 8 defensive tackles, 2 more on special teams, and another 1 nullified by penalty. After whiffing on 2 sacks in the opener, McClain displayed much of the versatility that makes him a valuable Raven. At this point, I’d say he’s the one “obviously-ready-to-start” player for whom the team might entertain offers.
Oglesby (-3/-3): The Ravens are very crowded at corner, but don’t mistake it for depth. Right now I’d say…1. The starting corners look above average, 2. The ancient peanut-brittle-tough nickel might still be able to play, but can’t seem to get on the field, 3. The only backup nickel that has looked good is Webb, who is probably now the Ravens’ top replacement on the outside if Rolle does not return, 4. Carr has looked unimpressive and less physical than I remembered, 5. Walker, who might be a physical presence on the slot receiver is through on the outside, 6. Oglesby would be beneath the replacement level if forced into action, and 7. For some reason amidst this mess, Martin has been banished to backup safety. Evan had a disastrous game, allowing Davis to get behind him for an easy TD that was dropped (Q4, 3:22). He then was called for PI to set the Jets up at the 1-yard line (Q4, 0:55). The Ravens coaching staff seems to have decided he can play outside while Martin can’t. Martin is still just 24 while Oglesby will be 28 in December. With the elfin size of the Ravens corners, their recent history of injury, and the appearance that only 3 currently can play on the outside, I think it’s time to investigate additional options.
Oher (-1/+2): In his case, I’m not rating him based on his chance to make the team, but solely in terms of how much of an impact he’ll have this season. I’d heard the stories, but I had to see the way he finishes blocks to believe it. As a pass blocker, I think we need to temper our expectations, but with his body type and height he should be more effective against smaller OLB/DE tweeners (Harrison, Woodley). That’s a projection, but he has much technique to learn as was evidenced by the blown stunt pickup on the sack of Flacco (Q2, 12:50). He missed 3 other blocks, by my count, including over pulling once (Q1, 11:12) and failing to find a block in space on a screen pass. If I had one other nit to pick, I’d say he sometimes falls victim to “Haloti Ngata syndrome” where he sees 2 good opportunities to make a block and wants to take both. Pin and move to level 2 is fine, but he needs to stick to 1 jersey at the point of attack. I don’t want you to think the rating above somehow makes me unimpressed with him. On the contrary, he’s going to make OL analysis very fun this season. He’s a net +2 for the preseason and assuming Gaither is resigned, RT is his for the next 5 years at a minimum.
Parmele (0/0): Did nothing special to win the job, but he might make it because he knows Cam’s offense. At worst, he’ll be one of the last men cut.
Peerman (0/-1): Not a good sign for his depth chart position, but I’m confident he’ll play a lot in the last game. As with Drew, I think he’s fairly likely to be IR’d.
Phillips (0): Looked OK in limited action. He may be one of the players the 26 scouts came to see. As a 5th round selection, it’s probably a stretch to think the Ravens can get what they paid for him. With the play of McClain and Gooden, and toying with more 4-3 use, however, it appears the Ravens don’t need additional help at ILB. If the Ravens can’t get a decent offer for him he might remain for special teams and be sent to IR at some point during the season when other needs dictate.
Riley (0/0): Possible PS player. Whatever is happening in practice, he’s not getting a chance to play in the exhibition games. That’s not good, of course. He’s another guy I would expect him to see significant playing time in the last preseason game.
Smolko (0/0): Also went dark after being targeted twice in game 1 and seeing the field before Drew. I’d say he and Jones are now competing for 1 spot with no 16-game guarantee attached.
Talavou (0/0): Year after year the Ravens have high quality depth at DT and each year their practice squad is raided by other teams as their DL’s thin. This is one player a lot of teams would probably like. What could he bring? A 7th round selection? A backup receiver or TE? I’d love for the Ravens to keep him, but unless they suffer an injury prior to the opener, I don’t see how they will.
Webb (0/+2): Most of the 0’s above didn’t see enough action to be rated, but Webb had some highs and lows. The fumble on the 2nd half kickoff was not good, but carrying the ball in the proper arm is a correctable mistake. He allowed Allison to elude him for a first down (Q4, 4:01) when it appeared he could have stopped him short. He followed that up with a nice, physical tackle (Q4, 3:02) to set up 3rd down. And, of course, he had the game saving PD on the Jets failed 2-point attempt. The most encouraging thing I saw was Webb lined up against an outside receiver on some of the 4th quarter plays.
Yanda (0/0): Yanda played only briefly in Q2 on Monday as Birk exited and Chester moved to center. I did not hear an injury report. Marshall is the key to the Ravens having a truly dominant offensive line in 2009. He was outstanding in 5 games last season before the injury. If he can return and play well, it will allow Chester to remain available as one of the top interior backups in the game. I also think it is possible Chester could be used as a TE again as he was briefly before Yanda’s injury. One thing I’d like to dispel, however, is the notion that Yanda is a swingman G-T. He’s a guard who might be able to play center if needed. The Ravens are a serious contender and despite the youth of both starters, they need to be prepared with a backup tackle that is both 1. above the replacement level and 2. does not require a serious downgrade at another O-line position. Given the surplus of talent the Ravens have elsewhere, I would not be shocked to see them make a trade involving almost any of the defensive players that are on the bubble.