A number of camp battles are now in progress with the Ravens, and the injuries Thursday increased that total. However, I don’t think there is anything more important than figuring out how the Ravens will maintain their defensive dominance versus the run after losing the premiere edge-setting tandem in the NFL over the last decade (Suggs and JJ).
The Ravens didn’t give up any big runs on Thursday as the Falcons ran just 21 times for 71 yards (long of 9), but in the biggest surprise of the opener, Albert McClellan was elevated to start at RDE. That’s a big responsibility for a hybrid ILB/OLB. It may have been a function of Harbaugh’s desire to sit every player that missed the previous practice. That included top draft pick Courtney Upshaw and Arthur Jones.
The offensive line battles got much more interesting with a prolonged look at Gino Gradkowski at center and good play from 4 different tackles. I find it helpful to record the offensive linemen by series. I didn’t notice any mid-series changes, but these are the 5 offensive linemen for the first play of each series.
Individual Grades and Notes
As in past years, I have given a number of Ravens a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much my expectation of their impact on the 2012 Ravens changed based on their performance Thursday. I won’t waste time rating starters, players who have no place on the team, or anyone for whom I don’t think I have any data for a judgment. The players here are new to the team, rookies, on the cusp of making the team, have new responsibilities in 2012, in positional battles, or have other questions for this season.
Allen (-2): Compare the happy, long-haired Allen of a season ago with the scowling Allen in this year’s Ravens media guide and you have a metaphor (or would this be an analogy?) for his standing with the Ravens this camp and last. He didn’t play well in limited duty Thursday, looking bad as a pass blocker, undistinguished as a runner, and failing to catch either of 2 close passes. Losing a big gain to some combination of alligator arms and taking his eye off the ball (Q2, 1:15) may well cost him his roster spot.
Bajema (+1): He found a good position between defenders on his TD reception from Painter (Q3 7:40) and caught another 8-yard pass from Taylor the only other time he was targeted. He’s clearly ahead of Balasavage and Drew at this point for the 3rd TE spot.
Balasavage (-3): The Gamebook indicates he had a catch the only time he was targeted, but Balasavage had 2 drops negated by defensive penalties (Q4, 10:36 and Q4, 1:22). He also had a false start and missed blocks on 2 run plays. He allowed Massaquoi to penetrate and take down Rainey (Q4, 13:36) and did not move quickly enough to block Council in level 2 (Q4, 10:32) on a Berry run for just 1 yard. He should continue to get opportunities with both of the starting tight ends out for the remainder of the preseason.
Berry (0): Berry was the 4th back in after Rice, Allen, and Rainey. I wasn’t impressed with him as a runner. He caught the only ball thrown to him and outraced the defense to the edge for a gain of 12 (Q4, 9:20).
Boren (-1): Justin did not look nearly as good as in the 2011 preseason when he played well enough to make the team. He failed to get off a double team with Gradkowski as James came delayed through the B gap to sack Taylor for a loss of 11 (Q2, 3:44). He was pancaked (Q3, 10:33) at least once, but I missed the opposing number. Boren may struggle for playing time the remainder of preseason as the Ravens will want to see more of Wragge, Williams, and possibly Osemele at LG and Gradkowski at center. If cut, he’s a prime candidate for the practice squad, but he’s also the sort of young player some other teams might like to take a chance on.
Brown, Omar (+2): That was about as opportunistic a game as you’ll ever see in the preseason. Omar had an INT off a tip from LaMark Brown (Q3, 0:18), recovered a fumble forced by Ricky Brown (Q4, 4:43), and recovered Wilson’s fumbled handoff (Q3, 8:30) when he was the 7th man to the pile by my count. He also had a nice undercut of Cone who had beaten Gorrer on a crossing route (Q3, 4:02).
Brown, Ricky (+1): He led the team with 5 tackles. Ricky’s highlight was the forced fumble on White (Q4, 4:43) which was returned 32 yards by Omar Brown. He had the initial penetration on Rodgers’ run left (Q2, 2:48) which Carr cleaned up for a loss of 1. He also had a PD deep middle (Q4, 2:47) which was nearly intercepted by Quarles. Brown was called for defensive holding (Q2, 0:38) to help move the Falcons into field goal range on their final scoring drive.
Carr (-1): This was a game of opportunity for Nigel who played much of the last 3 quarters at ILB. He cleaned up on Ricky Brown’s penetration (Q2, 2:48) to drop Rodgers for a loss of 1. He was in position to recover the Davis fumble (Q3, 8:30), but could not find the ball which was recovered by Omar Brown. He lost Aaron White for a 15-yard completion on the left side (Q4, 5:23). The Ravens’ best coverage linebacker (Ayanbadejo) is 35. Their next biggest contributor (Lewis) is 37 and doesn’t really “cover”, but makes contributions with recognition of the passing lane and ferocious hitting. The need for a cap-friendly coverage solution at ILB is becoming more pressing and I think the competition between Carr and Brown may come down to who can contribute more both in coverage and in terms of pass rush.
Cody (+1): He held his ground well and made a contribution as a rusher when he deflected Redman’s pass (Q2, 10:43) for a near interception. His biggest need for improvement this season is some contribution to the pass rush and that PD exactly meets the definition.
Considine (0): He played, but did not make my notes.
Cook (0): He was credited with a QH (Q2, 0:25) when he came delayed, but Hall dropped to zone coverage on the play and allowed an 11-yard completion to Palmer.
Drew (0): He was targeted twice, but neither throw was close. The play that caught my eye was the draw to Berry (Q3, 8:18) where he pulled through the A gap and threw an effective, low block to lead a 6-yard run. The Ravens need to get some offensive production from their 3rd TE, whether that is as a blocker or receiver.
Ellerbe (-1): He sat out with an undisclosed injury. He may be losing ground to players like Ricky Brown and Carr who could take his roster spot at significantly less cost.
Gorrer (0): Danny had an up-and-down game. He could not pull in what would have been a nice interception on Cody’s PD (Q2, 10:43). He closed quickly to tackle the much larger Gallarda (Q3, 6:54). He also undercut Nissley (Q4, 6:22) who had to leave the game. However, he missed a tackle on 2010 Mr. Irrelevant Tim Toone (Q4, 7:38) and lost Toone on a 41-yard pass by the right sideline (Q4, 3:01) that was wiped out by a holding call. He defended a ball in coverage of Jackson (Q4, 11:42) on a play where he did not look back until the last moment.
Gradkowski (0): The jury remains out based on some uneven play over 13 series, but I liked his post-game quote shouldering the responsibility for missed assignments. He seems to have the ability to lead. He and Boren were beaten for a penetration by Jerry (Q2, 9:30) which went for a loss of 2. He pancaked Regis to lead a 6-yard run up the middle (Q2, 4:10). Boren was responsible for picking up the blitzing James (Q2, 3:44), but Gradkowski also missed an opportunity to pick up Dent coming delayed on the same play.
Graham, Corey (0): He led the team in tackles with 5 and played at both corner and safety. He slipped covering Roddy White on Ryan’s 13-yard completion (Q1, 13:53). He was beaten inside by Jackson (Q2, 0:19) which set up the Falcons field goal before the half. His highlight was a free run for a sack on Davis (Q4, 5:51)
Graham, Dorian (-1): I’m reminded of a line from Bart Simpson:
Homer: I’m afraid if I tell you, you’ll lose respect for me.
Bart: I couldn’t lose a lot of respect for you.
Dorian Graham won’t make the team and if I had more expectation of him to begin with, he’d have a lower score. He caught 1 of 5 balls thrown to him on a variety of short passes for a total of 0 yards.
Hall (+2): Carpe Diem. The Ravens’ DL problems were accentuated a game in which he played well. He’s the leading candidate to replace McBean in the DL rotation. His highlight was a crushing QH of Redman (Q2, 9:58).
Harewood (+1): He looks comfortable as a blocker and spent time at both tackle spots. In what has become a crowded competition of tackles, the Ravens will have to decide this camp if he can be of use.
Jackson (0): He got a clean run blitzing off the slot, but failed to bring down the QB (Q2, 5:32). He had a couple of correctable gaffes as a punt gunner. First he touched a ball at the 7-yard line he should have let roll (Q2, 3:01). He stepped on the goal line and his touch at the 1 was ruled a touchback (Q2, 7:51). From the replay, it appeared he reestablished himself outside the end zone before he touched the football. The fact that he was in position to make these 2 plays is a positive and much more difficult to teach than touching strategy. He comes with an impressive college record of punt returns, but did not get any such opportunities.
Jones, Jacoby (+1): He got deep separation (Q1, 6:29) on Flacco’s overthrow. He returned a kickoff 29 yards and caught a 10-yard pass for a first down. These are all good signs for a player who has reportedly had a rough camp in terms of catching the ball.
Kemoeatu (0): Kemo is another player upon whom the Ravens will rely. He sat out all of 2011, so I didn’t know what to expect, but he looks OK and despite the verbal lashing he took for the arm tackle on Rodgers’ TD (Q2, 15:00), I thought he held his ground well.
Kindle (+1): He looked as active as he did at any time since last preseason on Thursday. He came close to his first NFL sack (Q4, 11:52) when he slipped off Davis as he rolled right. He also got good push on the RT (I could not make out his number, Q3, 10:47). I’m a little surprised he wasn’t the choice to start at RDE, but I’m sure the Ravens had their reasons.
Kruger (0): He showed some good pass rush moves, but the Ravens new reliance on him as an edge setter is scary. He’s got everything to prove and gain from a quality 2012 season versus the run.
McBean (-2): Ryan had played in 46 of 48 games the past 3 seasons and had a career-high 4 sacks this last season. Based on his per-game snap counts, and the reduced pressure he generated as the year wore on, I’d say this is a guy who would do well to play as the 3rd or 4th tackle in a rotation or combine with McPhee, Kruger, Upshaw, and others to supplement a 3rd-down pass rush. Sadly, his season and tenure with the Ravens is in jeopardy with the broken ankle.
McClellan (+1): Is it good that Albert McClellan can step up and start at RDE? Sure. Is it good the Ravens’ best option is to start McClellan at RDE? It’s very bad. Albert did not embarrass himself in extended playing time, and generated a little pass rush. He had a coverage sack when he slid free of Johnson after approximately 5 seconds (Q2, 2:00). He was also credited with a QH when Redman did not go down (Q2, 5:32) although he had some push on Svitek that play. His best rush of the night might have been his bull of Baker to compress the pocket (Q1, 13:53) on the 13-yard completion to White. He played some at both ROLB and LOLB as the game wore on. Prior to his Thanksgiving start for Lewis last year, he was a situational run-stopping OLB when the Ravens used the 4-4-3. He appears to be much larger up top this season and it will be interesting to see if he can fill the old Jameel McClain role with the versatility to play ILB, OLB, or take some snaps from a 3-point stance. He is one of the players with a chance to take Dannell Ellerbe’s role.
McKinnie (+1): My expectations were low, but McKinnie did reasonably well in his stint with the 2nd-team OL. He played 7 series as the Ravens made their comeback. I didn’t score the offensive line play, but also didn’t notice a significant blocking error as I was taking notes.
Osemele (+1): Kelechi is one of the players to get excited about from the first game. He looked solid in pass protection and played the first 7 series. He picked up a corner blitz off the slot (Q1, 8:02), which can be difficult for a tackle. He gave ground in the pocket to Edwards (Q2, 14:25) on a play which resulted in Dent’s sack, but Kelechi stayed with his block across the pocket which is better than the alternative. He also gave some ground on Biermann’s sack (Q1, 5:33) where he and Oher (beaten outside by Abraham) share responsibility for forcing Flacco up in the pocket where he tripped over Williams. It’s not obvious to me why he was projected as a guard out of school.
Painter (+2): There may be a legitimate battle for the backup QB spot. Curtis had trouble getting the ball out on time to Deonte Thompson on 2 separate occasions including a potential TD in the back of the end zone (Q3, 2:00). The ball was also a little late on the 48-yard DPI generated by Thompson. However, Curtis made a fine, across-the-body throw for the TD to Bajema (Q3, 7:40) and connected with Thompson under pressure for a TD in the back of the end zone (Q3, 0:31). He sold the screen well on Rainey’s TD (Q4, 12:31).
Rainey (+2): Bobby’s rushing stats are unimpressive due to an ill-executed pitch play (Q4, 9:06) and the penetration allowed by Balasavage (see above), but he ran hard and effectively. He broke a tackle from James while weaving for his 18-yard score on the screen pass (Q4:12:31). He had 6 punt-return opportunities including one he muffed, yet still returned 15 yards. Since he is a year junior to Allen, he has an advantage in terms of the cap.
Streeter (+1): He looked big and used his size well to run for a first down that was negated by a bad spot (Q2, 1:12).
Williams, Cary (-1): He got worked over by Jones, and White, who are 2 off the better receivers in the league, but he was consistently unable to find the ball which was the biggest factor in the Falcons’ 80-yard TD drive to open the game.