Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson is good – good enough to be an NFL video game cover boy. As we saw Friday night, he’s also good enough to torch Ravens cornerbacks, who for the second straight weeks struggled in coverage.
A week ago the Falcons relied on three-step drops and quick slants for easy connections in front of sagging Ravens defenders.
This week Johnson simply ran past, through and over Ravens corners Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith while averaging 22 yards on five catches and a touchdown in less than a half of play.
Lacking much of a pass rush, the Ravens allowed quarterback Mathew Stafford to sit comfortably in the pocket as he piled up 12 completions on 17 attempts for 184 yards and two touchdowns – a 145 QB Rating – in less than thirty minutes of game time.
Offensively, the Ravens starters showed better rhythm, again working out of a no-huddle attack that gave quarterback Joe Flacco time to survey the defensive fronts of Detroit and adjust on the fly. That was good news for fans, who had been clamoring for coordinator Cam Cameron to cede the on-field decision-making reigns to his quarterback.
The starting offense received better play from the interior line and moved the ball much more consistently this week, despite stalling in the red zone. However, the second team offense struggled to show much in the second half.
While the Ravens were a more disciplined squad, the Lions flashed more individual talent, overall. It’s reflected in the individual unit grades.
Flacco played very well, throwing with good touch and accuracy on deep balls. His receivers did not always help him, and as a result his passer rating of 78 is a bit deceiving. Getting to the line quickly, he was able to draw the Lions offside on a couple of occasions using a long, hard count. He threw one ill-advised pass into the stomach of a leaping Ciff Avril, who dropped the interception.
Tyrod Taylor struggled mightily placing his throws where his receivers had any chance of catching the ball. While he is impressive running the ball – he compiled a team-high 70 rushing yards on the night – he threw off target repeatedly, and his short stature led to two balls being batted down at the line.
Curtis Painter came in with just 4:35 left on the game clock and immediately looked more like an NFL quarterback, crisply connecting downfield on six of his first eight throws in the two-minute offense. But then, working mostly with players who won’t make the final roster, he finished-out just 3 of 13, including an interception on a ball over the middle, intended for rookie Tommy Streeter.
RUNNING BACKS B
One thing was clear from this game – the Ravens have running backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield. As a group, the backs snared 14 out of 18 balls thrown to them for 117 yards – half of the Ravens’ receiving total in the game. Damian Berry and Bobby Rainey looked particularly effective as receivers. However, on the ground, much was left to be desired as the group amassed just 27 yards on their 16 carries.
Rookie third-round pick Bernard Pierce saw his first game action and impressed with a nice catch and run over the middle that was reversed on a penalty. He was caught a couple times running east-west, however. Rainey looked powerful and elusive with the ball in his hands, including a fierce stiff arm at the end of a catch and run. Berry put up a nice bid to push Rainey for the third RB spot.
Anthony Allen fell further behind in his bid to remain on the squad. He ran for -2 on three carries, dropped a pass and whiffed on a block for a sack.
Vonta Leach sat for the first couple series as the Ravens went with a three-receiver set, and then came in and made a nice catch and run for 15 yards near his own end zone.
WIDE RECEIVERS C
With Torrey Smith sidelined, LaQuan Williams got the start in that three-receiver starting set. While he ran nice routes and got separation, he needs to focus on finishing plays; he caught only two of six balls thrown his way, including a dropped would-be touchdown down the right sideline.
Jacoby Jones also dropped a ball to force a punting situation. However, Cameron may have found a receiver who can run one of his pet plays, the reverse, which Jones ran for 35 yards.
Tandon Doss finally saw action and made one nice grab over the middle.
TIGHT ENDS D
Billy Bajema demonstrated that he can be an effective blocker playing on the inside. However, he was not able to come up with either of the throws directed to him. Davon Drew appeared briefly, with one catch. Mark Balasavage was not able to come down with a ball Taylor threw behind him. Bruce Figgins, an undrafted rookie out of Georgia, may have been the best looking pass catcher of the group, grabbing two catches.
Kelechi Osemele continues to impress on the right side, eating up pass rushers. He was flagged for a questionable roughing penalty as he steered the pass rusher into the ground and then pounced on him to keep him down. He is an impressively aggressive blocker. There are times his footwork in pass protection needs work. Michael Oher was steady on the left side, although he did get flagged for holding to stall a first-quarter drive inside the ten and force a field goal.
In reserve, Bryant McKinnie and Ramon Harewood both showed good technique and adequate protection. Jah Reid was a late scratch as he continues to be bothered by a calf injury.
INTERIOR LINE B
With Matt Birk back at center, this unit played much better. Birk did not drive anyone off the line of scrimmage, but he and Bobbie Williams had no trouble with line calls in their schemes. Williams looked a lot more mobile this week and was effective getting down field in the short passing game. Marshal Yanda stood out when pulling to his left, destroying Corey Williams to spring Ray Rice for his only decent run on the night.
In reserve, Gino Gradkowski showed he is still very much a work in progress. He was repeatedly stood up and pushed into the backfield. Justin Boren also struggled a bit on the left side, giving up a sack.
Starter Cary Williams was repeatedly targeted and, playing tight coverage, struggled with footwork when attempting to track Johnson. Jimmy Smith had similar troubles, and was slow to turn and find the ball in the air.
Lardarius Webb was better running with receivers, but missed a tackle on Johnson to allow the big receiver to turn up field for a first down.
The second and third string corners sagged off receivers and allowed too many catches before closing to make tackles. Of this group, rookie Asa Jackson looked the most ready to play, and made a nice open field tackle.
Ed Reed got the start and looked a bit tender wrapping his right arm around Johnson after a catch as he brought down the receiver. Bernard Pollard showed a nice inside blitz, but got away with a late hit on Stafford.
Sean Considine has yet to impress filling in for Reed. He was late over the top to help Williams, contributing to a 57-yard completion and sagged off of receivers over the middle. Rookie Christian
Thompson looks more capable. After Detroit running back Joique Bell ran off right tackle for 20 yards to the Ravens’ 4, Thompson poked the ball loose. Remarkably, it was Omar Brown who recovered, his fifth opportunistic takeaway in two preseason games.
Ray Lewis made a poor read on Detroit’s first offensive play to allow Kevin Smith to bolt ahead for eight. The noticeably lighter Lewis later made a nice break on the ball to knock down a pass.
Dannell Ellerbe stood out as the biggest hitter among the linebackers with good closing speed and sure tackling. Jameel McClain closed equally quickly on dump-off passes.
For the second week, Ricky Brown did good things, including another tipped pass and a hard hit on the ball carrier, meeting him in the hole.
Nigel Brown also impressed in both coverage and in his closing speed getting to the ball.
DEFENSIVE LINE B
Ma’ake Kemoeautu showed why he has worked his way into the starting lineup alongside Haloti Ngata. Kemo constantly pushed the line back and blew past right guard Stephen Peterman for tackle in backfield.
Bryan Hall and Pernell McPhee also stood out for their ability to penetrate. Terrance Cody was textbook perfect in standing up blockers and sliding to the ball carrier.
Paul Kruger did a nice job balancing his workload of run stopping, pass rushing and pass coverage. He jumped a route for a near interception. He was also flagged for a late hit on Stafford after arriving just a beat late.
Courtney Upshaw isn’t there yet. He shows a good upfield push as a pass rusher filling in for the injured Terrell Suggs, but shows few moves and appears tentative at times carrying out his assignment. He also made a mental error lining up offside. He’s still behind Albert McClellan, who showed he is able to get to the quarterback a little coming off the edge.
Sergio Kindle left the game with a right shoulder stinger after diving for a tackle as the ball carrier was running out of bounds.
SPECIAL TEAMS B
The special teams units were up and down, as you would expect when different mixes of young players are run out onto the field.
In the kicking contest between incumbent Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker, Cundiff did nothing to lose the job. However, it was hard not to be impressed by Tucker nailing a 50-yard field goal down the middle, or staying focused as the team ran the correct personnel onto the field as the clock ticked, and then calmly nailing another from 45-out. Tucker also perfectly executed an onside kick, tipped by Deonte Thompson and recovered by Omar Brown.
In two games Brown has recovered five turnovers. If there is any doubt he has a nose for the ball, he was also the guy who recovered a blocked Sam Koch punt after Nigel Carr whiffed on a block in the middle of the line. Koch impressively nailed a 59-yard punt downed inside the ten.
Asa Jackson and Deonte Thompson both caught the coaching staff’s eye with impressive returns. Jackson’s 85-yard punt return for a touchdown was called back when Nigel Carr was caught holding for his second severe special teams blunder. Thompson took a kick from seven yards deep in his own end zone and nearly broke it, barely stepping out at midfield. That return was nullified by a holding call against Sergio Kindle.
Bobby Rainey did a nice job fielding a punt on the run to pick up yardage. Anthony Allen and Sean Considine both struggled to make tackles on the kick coverage units.