Preseason games are liars. They help to set unrealistic levels of expectations both good and bad. They inspire oftentimes inaccurate forecasts of gloom and they spring false hopes. But for now, they’re all we and more importantly the coaches and team personnel evaluators have to go on to set the 53 man roster.
Sometimes despite the unintentionally false pretenses, talent can emerge. And for the Ravens on a perfect August night for football that’s exactly what happened during their 48-17 thumping of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The win didn’t come without its casualties. The hustling, hard-working and enthusiastic safety hopeful Emmanuel Cook broke his lower leg and will be lost for the season. Sean Considine, a veteran who was brought to Baltimore to sure up special teams play, suffered a concussion. This coupled with his less than expected play thus far may be steering him towards an injury settlement. Corey Graham left the game with a stinger that isn’t believed to be serious but more than likely will keep him on the shelf in St. Louis.
As for the game itself there were a ton of positives the most notable of which on a team-wide basis is that the Ravens finished plays. For the specifics, we present this week’s Good, Bad, Ugly & the Megan Fox.
GOOD: Torrey Smith is a perfect example of what can happen when a great work ethic, willingness to embrace coaching and raw talent collide. He is quickly becoming the Ravens No. 1 WR contributing 8 catches for 103 yards in 2 ½ quarters of action. If not for one of Joe Flacco’s few misfires on the night while running a 9 route down the right sideline, Smith’s numbers would have been even more impressive…LaQuan Williams, while not possessing the breakaway speed of Smith certainly shares his Terrapin teammate’s other fine qualities and is a clear No. 4 WR on the depth charts. Williams had 2 catches for 43 yards and while that alone might not sound overly impressive, his first catch featured a great spin move to add significant YAC on a catch that went for 35 yards and the other catch featured strong hands in tight coverage for an 8 yard score…Up until last night no running back really emerged as a clear No. 2 other than diminutive UDFA Bobby Rainey. Last night Rainey, Bernard Pierce and Damien Berry all contributed. It is unlikely that all three will stick and for the moment Berry could be the victim of a numbers game…Save for one inexplicable pass Tyrod Taylor rebounded from a shaky performance against the Lions. His legs are a lethal weapon and Cam Cameron needs to find ways of getting him on the field during the regular season…Pass protection was solid for the most part and the run blocking has improved despite the absence of Marshal Yanda.
Defensively the star of the game was Lardarius Webb. It’s hard not to admire a player who gives his all on every play even during the preseason and especially after he’s already landed a $50 million contract. Webb was all over the field in run support and in position with solid technique when defending the pass…Bernard Pollard arrived in Baltimore with a reputation for being a demonstrative player who hits hard yet a liability in coverage. That was the Houston version of Pollard. As a Raven Pollard has exhibited opportunistic ball skills and was in position frequently to break up passes or mitigate the gains throughout his minutes on the field…Jameel McClain was solid at the point of attack and he is maturing as a player…
On teams Sam Koch was excellent on his two punts netting 45.5 yards on average, both pinned inside the 20 and one of which was downed at the 5…Justin Tucker, welcome to Baltimore…Deonte Thompson and Jacoby Jones continue to display speed in the returning game missing since Jermaine Lewis’ departure. The pair averaged 57 yards on 2 kick returns…The Ravens were 10 of 16 on third down conversions and 4 of 5 in the red zone.
BAD: The newly assembled offensive line of McKinnie-Osemele-Birk-Williams-Oher while providing solid pass protection had its fair share of breakdowns leading to a Knighton sack, a couple of penalties and some sloppy technique from Oher and Williams…
UGLY: Tyrod Taylor’s interception resulting in a Pick 6 inspired a collective, “WTH was he looking at?” exclamation throughout The Land of Pleasant Living…Justin Tucker was initially instructed to leave his kickoffs somewhat short in order to give the kick coverage team an opportunity to get some work in. The results were so bad that John Harbaugh and Jerry Rosburg ditched the plan in favor of knocking the ball through the end zone…Joe Flacco’s inability to protect the football while under duress.
THE MEGAN FOX AWARD: Throughout training camp observers of the team across the board have taken notice of the change in Joe Flacco. It’s not anything you can put your finger on but it’s there – a confidence, a swagger, a more combative competitor. It’s as though the maturation process is unfolding right before our very eyes.
Throughout camp the Ravens have operated out of a no huddle offense almost exclusively. It is clear that it’s there that Flacco feels most comfortable. He’s more engaged, takes more ownership and is more in control. Plus it’s quite possible that he and Cam Cameron have grown together and judging from his improved nuances of quarterbacking, QB Coach Jim Caldwell clearly has Flacco’s ear.
Flacco delivered lasers throughout his 2+ quarters of work and when needed he delivered soft touch passes into a bucket. His ball handling is crisp as exhibited on his scoring strike to Boldin when play action sucked in the linebackers created a huge throwing lane. Perhaps his best pass was actually an incompletion to Jacoby Jones. With a corner in hot pursuit and a safety quickly converging Flacco threaded the needle into a small window that went through Jones’ hands. It was a tough catch but the throw was eye opening – one that few if any other QB in the league can make.
We’ll see in a couple of weeks if Flacco can carry his momentum into the regular season. Next week he’ll be in street clothes while visiting St. Louis. But the early indications are that perhaps the one person who more than other can make up for the loss of No. 55 is the guy who wears only one 5.