Graduating from training camp to the preseason has its adjustments. The effort elevates and the intensity level picks up along with the tempo.
And unfortunately so does the number of mistakes.
Players understand that careers and playing time are at stake. It’s incumbent upon each of them trying to make his mark, to make plays – to show up on film.
Veterans with their roles already defined get their work in but they are not as vested in the results of a preseason contest. They just want to get in their reps and escape unscathed. Players on the bubble fight for survival. Mix the varying objectives together and it’s difficult to draw conclusions or to project similar results or failures for the regular season.
For the Ravens their biggest objectives heading into the preseason were to:
- Address uncertainties at inside linebacker
- Develop cohesiveness on defense given the many new faces
- Determine who might step up at wide receiver
Of these three objectives it’s so far so good with two of them. The third, not so much.
With that in mind, let’s go to the Good, Bad & Ugly in Tampa last night…
THE GOOD: As he has throughout training camp, Joe Flacco looked comfortable in the pocket particularly when stepping up and hitting Ray Rice on a check down for an 11-yard pick up. He was 7 of 9, the two incompletions being a Jacoby Jones drop and an interception on a pass intended for Jones. That pick was delivered very late…Tyrod Taylor should benefit from the tutelage of Jim Caldwell because the Ravens’ offensive coordinator alters his playing calling to match up with his back up QB’s skill set. Taylor threw for 154 yards and 2 scores and ran for another 27 yards…Bernard Pierce exhibited a burst and strength on the sloppy track during his 20 yard TD scamper…Damien Berry and Anthony Allen ran hard and purposefully. Berry would benefit by keeping his head up to improve his field vision. He left yards on the field…Bobby Rainey is still a poor man’s Ray Rice and he always seems to show up in August.
Marlon Brown showed promise at wide receiver and when supporting the running game. His block keyed a 7 yard run by Berry early in the second half…Visanthe Shiancoe shook off an early drop(s) and was effective with 3 catches, one of which was an acrobatic catch to keep a drive alive deep in the red zone…Tight end mate Matt Furstenburg made a nice grab of a Taylor pass down the left seam in traffic for a 24-yard pick up…Aaron Mellette made a solid play on a heavily contested ball, showing excellent footwork and concentration while hauling in a 21-yard scoring strike from Taylor down the left sideline.
On defense the Ravens were very fast to the ball and their tackling was sure and aggressive. The standout was Daryl Smith who called the signals for Dean Pees’ defense, was quick to the ball carrier and showed great awareness defending the pass…Smith’s sidekick Josh Bynes also played well with 3 total tackles, one of which was for a six-yard loss…Chris Canty showed early signs that he’ll be a difference maker. Alongside Haloti Ngata and flanked by Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens were able to generate a nice pass rush with just four players. A ton of good can come from that…Adrian Hamilton is building a case to make the team and to be a situational sub. He had a sack and a couple of QB hurries and did a nice job scraping down the line to pursue ball carriers…Asa Jackson is doing his best to persuade the coaching staff to keep an open mind to his return to the 53-man roster after he serves his 8 game suspension for Adderall use. He up-ended RB Peyton Hillis on a power sweep, effectively sifting through the lead blockers and forced a fumble. A few plays later he picked off a pass…Matt Elam looks like an explosive tackler and it’s hard not to think of Bob Sanders when you watch him play…Jimmy Smith made a nice play to disrupt a timing route from Josh Freeman to the towering Vincent Jackson…UDFA CB from Utah Moe Lee continues to impress. The big corner (6’1″, 191) had an interception showcasing textbook technique.
On special teams the standout was another big DB (6’2”, 215) UDFA safety from Troy, Brynden Trawick. Trawick made a great block to spring Bobby Rainey for a 58-yard kick return and later he blocked a punt in the end zone during the waning moments of the first half recovered by LaQuan Williams in the end zone. Kyle Juszczyk made a nice tackle to put the exclamation point on a booming punt from Sam Koch, the first of his career…Justin Tucker was flawless going 3 for 3 in FGA including a 57-yarder.
THE BAD: No receiver running with the 1’s other than Torrey Smith came to play last night. Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson and Jacoby Jones all did next to nothing to dispel concerns about the wide receiver position. Given what looks to be some excellent depth on defense, the Ravens’ front office is more than likely on the prowl for a trading partner…Bryant McKinnie needs to have his head on a swivel instead of looking like a cigar store Indian when there’s no one in front of him to block. Linebacker Lavonte David went right inside of the Ravens LT untouched on a blitz to sack Joe Flacco…James Ihedigbo and Chykie Brown both vacated the secondary on an ill-advised blitz. Both left their feet at the LOS and were easily checked leaving the secondary vulnerable to a Freeman to Ogletree 22-yard connection on third and 7.
THE UGLY: Josh Bynes and Michael Huff got their signals crossed and left Bucs’ tight end Tom Crabtree wide open for a 61 yard gain in the first quarter…Chykie Brown has looked very good during camp but last night was a disaster. He was flagged for two pass interference penalties in the second quarter costing the Ravens 51 yards of field position during the Bucs’ only TD drive of the game…Joining Brown in the ugliness was secondary mate Marc Anthony who was targeted often by rookie backup QB Mike Glennon. He was also flagged for a late hit after a nice play by Asa Jackson. After Jackson tackle on Hillis and subsequent fumble the loss on the play would have forced a Bucs punt from the Ravens 44. Instead they got a fresh set of downs on Baltimore’s 29. To his credit Anthony kept his head and made a nice play on a flanker screen in the 3rd quarter while defending a third and 10 but it was too little, too late to overlook a very bad outing.
THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Since he’s been with the club, LaQuan Williams consistently makes plays during training camp and the preseason. Last night he was Johnny-on-the-spot with two fumble recoveries, one for a touchdown plus he added 2 catches for 32 yards and another score on a 21-yard connection with Tyrod Taylor. With so many questions at starting receiver and few answers, it’s time to see Williams run with the first team.