Preseason games are an odd beast. Take for example last night’s game between the Ravens and the Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium.
Clearly the Ravens first unit had you know what handed to them. And while we can and do evaluate individual performances, team assessments are rather difficult given the games within the game.
Players may be refining specific techniques in order to have a more productive regular season. Game plans are non-existent in that they haven’t been implemented in a way to attack an opponent’s weaknesses, as they are when the games count.
Play calling is basic on both sides of the ball because no team wants to give their first regular season opponent anything of value on film.
That aside, the Ravens have plenty of work ahead of them to get ready for opening night on September 5 against the Denver Broncos. Entering training camp their were two primary concerns that still remain unresolved:
- What will the Ravens do at wide receiver opposite Torrey Smith?
- With all the new faces on defense how and when will they gel as a unit?
THE GOOD: The first half in John Harbaugh’s words was one of the worst halves of football he’s ever seen. He’s right, particularly for a team as talented as the Ravens playing before their hometown crowd – a surprisingly raucous one for a preseason game.
Offensively perhaps the only “good” you can take away from that train wreck courtesy of Jim Caldwell’s unit is the explosiveness exhibited by Torrey Smith, taking a short in-route through traffic and past defenders for a 77-yard score. The play accounted for 59% of the team’s first half offense…Offensive tackle Ricky Wagner has put together back-to-back plus performances clearly holding his own at left tackle against the Falcons’ reserves…Aaron Mellette is now 2 for 2 – two preseason catches, 2 TD’s, this time on the opposite end of a 40-yard toss from Tyrod Taylor…
Defensively Daryl Smith was outstanding shedding blockers while making plays near the line of scrimmage. Linebacker mate Arthur Brown showed why the Ravens moved up in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft to select the former Kansas State standout. His closing speed is excellent and his cover skills are as advertised…Arthur Jones continues to provide signs that he could be the team’s breakout defensive player in 2013…
Tackling has been rather substandard so far this preseason but that can’t be said about Asa Jackson. Jackson has exhibited great closing speed and sure tackling throughout training camp and the preseason. The Ravens should and will welcome him with open arms after his 8-game suspension. He also provides an excellent alternative in the return game. His 78-yard punt return for a TD proved to be the game’s winning score…John Simon was practically invisible last week in Tampa but last night he showed everyone why the Ravens draft war room was so excited to pick the former Big 10 DPOY. His 4th quarter sack was a clinic on how to execute a spin move to the quarterback…The much maligned, oft-injured David Reed looked very good as a kick returner averaging 31.3 yards on three returns.
THE BAD: Joe Flacco is a notoriously slow starter and last night was no exception. Perhaps the slow tempo and lazy, redundant cadence was just indicative of the preseason. The Falcons were timing the cadence with great success and that helped them dominate the Ravens offensive line…Speaking of which, AQ Shipley put an end to the “competition” with Gino Gradkowski…Tandon “Soft” Doss just isn’t the answer and the Ravens should never again ask for Joe Flacco’s opinion on another draft pick …
Jacoby Jones wasn’t much better. He just doesn’t appear to be a reliable option in heavy traffic with those Roberto Duran hands. And Jacoby, when it’s 3rd and 5, don’t run a 4-yard comeback route…LaQuan Williams failed to capitalize on the momentum he established in Tampa…Ray Rice, you definitely have a reason to vent your displeasure over the wretched run blocking. But don’t stomp off the field like a 5-year-old. Take it up with “Running Game Coordinator” Juan Castillo one-on-one…
Jimmy Smith continues to struggle. His raw talent just doesn’t translate to consistent productivity on the field. His technique needs work. Why are we still talking about this?…In Smith’s defense, it looked like his safety Michael Huff bailed on him during the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones TD pass. Ryan had all day to throw and you just don’t stay in stride all over the field with a talent like Jones. Huff is supposed to be the Ravens new centerfielder. If so, he misjudged a few fly balls last night…
Adrian Hamilton is clearly more comfortable as a situational pass rusher than as an edge setting linebacker…Overall, Ravens linebackers failed to contain on backside runs off zone blocks. The rushing defense was eerily similar to that porous 2012 defense that the Ravens vowed to correct… Ok, ok, he’s coming off an injury but Haloti Ngata looked like he was simply putting in time last night.
THE UGLY: The entire first half! (See below)
THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Tyrod Taylor for the second consecutive week played very well demonstrating poise and resiliency as the offensive leader. He kept his head downfield despite being under duress often in the pocket and he shook off an interception that really is on LaQuan Williams for making a bad decision while breaking off a route deep in Atlanta territory. His two fourth quarter scoring strikes paved the way for the comeback victory – a victory which on the heels of a woeful performance from the starters amounted to dropping a 35-foot putt for a triple bogey.