THE STARS RETURN
You don’t have to like the turnovers or the loss itself, but the returns of Marshal Yanda and Lardarius Webb were welcome indeed.
Yanda played 19 non-penalty snaps (the first 3 series) and turned in a near-perfect performance. To summarize:
- (Q1, 12:47) He drove Dwan Edwards backward 5 yards to lead Rice’s 13-yard run.
- (Q1, 8:32) He pulled and blocked Kuechly on Rice’s 1-yard TD. On that play, McKinnie sealed off the inside, Wagner kicked out Hardy, and Leach flattened Klein to open a Volkswagon-sized hole through which Rice moved untouched.
- (Q1, 4:41) He pinned Oher’s man, then executed a level-2 block to spring Pierce for a gain of 11.
- (Q1, 3:31) As a pass blocker, he maintained his block on Cole for 5+ seconds as the outside rushers eventually got to Flacco when he stepped up. This was a pure coverage sack.
- (Q1, 2:56) He moved to level 2, but was too slow to intercept Beason. This was the only missed block I charged to him.
- Scoring: 19 plays, 18 blocks, 1 miss, 18 points (.95). The depth and balance of Carolina’s defensive line makes this performance all the more special. By comparison, Osemele, Gradkowski, and Reid had difficulty matching up with their assignments, most notably Star Lotulelei, the Panther’s first-round selection.
Webb also returned in a limited role. He did not start, but was inserted at LCB in the nickel for 16 non-penalty snaps spanning the first half. He allowed 3 short completions (9, 10, and 8 yards), 2 in front of him with soft coverage and a third chasing a crossing route by Steve Smith which resulted in a first down (Q2, 1:30). Half of his action came on the final drive of the first half where he played primarily soft coverage. His highlight of the night was a PD registered in coverage of Ginn (Q2, 13:55) where he moved up quickly on a curl outside the right numbers.
The Panthers had 2 designed runs while he was in, but Lardarius was nowhere to be seen in run support. He may have had instructions not to get involved. Since Graham has shown the ability to play the slot receiver effectively (remember Denver in January), it will be interesting to see if the Ravens will start the season with Webb on the outside instead of his customary spot as the nickel where he can be used as a pass rusher.
I would assume Both Yanda and Webb will sit out the preseason finale, since it appears both are ready to contribute in Denver.
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 2013 Ravens changed based on their performance Thursday. I don’t rate 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 2013, in positional battles, or have otherwise have something to prove this season.
Individual Grades and Notes
Anthony (-1): He was flagged for illegal contact to convert a 3rd and 9 (Q3, 6:18) among just a handful of snaps. Based on hearing Eric DeCosta speak at an event earlier this year, I’d say he is personally invested in Anthony. Anthony has as much option value as a corner can have because he’s a rookie, a good size-and-shape fit for the position, and not in The Program. At this point, I’d expect him to make the team as the 5th or 6th corner, but if the Ravens don’t suffer some injuries and he does not impress on special teams, he’ll be a candidate for IR when Asa Jackson is again eligible.
Brown, Arthur (0): If Bynes is seriously hurt, I would expect McClellan, not Brown, will be elevated to the starting lineup. The Ravens seem committed to keeping a healthy Brown for duty in the nickel, which I think makes a lot of sense. ILBs who can cover are unusual in the NFL and the Ravens now seem to have 2.
Brown, Chykie (-1): Tough outing. The quality return of Webb was a relief, but Brown will see action at some point as the 4th corner.
Brown, Marlon (+3): He caught all 4 balls on which he was the target and 3 of those were at least 12 yards from the LoS. He did not indicate fear over the middle and showed good elusiveness after the catch. All 4 of his receptions were from Flacco and were different patterns. He added a fine block of Moore (Q4, 11:36) on Berry’s 10-yard TD run.
Bynes (-1): His rating is highly injury dependent, but he looked hurt (Q3, 3:31) after he made a tackle to end a drive. It looked like he was considering going down, but stayed on his feet for the field goal attempt. Did anyone else think how fortunate the Ravens were not to have Ginn’s return happen as the last play in SB XLVII? It was just about the same distance.
Clark (-2): He’ll have to see action in the finale. That’s not a good thing for a vet, but he looked unable to get much separation and didn’t make up for it with hands. The 3 times Flacco threw in his direction:
- (Q1, 5:33) Flacco threw 20 yards downfield and over what was still tight coverage from LB Thomas Davis. The ball was slightly behind Clark, but deflected off his hands.
- (Q1, 3:05) He dropped a pass 1 yard from the LoS between the right hash and numbers. The play was negated by an illegal contact penalty on Mellette.
- (Q2, 12:48) Kuechly registered a PD as Clark was bracketed by him and Munnerlyn. It was a throw that should not have been made, but Clark did nothing exceptional to make a play on the ball with either his body or hands.
Cody (+1): He and Arthur Jones flushed the pocket leading to McClellan’s sack for no gain (Q3, 4:52). I generally don’t record snap counts during the preseason, but Williams was on the field for many more plays Thursday.
Doss (-2): The fine play of Brown and Mellette coupled with his own failure to read the blitz with Flacco’s subsequent explosion (Q2, 11:17) are ill portents for Doss. He caught a short pass for a first down thereafter (Q2, 9:20). My note on the play is simply “5 forgives”. He should still make the team as core ST and a backup return specialist, but I have to believe he’s dropped on the depth chart as a receiver.
Elam (-1): His post-incomplete, helmet-to-helmet hit on Olsen (Q3, 4:12) was worse than Ihedigbo’s silly penalty last week. Matt made 2 sure tackles, including 1 for a loss, but it’s not clear who will start the opener at this point.
Furstenburg (0): He was targeted twice. The first was Taylor’s INT, where he was not open. The second was a 7-yard dump off on the final drive.
Gradkowski (-1): He had a tough assignment opposite Lotulelei and the other Carolina inside linemen and he made the least of it. He was confused by the double A-gap blitz (Q2, 11:17) and failed to pick up Kuechly on Flacco’s interception to Florence. He was also flagged for holding Short (Q3, 8:54). There is a good chance the Ravens will miss Matt Birk this season.
Hamilton (0): He was nursing an injury and Meshak Williams got a shot in his place. He’s played well enough to make almost any team, but the OLB depth is outstanding. The Ravens will need to determine if it makes sense to carry 5 OLBs and that total would exclude McPhee.
Harewood (-1): He made a nice seal block on Allen’s 15-yard run, but negated it with personal foul when he dove over the pile. He is very much on the bubble and I’m not sure why another team would be hot to sign him.
Huff (0): He was the centerfielder in a game where the Panthers had just 2 pass plays of more than 12 yards. He was, however, beaten by Olsen for a 16-yard gain (Q1, 8:22).
Ihedigbo (+1): He moved up quickly to take down Williams for no gain on 2nd and 1 (Q1, 7:16) and otherwise kept his nose clean this week.
Jackson (+1): On his 34-yard punt return (Q4, 0:26), the Ravens rushed 9, leaving the left gunner unblocked. Jackson didn’t go for the fair catch, and in fact appeared to deke the gunner by quickly advancing the last 6-7 yards on the football as the Panther passed him. He played corner in the 4th, but the Panthers were running the ball for the most part and did not target his assignment.
Juszczyk (0): He was used briefly with the 1s at both FB and TE, but he was not targeted and did not have a carry. He may have been injured.
McClellan (0): He contained Newton well on his sack for no gain (Q3, 4:52). He had a PD and near INT of Clausen (Q4, 10:52). McClellan fineshed with 6 tackles to lead the team.
McPhee (0): DNP with a leg injury and there is no room left at OLB. Simon played well, which solidifies the top 4 (or 5 with Hamilton). I’m afraid the Ravens will have to move him back inside or trade him.
Mellette (+1): He had one of the big blocks (on White) on Rainey’s 60-yard punt return (Q4, 9:58). He again blocked White on Taylor’s 22-yard run on the very next play (Q4, 9:40) that was negated by penalty. He drew 2 penalties, each of which resulted in first downs. On the game’s final play, the Panthers had 5 men inside the 10 at the snap and all collapsed to the ball with Mellette at goal line between the hashes. Williams and Streeter were both streaking in and free for a tip to either side.
Rainey (+2): His outstanding game makes it less likely the Ravens will be able to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Reid (-1): He played poorly in relief of Yanda at RG. He has still yet to play tackle this preseason. Wagner will clearly be the first tackle up should anything go wrong.
Shiancoe (0): He caught 2 of the 3 balls thrown to him Thursday. Despite his own set of frustrations, Dickson will be well received when he returns.
Shipley (0): Neither of the centers, with alternating starts, has been effective against opposing starters.
Simon (+3): He had a list-worthy effort in the 2nd half:
- (Q3, 4;08) He penetrated past Jordan Gross to blow up Poole’s run. Jones cleaned up for a loss of 4.
- (Q3, 3:26) He used a spin move to beat FB Brockel for a QH.
- (Q3, 3:21) He used an inside spin move to beat Bell and flush Newton. Newton would run for an 11-yard gain on 3rd and 14.
- (Q4, 2:20) He stayed unblocked and patient on the OLS then collapsed to take down Poole for a gain of 3.
He’s made the team without the need to fake an injury.
Smith, Daryl (+1): His preseason is up there with Pernell McPhee 2011 for the greatest in team history. He made up for a costly late hit with a sack and finished with 3 tackles.
Smith, Jimmy (+1): Both of the receptions by his assignments were behind the LoS. He also got away with a significant drop by LaFell on an inside route where Jimmy was beaten. He was invisible in a defensive effort where the Ravens allowed just 173 yards and did not allow the Panthers to get in the red zone.
Spears (0): He played just a handful of snaps, but made my notes for the first time when he and Upshaw penetrated to take down Williams for no gain and deny the Panthers a 3rd and 1 conversion (Q1, 6:38).
Stokely (+1): I wasn’t expecting much, but he and Flacco seem to have found a connection and Stokely still can find a hole in the zone and get down with the football. Of course Flacco had just such a connection with Lee Evans during the 2011 preseason before going 4/27 with 0 TD and 3 INT with him as a target during the regular season (0.0 QBR).
Streeter (-1): He had no receiving highlights which leaves him in the walking-dead category, but he made a nice block on the punter to hold him up on the sideline as Rainey scampered past for 60 yards. The block was eerily similar to Mellette’s the week before.
Wagner, Rick (+2): Wagner was again solid, but the best indicator might be that he was used as the 6th lineman in the Ravens lone jumbo formation (Q1, 8:32) to help clear a gaping hole. At this point, I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s first man up at either LT or RT. It would be interesting to see if the line might be reshuffled to get Wagner at tackle if there was an injury at guard.
Williams, Brandon (+1): He wasn’t as productive as a tackler, but he picked up a fast-developing sack where the LG failed to pick him up as the center was forced to release him to pick up Ngata. To put that sack in perspective, Terrence Cody has played 1039 meaningful career snaps (438 pass plays) as a Raven and has personally recorded ½ QH and 0 sacks. Having a player on the nose who can create even occasional chaos by compression or scheme is a significant advantage. I don’t see why he should not get more meaningful snaps at NT than Cody.
Wiliams, LaQuan (0): He had an 11-yard reception (Q3, 2:11) on which he eluded Klein for a 1st down.