Expectations for Gary Kubiak’s new offense were high, but the results were everything Ravens fans could have hoped.
The offensive line led a dominating effort that resulted in a 77-46 (kneels included for emphasis) advantage in offensive snaps against the 49ers. Let’s take a while to break that down.
For the preseason, I find it helpful to record the offensive linemen by series. I didn’t notice any mid-series changes, but these are the 5 offensive linemen for the first play of each series. Play totals exclude penalties and kneels.
Some notes on the OL rotation:
- The veterans (Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah, Yanda) are not going to be challenged at their positions. The initial drive was as dominant a run-blocking effort as we’ve seen on a drive in more than a year.
- Wagner was the only starter to receive extended play and he played well for the entire half. Pierce followed blocks by Rick and Yanda on the initial TD (Q1, 6:08). He dominated a rotation of 49ers linemen and has all but eliminated any further discussion of the starting role at RT.
- Hurst had extended play at LT beginning with the 2nd drive. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but I was impressed with his pass blocking, which is what you want from your LT in this league. He was less impressive as a run blocker, where he contributed a holding penalty that negated a first down (Q3, 9:42) and was shed by Morris on Wood’s run for no gain. Based on what we’ve seen to date, I think he would be the best option at LT should Monroe go down.
- Reid played much of the 2nd half at RT and was not as effective as Wagner. He appeared to pick up the wrong man (blocked outside on S Ventrone when he should have picked up Lemonier inside) which led to the sack of Taylor (Q4, 11:17). He also whiffed on Lemonier several plays later (Q4, 6:12) on one of Taliaferro’s only stuffed runs. The order of play at RT would tell you Reid is behind in the battle for the 3rd tackle position. He’ll be a free agent after this season. and he didn’t play well against backups.
- Gradkowski and Shipley got extended time and neither looked particularly good. Gino allowed pocket compression that contributed to a sack. Shipley was beaten inside by Dial to help contain Pierce for a loss of 4 (Q2, 11:51).
You probably saw the Ravens rushed for 4.9 yards per carry, but ignoring Wenning’s 3 kneels, the Ravens rushed 45 times for 240 yards (5.3). Those numbers are similar to the 2009 Wild Card win at New England.
Individual Grades and Notes
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 2014 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 2014, in positional battles, or have otherwise have something to prove this season.
Brooks (0): He played 19 snaps, which is less than I expected given the need at safety, and was rarely tested or even seen. He had good coverage of Carrier (Q3, 11:07) on his incomplete post route.
Brown, Arthur (+1): Arthur had a solid game, but did not start with Mosley as Josh Bynes instead got the nod. He flushed the pocket to set up DiMarco’s sack (Q3, 0:44) and cleaned up nicely when DJ Roberts shed the LT to blow up a run left for a loss of 6 (Q3, 7:00)
Brown,Chykie (-3): The starter is usually the best guess as to who is ahead in the race for a positions. Brown started outside in the absence of Webb, but was penalized twice on the first drive and looked soft and tentative otherwise. I don’t think this game left doubt that Jackson is the better option as the 3rd corner, but allowing for injuries, it’s important for any NFL team to have at least 4 corners they can trust. The Ravens are searching.
Bynes (0): He started ahead of Arthur Brown, but played only the first 2 drives. That may further complicate the ILB situation. He had 1 assist, but I didn’t note any specific plays among his 13 snaps.
Campanaro (-1): He looked oddly uncomfortable, even when in motion, wasn’t targeted, and showed nothing on punt returns.
Elam (+1): His job is in no jeopardy, but we got a glimpse of what he might provide at SS when he penetrated the right C gap to contain Hampton and set up Williams’ tackle (Q1, 11:45). He also made a nice stop (Q1, 12:26) on Hampton’s 1-yard run which was incorrectly credited to Stewart.
Forsett (+1): Justin demonstrated some open-field elusiveness and ability to follow blocks, but he was overpowered by Dahl which contributed to Carradine’s sack (Q1, 0:41).
Franks (0): Played well when able to read the eyes of a 4th-string QB with a PD and INT on the 49ers final drive. He must not be doing much in practice to be buried so deep on the depth chart, but with the Ravens desperately seeking cornerback depth, he should get an earlier entrance in the remaining games.
Gilmore (-1): The Gamebook lists him with 39 snaps, which is more than enough to make some notable positive contribution, but he wasn’t targeted and although I was looking for blocking contributions, I didn’t notice one.
Gradkowski (-1): He didn’t play particularly well, but it appears he’s the front runner for the backup center role based on the fact Urschel only saw time at guard for the final series. We may see Jensen or even Shipley there during the remainder of preseason.
Hill (-1): He was active, but saw the field for just 3 special teams snaps. I’m afraid of what that might mean.
Hurst (+1): He had a solid game as a pass blocker, but below average run blocking as noted above.
Jackson (+3): The Ravens had several players who might be labeled as the best player on the field, but Jackson would be my selection. I don’t believe the 49ers completed a single pass to his assignment while he had a pick (Q2, 8:49) and drew an offensive pass interference penalty (Q1, 3:12). I don’t understand why he was initially used as the nickel, because I would expect Webb to move to the slot in nickel formations and Jackson would thus see most of his action on the outside. I guess someone had to play there, but an alternative would have been Jackson playing the outside/slot role as Webb would.
Jensen (+1): He received an extended look at guard and was the most impressive interior lineman after the starters as the Ravens piled up lots of yards between the tackles. He was shed by Carradine for a sack of Taylor (Q1, 0:41) on a play where Forsett was also pushed into the pocket.
Jernigan (0): He played 22 snaps, which doesn’t seem like much, but the 49ers only ran 46 non-penalty plays. He did not dent the stat sheet, but his pressure past former starter Snyder (Q2, 0:31) may have forced an incomplete by Gabbert. I believe the primary determinant of rotational snap differences on the DL will come in his ability to create pressure.
Juszczyk (+1): He had a tough game as a lead blocker despite the Ravens’ overall run success. Kubiak seems committed to using him as a receiver, where he had 3 catches and showed his ability to overrun smaller opponents. (Q2, 3:28)
Lewis-Moore (0): Kapron had 2 tackles in approximately half the defensive snaps. His most impressive play was probably (Q2, 5:35) when he shed Martin to take down Hampton for a gain of 2.
McClellan (0): He has done whatever has been asked of him in his tenure with the Ravens and played well with his hand in the dirt, as an OLB, as an ILB and on special teams. However, with the crowd at ILB I think his time as a Raven may be coming to a close, perhaps with a late-camp exchange of 4th year players or in trade for a 7th round selection. If he’s cut, don’t be surprised if he’s a player other teams will pick up right before they play the Ravens to better understand scheme.
McPhee (0): He’s listed for 18 snaps in the Gamebook, but the most important I noticed was one as a down lineman (I don’t have the time reference). There may have been others, but this tells me Pees wants to maintain the possibility of using him for inside pass rush snaps, which is where I think he has the most value. The roughing the passer penalty he received (Q1, 14:25), while frustrating, won’t impact his playing time this season.
Miles (+2): His 18 snaps at SS included 2 plays behind the LoS in the running game. He greatly improved his chance to make the team with a combination of backup value and ST play.
Mosley (+1): It was an up-and-down night for Mosley, but I already like his gambling nature at ILB. His mistakes were attempts to make a play, not being caught out of position or in the wash due to tentativeness. He slipped in coverage of McDonald (Q1, 14:15) which resulted in a gain of 17. He then attempted to penetrate and was sealed by Iupati as Hyde ran left for 19 yards. He would finish with 5 tackles in 24 snaps including a sack where he shot the left B gap and beat Hyde for a sack and trip up of Hyde for a 1-yard gain with A-gap penetration (Q1, 5:16). He also beat Snyder outside for pressure (Q2, 10:17) to force Gabbert’s drive-ending incomplete.
Osemele (+2): He doesn’t really need a grade, but looked outstanding and healthy on the opening drive. If you’re a fan of WAR, you won’t have trouble observing it for Osemele, since the Ravens had a replacement-level player at LG for much of last season.
Pierce (+1): He looks healthy and followed blocks well.
Reid (-1): Noted above.
Seamster (-2): He didn’t see action in the secondary and was limited to special teams. Jacobs had 25 snaps in front of him at corner, so I’d say he’s not in the CB depth plans.
Simon (-1): No one played more snaps defensively (27), but the results were a mixed bag. He showed good containment skills for most of the night, then lost the outside against Johnson for a 15-yard gain (Q3, 7:29). He did not otherwise generate a defensive statistic of any sort nor generate a pressure event. His spot on the 53 is not in jeopardy, but the Ravens need to find a way to get production from him on defense, not just special teams.
Smith, Steve (+1): He had a nice evasion of Wilhoite on his only reception (Q1, 7:42) in his Ravens debut.
Stewart (0): He started and played 19 snaps at FS. The only tackle for which he got credit should have gone to Elam (see above).
Taliaferro (+3): Another candidate for player of the game. He looks like he can follow blocks and broke a mess of tackles. You saw what I did. He’s a terrific downhill runner and the offense could be scary good if they can get the same sort of push in the regular season.
Taylor (-2): This may seem unfair given his elusive running (5 carries for 59 yards), but he had an awful game for accuracy, which is to say he was normal. When his passes were caught, they left little in the way of YAC opportunities and most of the balls were caught just a few yards from the LoS. He had several underthrows which might have been interceptions in a regular-season game and generally failed to lead his receivers
Thompson, Deonte (-1): He and Aiken may be competing for the last WR spot. Both had to contend with Taylor’s inaccuracy.
Tyson (+2): He and Williams were the most dominant of the Ravens’ defensive linemen. Tyson’s individual effort to penetrate, crawl over the QB, and recover Johnson’s fumble (Q3, 5:13) reminded me of Ngata’s fumble recovery versus the Steelers in the 2011 opener.
Urschel (-2): I expected some earlier action, but he entered only for the last series. It’s apparent he’s not a candidate for the backup center role and I would not be surprised if he’s headed for IR.
Wagner (+2): Just a terrific game. Here are highlight blocks I noted in case you’d like to review on NFL rewind: (Q1, 6:05), (Q1, 1:57), (Q1, 1:21), (Q2, 14:24), (Q2, 13:48), (Q2, 8:42), (Q2, 3:55). He was stood up by Dial (Q2, 9:32) who stripped Forsett or I would have scored him as +3.
Wenning (0): He may have picked up a little ground with Tyrod’s unspectacular performance.
Williams, Brandon (+2): He gained penetration all night (19 snaps) and had 2 tackles including the one that stalled the 49ers first drive (Q1, 11:45).
Zuttah (0): Solid performance on the opening drive. He got the veteran treatment with his ball cap awarded after the first series. Look at the size of him in the huddle and it’s apparent he’s not 6’4”.