Quarterback Joe Flacco looked sharp on Saturday evenly distributing the football while keeping the 49ers defensive backfield a bit off-balance.
The Ravens signal caller set comfortably and generally delivered the ball quickly and on time. His only struggles seemed to take place when a play’s timing was disrupted and he pulled the ball down with the hopes of creating a play. Flacco’s receivers are not quite on the same page when that happens in the way that Ben Roethlisberger’s receivers know to keep plays alive when their quarterback breaks contain.
Speaking of pulling down the ball, Tyrod Taylor struggles mightily if his first read is covered as evidenced by his inability to see Michael Campanaro who left his defender looking for his jock on a post corner route. Perhaps it’s his height and sightlines that limit him, perhaps it’s just a habit developed during his days at Virginia Tech or perhaps it’s a combination of both. Whatever the reason Taylor just doesn’t seem to be any better now in his fourth year than he was as a rookie. He’s essentially the same player.
To Taylor’s credit, he tossed the best pass of the day when he dropped a rainbow down the right sideline into the waiting arms of Campanaro who ran just another 5 yards after the catch for a 50-yard score. But just a couple of plays later Taylor’s inconsistencies reared their ugly heads again when he missed a wide open Crockett Gillmore streaking down the middle of the field.
The effectiveness of the running backs is difficult to gauge during these practices since there is no tackling to the ground. But just as they have throughout OTA’s, training camp and during the preseason opener, all four primary backs were quick to the hole and attacked the line of scrimmage. Unless Cierre Wood quickly becomes a special teams ace in the mold of former Raven Anthony Allen, he’s not much more than camp fodder.
The tight ends on the team are a given – Pitta, Gillmore & Daniels although the pair likely to be released before the end of August have cooler names, Overbay and Supernaw. Supernaw had a chance to score a touchdown during red zone drills but Taylor’s wide pass forced the UDFA from Ouachita Baptist to dive to make the catch at the 5-yard line.
If you think the Ravens simply signed an old man in Steve Smith, Sr., think again! Smith has shown excellent change of direction skills to create separation. He scored once on a skinny post in the red zone and then got behind the entire 49ers secondary on a deep post that resulted in a 50-yard gain.
Jacoby Jones arrived in Baltimore as a deep threat with questionable technique. He had the reputation of being a body catcher with shaky hands but he’s obviously put in the work to be a better hands catcher, snatching balls in air. As a result it makes Jones a bigger threat after the catch. He seems to be the go-to guy when the Ravens send in their 3-WR package that includes starters Smith & Smith…Marlon Brown is seeing some action with the ones but at this point sits behind Jones on the depth chart. It’s possible that he’ll be used more in the red zone where he was effective in 2013.
The starting offensive line continues to show progress as they competed very well against the Niners impressive front seven. And while that is promising, depth along the offensive front is questionable at best so far this summer. Ryan Jensen is probably the best reserve that offensive line coach Juan Castillo has at his disposal even he has been inconsistent. Jensen left the field hobbling after a left ankle injury but did return. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he sat out today.
Gino Gradkowski looks no different than he did in 2013 but in his defense he would benefit from playing beside a healthy Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele. When he captains a line of Hurst-Jensen-Gradkowski-Shipley-Reid somehow Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks begins playing in my head.
James Hurst and reserve tackle David Mims took turns at times, taking on 49ers ace defensive end Aldon Smith. It was like the man against the boys. If they allowed full contact, Tyrod Taylor would be scheduled for back surgery at Union Memorial today. It was a mismatch of epic proportions.
FINAL NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
Only Jimmy Smith (2), Deji Olatoye and Sammy Seamster had a successful pass defensed during 1-on-1 drills against the Niners’ receivers…Arthur Brown is playing fast. Perhaps the only thing holding him back is weight and not necessarily his. Daryl Smith weighs in at around 250 pounds while Brown and CJ Mosley are in the low 230’s. Once either or both can build on their frames, they’ll start side-by-side. That said it’s possible that won’t happen in 2014 unless there’s an injury to Smith.
Chykie Brown, shockingly, still runs with the ones during Lardarius Webb’s absence. Might that be an indication that Asa Jackson has the lead for the nickel corner job?
The Ravens wore all white yesterday while their QB’s wore purple. The Niners’ Colin Kaepernick (who by the way throws darts) wore a black jersey to contrast against the San Francisco red. Interestingly the 3 other QB’s on the 49ers roster wore red.
That reminded me of a conversation I had with a Ravens executive back during the Steve McNair days. When asked why the Ravens didn’t dress their QB’s in a different color during practice as most other teams do to protect their signal callers, said executive replied, “We don’t care if our quarterbacks get hurt. They all suck!”
He was kidding.
At least I think he was kidding…