Playing time in a preseason game is like the different levels of horse racing.
In order to prove the most, you have to match up with the best available competition.
I simply encourage Ravens fans to look at Thursday’s result in the context it was played.
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.
Some notes on the OL rotation:
- The veterans (Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah, Yanda, and Wagner) played the first 16-play, 80-yard TD drive and looked good pushing around the first-team Saints DL. It wasn’t quite as dominating a run-blocking effort as last preseason’s opening drive, but that’s about the worst thing I have to say about it.
- Hurst had extended play at LT beginning with the 2nd . He played poorly, raising questions about depth at LT. Few teams have a LT who can jump in seamlessly if their blindside protector goes down, but I think it’s possible Wagner will get the nod over Hurst if Monroe goes down at some point this season. I had Hurst scored for 2 pressures and he continues to give ground that imperils the pocket.
- None of the 3rd team players played well enough to justify depth-chart changes.
- All linemen deserve some credit for the fact there was only 1 QH and no sacks, but I’d credit the centers Zuttah, Jensen and Easton for getting the line calls correct.
- The second-team line suffered greatly with the absences of Urschel and Myers
- The Ravens will probably carry 9 offensive lineman on the roster, so one of the 2nd team linemen (Hurst, Myers, Jensen, or Reid, because Urschel is safe) will be cut or placed on IR. It’s not clear to me which of those 4 is most likely to go at this point.
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 2015 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 2015, in positional battles, or have otherwise have something to prove this season.
Aiken (0): He played sparingly after the first drive and was done in the 1st quarter. He is in no danger of being cut and will be one of the players relied on for a number of snaps this season.
Allen (-1): His run highlight came when he ran through the face mask from Davison for 12 yards with 15 penalty yards tacked on to put the Ravens in position for their 2nd field goal. I thought he was patient running behind zone blocking, but the line play deteriorated as the game wore on with both #2 guards (Urschel and Myers) not suiting up due to concussions and Allen finished with an unimpressive 12 carries for 35 yards. Buck dropped a short pass over the middle from Schaub (Q2, 12:53) which we’ll hope is an aberration and not an instance of alligator arms. It was the only time he was targeted. I have high expectations for Allen, but he was a step behind them this game.
Beyer (+2): He consistently set the edge effectively versus the twos and threes after entering following Means’ injury (Q3, 12:20). Examples include (Q3, 0:37), (Q4, 13:54), and (Q4, 11:57) which went for a loss of 1, no gain, and no gain respectively. He was also credited with a QH (Q3, 6:54) where he had pressure, but I don’t think he took the QB to the ground. If the injury to Means is significant, Beyer earned an extended look and now has a shot to make the team.
Bilukidi (-1): He played primarily in the 2nd half and was up and down. Christo drew a triple team that included a blown blocking assignment by RG Manhart that gave Za’Darius Smith a free run for the game’s only sack (Q4, 5:05). He drew a face mask on Manhart to start the Saints 1st and 15 from their own 5, but then gave up a 15-yard illegal use of hands tack-on foul versus Manhart just 2 plays later. He and others failed to capitalize on penetration by Davis that should have blown up the Saints 3rd and 1 conversion (Q3, 7:54).
Bose (0): He was the last ILB to see the field as the Ravens staggered their exchanges and did not make my notes. Here is participation by drive times for the ILBs:
The “G” next to Orr and Mosley indicates they had the “green dot” helmet to take defensive signal calls from the bench. I could not identify a player wearing the green dot after Orr’s departure. None of Brown, Bose, Perry or Trawick was wearing it, and they were the most likely candidates, since they were in every play.
Boyle (-1): He led the team in receptions with 4 in 7 targets, but he did not have a catch for more than 8 yards. He was backed up by Anthony Spencer to blow up Allen’s run for a loss of 1 (Q3, 2:08).
Brown, A. (0): Brown entered the game in one of the fiercest positional struggles (ILB) and was 5th to play (see Bose above) in what should be a 4-man depth chart. The fact that he did not enter the game until the end of the 3rd quarter is a bad sign, but consistent with what we’ve seen of the ILB pairings in practices. His own play was mixed. He was unable to stick with Snead on a 23-yard pass play up the left sideline. The Ravens gambled with a corner blitz by Walker and lost, which left Trawick covering a vertical route and Brown covering Snead. He was part of the steamrolled side on the Saints go-ahead touchdown (Q4, 2:00) when he was blocked violently backwards by WR Kyle Prater. However, he also made a nice takedown of Murphy for a loss of 1 (Q4, 3:08) on a stretch right where he chose a hole and flashed the speed that made him a 2nd round pick. Although he led the team in tackles with 6, those plays were 7, 8, 7, 10, 23, and -1 yards from the line of scrimmage. On his play alone, I’d rate him a -1, but his chance to make the team increased with the injury to OLB Steven Means. If the Ravens are forced to put Means on IR, McClellan would likely be the additional backup OLB, which would leave 1 additional roster spot in play. As of now, that spot would probably go to either Beyer or Brown.
Brown, D. (-1): He played, but was not targeted in a game where 15 other Ravens were. He’s a tremendous longshot to make the team now.
Brown, M. (-1): DNP. As you’ll often hear from NFL veterans, the most important ability is availability. Marlon lost some ground tonight, but he’s not out of time.
Butler (0): He was targeted 3 times, but he converted his only catch for a gain of 14 (2 + 12 YAC) on a naked boot from Schaub he collected between the right hashes and numbers. Schaub underthrew him on a 30-yard pass down the left sideline. Butler did not haul in the pass, but did about as well as could be hoped given his position relative to the sideline and defender.
Campanaro (+1): His 45-yard D (25 + 20 YAC) included a nice open-field move to elude Saints safety Kenny Phillips. He was not the first player to get a chance to return either kickoffs or punts (Asa Jackson was), but he is now the favorite to begin the season with both roles.
Carter (-2): He had a about as ugly a kick return as one can have (Q3, 6:07) without actually turning the ball over. Fortunately, he took so long to control the football, he was tackled while still in the end zone for a touchback. That will likely reduce his return opportunities for the remainder of preseason, which is his best chance to earn a roster spot. He caught an 11-yard pass to put the ravens in FG range for the go-ahead score (Q4, 9:53) and had the first catch and run (11+ 11 YAC) from Renner on the game-winning drive (Q4, 1:53). One other pass for him was overthrown by Renner and intercepted (Q4, 3:20). His offensive pass interference flag from the pick he threw was idiotic, but correctable.
Davis (+3): Carl Davis was the best player on the field with regular penetration against the run. Here are the notes I made by play:
- (Q1, 1:12) He beat the center to his left to clean up Ingram for no gain assisting Guy.
- (Q2, 12:42) He beat Jahri Evans outside for a QH as McCown’s pass sailed high and incomplete.
- (Q2, 1:55) He was blocked effectively by the LG Lelito as Khiry Robinson ran up the middle for 29 yards with the aid of missed tackles by Arrington and Levine.
- (Q3, 13:20) He backed up and shed the center to tackle Hightower for a gain of 1.
- (Q3, 9:48) As he was being held by LG Mike McGlynn, he got his hand up to bat down Griffin’s pass.
- (Q3, 8:43) He pushed back C Senio Kelemete and shed him to take down Hightower for a loss of 2. Guy also had good penetration to contain.
- (Q4, 11:57) He again backed up Kelemete 3 yards but came up with a cramp, left the game, and would not return.
Harbaugh referred to him as a big puppy for his physical style, but unsculpted physique. He was a Saint Bernard playing among Beagles on Thursday night.
Easton (-1): He didn’t play badly but he’s a real longshot now. Ryan Jensen got all the 2nd-team reps at center.
Greenwood (-2): He did not enter until the last drive of Q3 and played 17 snaps (penalties included). He cleaned up one of Beyer’s good edge holds (Q3, 0:37). However, he was unblocked yet unable to get in position to tackle Murphy on the Saints go-ahead TD (Q4, 2:00). On the previous play (Q4, 2:24), he slipped in coverage on Grayson’s 19-yard pass to Prater down the right sideline.
Guy (+3): He had the most extensive workload of any Ravens lineman. He started and was still getting snaps at game’s end. He generated outstanding pressure against the run and had 4 tackles (1 primary and 3 assists) for gains of 2, 0, 3, and 0 yards. He bulled C Mike Golic for pressure that looked as if it might have been a QH (Q4, 11:28). He was signed to an inexpensive 2-year contract during the offseason, which now looks like a bargain.
Hurst (-2): See OL comments above.
Jackson (-1): He was injured by the block of Jahri Evans after just 7 defensive snaps (Q2, 7:48) on the 28-yard TD pass to Cooks. On the previous near-TD (Q2, 9:26), he slowed down in coverage then was late catching up as Cooks hauled in the pass for an apparent score. However, the Saints receiver bailed out Jackson by stepping out of bounds prior to the catch. He fielded the first kickoff return and each of the first 2 punts. If he’s unable to play again during the preseason, I would expect we have seen his last snap as a Raven.
Jacobs (+1): He was the last CB to see action and did not enter until late (Q4, 6:50) and played just 6 snaps. He had a PD on Grayson’s pass to Harris to deny a first down (Q4, 5:10).
Jensen (0): He had a tough assignment with a rookie guard to each side (see above) instead of Urschel and 5th-round pick Robert Myers. While the running game didn’t do much, he deserves some of the credit for the fact that the Saints did not register a sack and had just 1 QH.
Juszczyk (+1): It had been commented for quite some time that the Trestman prefers 2-TE sets to 2-back sets, but the Ravens played with a fullback for most of the night with Juice and Kiero Small each serving in that role. He caught 2 of 3 balls thrown to him for 13 yards. Other than Taliaferro himself, I would give Juszczyk the next most credit for push on the first TD (Q1, 6:52).
Lewis-Moore (-2): He jumped offsides with Beyer (Q3, 8:04). He allowed Grayson to elude him on a 7-yard run right (Q4, 13:07) when he appeared to have the Saints QB contained, which prompted a conversation with Harbaugh. He and Z. Smith combined to pressure Griffin to throw incomplete (Q3, 10:20), but otherwise he did not generate any pressure I noted. He did not generate a scoresheet statistic of any sort despite playing more than 35 snaps on a thin defensive line.
Lewis (0): Kendrick played 6 defensive snaps before retiring and did not make my notes.
McClellan (+1): McClellan’s spot now appears secure with the injury to Means. While it is possible that he could be outplayed in the preseason by all of Beyer, Brown, and Orr, Albert provides versatility that exactly addresses the team’s needs (ILB, OLB, and core special teams). He had a hard QH on McCown (Q2, 10:25) and another pressure with Smith (Q2, 9:05) which led to a pass for a loss of 3. He also took down Hightower for a loss of 1 (Q3, 7:18). His effort was not without flaws in coverage as Griffin completed a 25-yard pass to Hill (Q2, 1:13) just behind Orr and him. Albert also allowed 15 YAC on a ball caught 4 yards from the LoS to Robinson (Q2, 9:23) where he was closest in coverage. He did not wear the green dot at any time, but played 2 series with Mosley then the rest with Orr.
Means (-2): Any significant injury will be a setback for one of the team’s most dynamic pass rushers. He did pressure Griffin on what became a 25-yard pass play to Hill (Q2, 1:13). The spin move on which he was hurt (Q3, 12:42) looked unstoppable and I could not tell whether he had injured his arm or leg on the play.
Melvin (+1): He entered on the team’s 7th defensive snap and retired at the half. He’s clearly made the team based on how he was used and good containment on 2 specific plays. He took down Johnson for a gain of 2 by the right sideline. (Q2, 10:25). Just 4 plays later, and using the same sideline, he took down Robinson for a loss of 3 on a hurried pass from McCown (Q2, 9:05).
Myers (0): DNP, concussion. After missing more than a week of practice and this first game, I think it’s possible he may end up on IR for the season. He wasn’t expected to play much, but if he is redshirted, both Jensen and Reid will likely make the team.
Nelson (0): He was effective on the final drive with a memorable 3-play sequence:
- (Q4, 0:36) Underthrown by Renner when wide open behind the defense for a TD
- (Q4, 0:31) 19-yard catch on the left sideline to stop the clock
- (Q4, 0:25) Drew a pass interference call on Sanford in the end zone
He’s still a smallish WR who is buried on the depth chart with names like DeAndre Carter and Aldrick Robinson who are also trying to make it as return specialists. If he is to make the team, he’ll need to prove some elusiveness in the slot.
Perriman (-1): DNP. He’s missed a lot of time. Fortunately for him, he remains one of the only deep threats.
Perry (0): He entered late (Q3, 0:37) and played 20 snaps. He took down Alex Smith for no gain (Q4, 5:48). He was also run over by the pulling guard on the Saints go-ahead TD (Q4, 2:00). Trawick had a bad game, which improved Perry’s standing in the positional battle, but he didn’t get a chance to put his ball skills on display.
Pointer (0): He’s started the game opposite Arrington (who played outside corner, nickel, and safety) and played until the end of the first drive in the 3rd quarter. He had a PD to end the first defensive series (Q1, 6:01), but gave up a 15-yard reception to Joseph Morgan (Q2, 11:53) and was juked badly by Toon (Q2, 10:05). On McCown’s 28-yard TD to Cooks (-2 + 30 YAC), Pointer could not get off the block by WR Josh Morgan. On one of his last snaps, Quinton drew a hold on tackle Bryce Harris to negate a 6-yard gain and help stall a Saints drive.
Orr (0): Zach was the defensive signal caller after Mosley exited. He had 5 tackles, most in coverage, but contributed a PD (Q3, 6:54). I want to see more from him in coverage this preseason, because it looks like opposing QBs will try to pick on McClellan and him.
Reid (0): See OL notes above. He was effective and may have benefited from Hurst’s poor outing.
Renner (-2): Before you get all upset, look at the top to see what this rating is about. It was exciting to watch the last 2 minutes, but it didn’t provide me any hope that Bryn can play QB in the NFL. He lacks arm strength, is not accurate, and didn’t demonstrate much awareness in the pocket prior to the final play. He was aided by some big Saints mistakes on the final drive and scored despite missing a wide-open Nelson, throwing a near INT when unloading to avoid a sack, and having 2 passes tipped at the LoS. If you want to tell me you don’t ever see bad QBs lead drives like that, I have 2 words for you…Tim Tebow.
Robinson (0): He was targeted twice, but did not have a catch. Renner threw into a tight window on the final drive (Q4, 0:53), but the ball was out of Robinson’s reach and out of bounds. Robinson’s best chance to stick is by being one of the team’s deep threats. Robinson has a career average of 20.3 YPC on 30 catches, but he’s only 5’10”, which reduces chance to out-jump some of today’s larger corners and draw PI flags. Robinson did not have a return opportunity on Thursday, although he has been fielding kicks/punts in camp.
Schaub (-1): Schaub’s play was effective between the numbers and ineffective outside. He simply does not possess the combination of decisiveness, accuracy, and arm strength required to work the “Mason zone” of 10-yard outs. Part of the out route problem is that Schaub does not engender fear of throws over the top and that allows opposing corners to do more gambling. The interception was a 12-yard pattern thrown to the numbers. Schaub had ample time and space, but took an extra fraction of a second on that read, which allowed Swann to break on the ball effectively. On the earlier WR screen which went incomplete (Q2, 12:49), Waller may have been slightly out of position, but the ball was low, even if it should not have been behind the receiver.
I don’t want to give the impression I think Schaub was a bad investment, because I think he’ll give the Ravens a chance to win if the unthinkable happens, but he’s not going to suddenly improve at age 34 and most of his future contribution should be made on the sideline.
Smith, Za’Darius (+1): He was gifted a sack by RG Manhart, who failed to block outside. He also registered a QH (Q2, 2:02), a PD near the LoS (Q4, 11:32), and pressured McCown with McClellan on a pass that went for a loss of 3 (Q2, 9:05). He was the Ravens’ only effective pass rusher. He had several gaffes as a run defender, however. He was backed up by TE Watson and WR Toon on Ingram’s 9-yard run (Q2, 11:06). He ran himself out of Hightower’s 11-yard run left (Q3, 12:20) as he was blocked by WR Brandon Coleman. He lost the right edge on Hightower’s 10-yard run right (Q3, 9:33). Smith’s higher-leverage plays will come in passing situations. Adapting his rush style to the pro game was also the bigger area of concern about him as an NFL prospect.
Taliaferro (+3): He has slimmed down and has additional quickness that wasn’t evidenced last season with no obvious loss in power. I was also impressed with how hard he ran and the yards-after-contact generated. In particular, he waited for an opening, then trucked Saints LB Ramon Humber for a 6-yard gain (Q2, 7:13). He scored the Ravens’ first TD (Q1, 6:52) primarily with his own extra effort after the initial contact. He was the offensive MVP.
Trawick (-2): He played the entire 2nd half, during which time he was flagged twice (Taunting and DPI) and missed the tackle on the play which set up the go-ahead touchdown (Q4, 2:24). Trawick has had been having a great camp, but he pooped the bed in this one, which leaves the door open for Perry to take his spot.
Tyson (-1): DNP. He was still out with an unspecified strain last I heard.
Vaughn (+2): He entered during the last drive of the first half, played the bulk of Q3 and in the nickel during Q4. That’s the time during which the Ravens gave up their 17-point lead, but Vaughn played well. Cassius allowed receptions of 7 and 6 yards and recorded a PD on a force-out (Q3, 11:38, not credited in Gamebook) and another on a pass thrown behind Coleman (Q3, 10:13). As the preseason wears on, Vaughn is someone who needs reps against better opposition to prove his worth.
Walker (+1): He played the entire 2nd half (45 snaps including penalties I would normally exclude from the total). The Saints did not test Walker and he surrendered 3 receptions near the LoS. The one time the Saints threw a medium route on his side, Pees sent him on a corner blitz that Tray telegraphed before the snap (Q4, 6:04). He cleaned up Beyer’s well-set edge to take down Hightower for no gain (Q4, 13:54). Much of the damage done during the Saints comeback was against the safeties and linebackers in addition to penalties and a handful of long runs. Among corners, only Jackson (Q2, 7:48) and Greenwood (Q4, 2:24) surrendered big plays. If Walker continues to play as well, he’ll make the team rather than getting a redshirt year. I had him as a 50% chance to make it before the game. Vaughn took a step forward, but Jackson, Greenwood, and Pointer all took a step back, so I estimate Tray as a 70% chance to make the roster and 30% IR. Since Melvin has similar length and is ahead of him on the depth chart, Walker may well be inactive until injuries mount.
Waller (+1): He caught only 1 of 3 balls thrown to him, but he worked through a defensive hold by Dixon to make a catch and run of 12 yards (Q2, 13:45). He drew 2 other fouls (illegal contact and a 26-yard DPI) on Swann not included in his target total. Large receivers draw more attention from the officials, which is going to increase his effectiveness on deep balls.
Williams, Maxx (+2): His 4th-and-20 conversion was both ill-advised and spectacular. One of the most distressing things I ever see in football is a player hurdling in the presence of 2 defenders. Such plays have an increased chance of injury and turnover. The turnover didn’t matter at that point, but how would you have felt if the Ravens’ 2nd round pick had been injured in an exhibition game? All that said, Williams looked the part of an NFL tight end with 2 catches in 3 targets. His lone non-catch was in the back of the end zone when Schaub’s pass was high and a little behind Maxx.
I’d be remiss not to include a comment about the broadcast team of Sandusky, White and Ismail. They are consistently outstanding in delivering quality inside football which is well explained yet is done so with the expectation that the typical preseason fan has substantial knowledge of the game. When you compare their preparation and broadcast styles to a regular-season crew, you’d see several things:
- They have significantly more intimate knowledge of the team they are covering than a CBS announcer or color commentator does when visiting Baltimore.
- They are unencumbered by production meetings engineered to create anecdotes, quotes, and factoids about each team.
- They draw effectively on their own backgrounds as if they were coaching the young players trying to make the team.
- They focus almost entirely on the Ravens’ roster battles with minimal attention to the opponents (that team has a broadcast for their own fans).