Who’s Up? Who’s Down?
In wake of Baltimore’s embarrassing 40-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, things do not look good for the Ravens at the midway point of the preseason.
While the common answer could be “well it is just the preseason; it doesn’t really matter anyway,” the way the Ravens played against the Eagles should register at least some concern for fans. They will look to rebound and get back on track in Saturday’s “dress rehearsal” game against the Washington Redskins.
Through two games, there is plenty to dissect, particularly on a player-by-player basis.
Which players have helped their stock, and which have faltered thus far?
Za’Darius Smith – Replacing such a diverse and effective pass rusher such as Pernell McPhee simply cannot be done in one offseason, but the addition of Smith appears to be the first positive step en route to supplanting McPhee’s production.
With a lack of depth on the edge, Smith has been the bright spot at outside linebacker so far for the Ravens, offering consistent, high-effort attacks at the passer, and active play against the run.
He should be a regular in the rotation on defense as a rookie.
Carl Davis – He faded in and out production wise against the Eagles, but Davis’ performance against the New Orleans Saints was the single best showing by a Raven during the first two games, netting him a spot in this category.
The trio of Davis, Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams is quite the imposing set of interior defensive linemen.
Rashaan Melvin – If one young cornerback were to be chosen as the one who has taken a noticeable step forward, it would be Melvin, who was effective against the Eagles and even earned playing time with the first-team defense.
He flashed his talent last season and may offer the most upside of any backup cornerback on the roster.
All Backup Offensive Linemen – If you were put on the spot and asked to name one backup offensive lineman who has stood out positively during the preseason, would you be able to commit to one player? Probably not, and as a whole, the backup offensive line has been worrisome.
From 2013-like run blocking to unnecessary penalties left and right, the men up front have offered few chances for the offense to succeed. Thankfully, the team’s best backup lineman – John Urschel – has not played thus far, and had he been on the field against the Saints and Eagles, perhaps the offense would have operated in a more efficient manner.
Linemen such as James Hurst and Jah Reid must get healthy, and young guards Ryan Jensen and Robert Myers must become more consistent.
Overshadowed by the likes of Melvin, Tray Walker and Cassius Vaughn, Jackson has shown no notable improvement, and now in year four, it may be hard to justify keeping him around and continue to wait for progress that may never occur.
DeAndre Carter – While he leads the team with 67 receiving yards, dropping a kickoff in each of the first two games is undeniably unacceptable.
The Return Game – Finding a replacement for Jacoby Jones was always going to be difficult, but so far, have any of the current candidates looked like capable return men? Maybe the team’s return man for the regular season is not on the roster yet.