Offense fizzles, Defense sizzles
Well, the Ravens did it. 4-0 – the perfect season. Baltimore must be Super Bowl favorites after such a dominant performance, right? Right?
Okay, so preseason results don’t mean that much, but hey it’s nice to see W’s stack up in the win column.
The most important part of preseason football is to see how the new pieces and the units play so we can set our expectations for the season. So let’s take a look at the position groups and recap how they made out.
The Baltimore offense was an interesting unit during the 4 games. The sample size is small, but they finished 11th in offensive scoring, but an abysmal 30th in offensive yards.
This matches the eye test. The offense struggled through much of the preseason and benefitted from multiple short fields given by the defense and special teams units.
A unit that received very little attention in the offseason performed much how you might expect given the a limited investment. It didn’t help that Joe Flacco didn’t take any snaps.
There’s no denying that Josh Woodrum was quite impressive early in the preseason. Woodrum finished the preseason completing 69.4% of his passes for 321 yards, 2 TD and no turnovers. He also added 2 rushing TD to his totals.
It was quite surprising to see Thad Lewis come into the game before him last night, as he just hasn’t done enough over the course of the preseason to overtake Mallett as the #2. Lewis looked about what you’d expect from a journeyman. He’s the kind of guy you may have to go to in a pinch, but not someone you’re going to rely on.
But this grade suffers because of Ryan Mallett. Mallett was just bad from start to finish. In 4 games Mallett only completed 53.4% of his passes for 248 yards (A very low 4.3 yards per competition) with 2 TD and 2 INT.
Mallett has some nice physical tools, but he just cannot put it all together. It is safe to say if Flacco misses significant time this offense is doomed.
Running Back: C
Throughout the preseason, Terrance West looked extremely sluggish and was a poor fit for the power blocking scheme that utilized traps and pulls. We saw West hesitate to hit the hole and move up field multiple times during his carries and it resulted in a dismal 2.4 YPC. It’s particularly bad that 18 of West’s 38 yards came on 1 carry. That means the other 17 carries over 3 games resulted in 20 yards.
Buck Allen didn’t produce better stats, but did look better overall. He accelerates up field immediately, which is what you want. West tends to hesitate too much behind the line, clearly a better fit for a zone blocking scheme.
Taquan Mizzell has become a fan favorite and showed off some of his speed this year, but appears to be a bit too raw. Mizzell is likely going to be a practice squad guy depending on whether or not the Ravens carry a traditional FB. Patrick Ricard playing well and providing versatility as a FB may take that spot and allow the Ravens to keep Mizzell on the active roster.
There’s also a chance the Ravens will go to the free agent market to take a look at guys cut from other teams, such as Ryan Matthews and possibly Matt Jones (who may be released from the Redskins). All of that said, this running back group just is not good enough in its current state.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: C+
The pass catcher group suffered from some pretty terrible quarterback play, especially the starters. It was disappointing to not see any of Breshad Perriman and very little of Jeremy Maclin. Mike Wallace had just 3 catches, but again the starters didn’t get their best look without Flacco.
The guy that stood out the most this preseason (besides the injured Tim White) was the often-injured Michael Campanaro. Campanaro has looked good throughout his career when on the field, but he’s had multiple injuries and as the old saying goes, you can’t help the club from the tub.
Sophomore Chris Moore sits atop my list as one of the biggest disappointments. He finished the preseason with 5 catches for 35 yards and showed very little ability to get separation. This was his time to shine with a guy like Perriman missing all 4 games and he didn’t take advantage. If it weren’t for his special team abilities and the Ravens overall lack of depth at the position, he could be at risk of being cut.
Overall, this unit is hard to judge because of the quarterback play, but it has not been pretty.
Offensive Line: B
The line took some early hits with the injuries to starter Alex Lewis, rookie Nico Siragusa and the abrupt retirement of John Urschel. Due to this, we saw the additions of RT Austin Howard, former Raven Jeremy Zuttah and increased playing time for guys like Matt Skura and Jermaine Eluemunor.
This grade should be broken down. The pass blocking was outstanding and would have earned an A over 4 games. The Ravens only gave up 6 sacks in 4 games, including only 1 to the starter, Mallett, while providing ample time and space for the quarterback the majority of the time.
The run blocking is a different story. The line struggled to get leverage on the defense and it may have contributed to the low YPC for the team on rushing plays.
Overall, the most impressive player was Ryan Jensen. Jensen was essentially handed the starting job at center with Urschel’s retirement, and he took it and ran with it. His run blocking wasn’t anything to gloat about, but he showed an impressive punch in pass protection.
This defensive unit is something Ravens fans should be getting very excited about.
Again, small sample size, but the Ravens defense finished as the #1 unit in both rushing and passing yards per game and the overall defensive ranking in yards per game wasn’t even close. The Ravens only allowed 206.2 yards per game (second was 235.5). In addition, the Ravens only allowed 32 points in 4 games, which was second to the Browns who allowed 29.
I think the fact the Browns finished first lets you know to be cautious about preseason stats…
Defensive Line: A
It’s very tempting to give this unit an A+. The combination of Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams is going to drive teams crazy. They were very impressive in their limited snaps together. When they weren’t in the game it was guys like Carl Davis and Willie Henry making their mark.
I think this tweet the other day summarizes how good this unit is:
This DL group is so deep they can’t put out scrubs in the garbage time of preseason games….great thing for the #Ravens
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonRSR) August 11, 2017
The most impressive award goes to fellow Canadian Brent Urban. What a preseason performance for the 4th year man out of Virginia. He didn’t play last night, but he didn’t need to. He’s going to be the Lawrence Guy replacement and should provide high level play from the DE position.
Edge Rushers / Inside Linebackers: B+
The edge rushers unit looks deep this year as well. Za’Darius Smith, who really needed a good preseason to keep his job, impressed and looked disruptive.
Matt Judon and Tyus Bowser have been the best competition to watch for the starting SAM position. Both have been impressive. Judon has looked better rushing the quarterback and the slimmed down frame is improving his explosiveness. However, Bowser has looked better in space against the run and in pass coverage.
This is good news for DC Dean Pees as he can be very strategic by rotating these guys in the game to keep them fresh. Let’s just hope Pees knows enough to do that…
Rookie Tim Williams has flashed his quick step off the line and improved in each preseason game. He will likely play behind Terrell Suggs, but in obvious passing situations he’s a guy you can ask to just get after the quarterback. He did make a career out of that at Alabama.
The inside linebackers dragged this grade down a bit. CJ Mosely looks to continue where he left off, but second year man Kamalei Correa was just okay through 4 games. Most, including me, expected more out of Correa. He got a real opportunity to step into a starting role with the retirement of Zach Orr. However, he did not seize the opportunity, as evidenced by rotating snaps in last week’s game with Patrick Onwuasor, aka Peanut.
Peanut has been the better player, but Correa still has a higher ceiling. It will be very interesting to see how the Ravens use these two. With Peanut being on the smaller side he may be ideal in the nickel and dime, whereas Correa may be a better fit as a run stopper in the base 4-3 Under. Keep in mind that Correa’s pass rushing abilities could be utilized from the inside.
Bam Bradley likely earned a place this preseason and was very impressive, especially on special teams. With Albert McClellan’s ACL injury it opens the door for Bradley to take over as the ILB/special team player.
The secondary got a lot of attention this offseason with the additions of Brandon Carr, first rounder Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Boykin. Oh yeah and that Jaylen Hill kid that was the team’s Most Valuable Player in the preseason.
Most Ravens fans hung their head with the Tavon Young injury (and rightfully so), but Hill provides a ray of hope. The combination of Jimmy Smith, Carr and Humphrey on the outside with Hill and Lardarius Webb in the slot should give Ravens fans a reason for optimism. This is one of the deeper units they have had in a long time and the fact that they lost two guys in Young and Maurice Canady, who had impressed prior to the injury, makes the depth of this unit that much more impressive.
It appears the additions were well worth it.
Those guys combined with the safety duo of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, and utility player Anthony Levine, invokes confidence in the secondary to be one of the top groups in the league. It’s going to be fun to watch these guys.
Special Teams: A+
Yup, that’s a +. This special teams unit was just incredible.
Justin Tucker was…well, Justin Tucker connecting on all attempted field goals, including 2 50+ yarders (one being a 59 yarder).
Sam Koch looked rejuvenated, averaging 46.9 yards per punt, including a booming punt of 61 yards. Even Kenny Allen was impressive.
However, what really stood out was the coverage teams. Returners had nowhere to go and the Chris Matthews even added a blocked punt to the list of accomplishments.
Jerry Rosburg….nice job, my friend.
The coaching was very interesting.
We should all be praying that Marty Mornhinweg was being bland on purpose. The scheme looked similar to last year with short routes and very little creativity. The play calling was more balanced, which is good, but the play design causes concern, dragging this grade down.
On the flip side, we should all be praying that Dean Pees plans to call a similar game in week 1. A key against Andy Dalton is going to be hitting him early and often. Pees drew up a lot of pressure and the back end was able to hold down the fort. Let’s just hope it’s a sign of things to come and we don’t start to see the second half “Peesvent” defense.
Overall, football is back and the team is going to be very interesting to watch. Judging a team without their starting QB is tough, so the jury is still out. It does look like the defense has top 5 unit ability, but it needs the coaching to make it happen.
September 10th can’t come soon enough.