Four preseason games in the books. Four wins.
While those four wins are ultimately meaningless, the play on the field was valuable for both the players, as well as the fans to draw some conclusions about this 2017 edition of the Baltimore Ravens.
But what are the biggest takeaways from this preseason? What have we learned about this team and expectations moving forward?
Let’s take a look at the four biggest takeaways from the four meaningless games.
Ryan Mallett is not QB2 material
Collectively in the preseason, Ryan Mallett went 31 of 58, for 248 yds with 2 touchdowns & 2 picks.
While some outside factors contributed to his lackluster play – the O Line shuffle & the loss of RB Kenneth Dixon primarily – much of the blame can be placed directly on Mallett’s shoulders.
The current QB clipboard holder threw more ducks this preseason than he did accurate passes, and even those completions weren’t all on target. Far too often, the receiver was reaching back to grab a pass from behind or sitting down on a route because Mallett didn’t lead him.
In the rare instance he did find the end zone, it was never against starting defenses. His first touchdown pass went to TE Larry Donnell late in the second quarter against the Dolphins 2nd string defense (a pass that he had all day to throw, thanks to solid protection), and his second was a one-yard dink to Chris Moore last night against the Saints, who sat the better part of their starters.
Honestly, the fact that Mallett played in the final audition for the regular season should speak volumes. Had the Ravens been confident in his abilities, we likely would have seen Thad Lewis and Josh Woodrum split halves. Instead, Mallet took the first series, looking rather uninspiring once again.
I think it’s more than fair to say come Saturday at 4:01pm, there will be better options among backup signals caller looking for work, and it’s very likely Mallett won’t be here if the Ravens can land an upgrade.
The UDFAs look good
When it comes to undrafted free agents, there’s low expectations league-wide. After all, if most were NFL caliber talent, would they have gone undrafted?
Not in Baltimore. The Ravens are notorious for keeping a UDFA on a yearly basis, and look to not only continue that trend this year, but go beyond a single UDFA on their 53-man roster.
The biggest name of the bunch is DL/FB/Jack of all trades Patrick Ricard out of Maine. Ricard came into Ravens camp as a defensive end, but we’ve seen just as much, if not more, of him at fullback as an extra blocker for the offense. Not only has Ricard filled in nicely for the new role, he’s actually seeing some earlier reps, leading many to believe (rightfully so) that Ricard is a lock to make this team.
While none of the other players in this crop of UDFA’s are true ‘locks,’ there are more than a few players who have a shot at making the team, or possibly being picked up elsewhere in the league if they get cut from the Ravens.
Outside of Ricard, the best chance to stick in Baltimore is likely LB Bam Bradley (Pitt), especially after the injury to Albert McClellan. WR Tim White is another intriguing name. The wideout from Arizona State played well up to the hand injury that landed him on the IR. I’ll be curious to see if the Ravens keep him on the 53-man roster, then move him to the IR from there. Not a sure shot, but it wouldn’t shock me.
Other UDFA’s in Baltimore that have a shot at NFL success (likely elsewhere) include FB Ricky Ortiz (Oregon State), RB Taquan Mizzell (Virginia), & WR Quincy Adeboyejo (Mississippi).
Ultimately, a solid crop of UDFA’s in Baltimore and with the potential to roster a few from the group, it’s worth a pat on the back for Ozzie & Co.
The ’17 Draft Class looks even better
With only seven picks in the 2017 draft, it appears the Ravens made the most of each and every selection.
First-round CB Marlon Humphrey was finally able to see extended time on the field last night against the Saints after dealing with injuries for the better part of August. In doing so, he showed glimpses of what the Ravens must have seen when they decided to draft him with the 16th pick. Humphrey played physical, showed great closing speed, and managed to force a fumble
OLB Tyus Bowser has been impressive all preseason long, with great instincts, great vision, and he truly seems to, for lack of better term, “get it.” The same could not be said for fellow rookie OLB Tim Williams, who struggled early in the preseason to make an impact; however, Williams seems to have turned a corner recently, and has begun to show the instincts he flaunted during his tenure at Bama. The pair of linebackers will prove to be a major presence on this defense in 2017 and beyond.
Beyond the big 3 names, we’ve seen some promise from others as well. Seventh-round safety Chuck Clark had some solid plays against the Saints last night (sans the boneheaded hit on Saints QB Josh Hill who was mid-slide), and leads the team in tackles during the preseason. OT Jermaine Eleumunor is still a bit of a project in my opinion, but is making strides already which is ideal for the 5th-round rookie. Even OG Nico Siragusa showed promise prior to his ACL injury.
I’d say the sole anomaly right now has been 3rd-rounder Chris Wormley, as he looks to be a bit of a project, but six out of seven isn’t bad for a team who is only a few years removed from a string of shortcomings in the draft.
The Defense has returned to Baltimore
One of the biggest gripes I have with fans outside of Baltimore (and even some within our fanbase) is the spewing of the fallacy that the defense carried Joe Flacco in the Super Bowl run back in 2012.
Not. Even. Close.
In fact, it’s been quite some time since the Ravens touted a truly strong, complete defense. There have been years where the pass rush was there, but the secondary was abysmal, while other years the secondary held up while nobody on the front-7 could get to the quarterback, giving him all day to run around and find a window to throw.
If we can make an assumption on what we’ve seen this preseason, it appears the defense has once again returned to Baltimore.
By all means, please don’t take this as a comparison to the infamous 2000 defense. This is not that defense, nor is this NFL the same NFL as back then, so to expect a defense to ever match that glorious season is one big pipe dream.
That being said, this defense will give opposing offenses fits for the first time in ages. The secondary has been solidified with the addition of Tony Jefferson & Brandon Carr in free agency, and Humphrey in the draft. Couple that the existing DBs carrying over from 2016 – namely Eric Weddle, Jimmy Smith, and what appears to be a much improved Lardarius Webb – and the back end of the defense looks to be leaps and bounds better than last season. The front-7 appear to be much improved as well, and if the preseason is any indication, the pass rush will be coming in waves, with enough depth to create a steady rotation of lineman and linebackers making their way into the backfield.
I think this defense will be strong enough to overcome the shortcomings of the offense, and who knows? Perhaps they can pave the way for the Ravens to return to the postseason single-handedly.