The 2008 and 2009 Ravens had much in common. Those teams both stuffed the league’s turkeys and had some difficulty with playoff teams. Their 2 truly lopsided losses came in 2008 at the hands of the Colts and Giants. The Colts beat the Ravens by averaging 8.6 yards per pass play. The Giants rolled up 207 rushing yards, including 96 from Bradshaw and 73 from Jacobs. With the Giants early running success on Saturday, I thought back to that game at the Meadowlands.
Here is a run-by-run review of the Giants’ first 8 running plays Saturday:
(Q1, 13:36): Redding Oklahomaed (the drill becomes a verb) off RT Beatty to take down Bradshaw for no gain.
(Q1, 7:40): Bradshaw ran left for 5 yards. In the process, Landry was stiff-armed, Washington missed an attempt to cut him down, Lewis was slow to the edge, and McClain finally finished him off.
(Q1, 6:15): Bradshaw again ran left for 12 as Lewis was again slow to the outside. JJ made contact 4 yards in the backfield, but Suggs lost the edge and Washington was also blocked allowing Ahmad some room until Zbikowski arrived.
(Q1, 5:13): Lewis missed the first chance to take down Bradshaw as he ran middle for 5 yards. Gooden was initially caught in traffic, then slanted backwards to make the tackle.
(Q1, 4:29): Lewis, Johnson, and Carr were all effectively blocked near the point of attack as Jacobs rumbled 29 yards to the right. Lewis did not give up on the play and chased it down to assist on Zibby’s tackle.
(Q1, 3:18): McClain and Redding kept Bradshaw contained and Gregg took him down. No gain.
(Q1, 2:39): Landry penetrated to disrupt what looked to be a run right. Johnson slowed Bradshaw and Gooden finished. No gain.
(Q1, 1:57): Ngata, Talavou, and Gregg (back after a 1-play breather) effectively plugged the middle. Lewis picked the gap and took down Bradshaw again with Gregg. The Ravens took over on downs.
The Giants would rush for just 25 yards on 11 attempts for the remainder of the game. It’s never good to miss tackles or see your star show signs of age. However, it’s a testament to the greatness of this rushing defense that a 4-play streak of 51 yards allowed sets off alarms. The Giants’ success came primarily on 3 runs (plus another later called back by penalty) to the outside. While the Ravens DTs are often (and correctly) cited as the reason they are difficult to run against, the edge setters (JJ and Suggs in particular) have been some of the biggest contributors over the past 4 years. They had an off-night Saturday.
Nakamura, has been the Ravens’ preseason MVP. It had been a close 3-man race with Cody and Williams but Haruki had a very special game against the Giants 1s on Saturday while Cody took the night off to rest his knee. Haruki’s highlights included:
· A diving PD covering Smith (Q1, 13:02)
· His interception from between Smith’s legs (Q2, 0:46). Based on his reaction (it looked like he asked for the ball), I think that may have been his first pro interception (he’s never had one in the regular or post season). What other Raven had his first career pick snatched from between a receiver’s legs and who was the receiver?
· Another diving PD to deny Hagan (Q3, 12:49)
· A jarring QH on Bomar (Q3, 4:01)
· An impressive bolt through screen blockers to hold Chandler to a 5-yard gain (Q4, 11:04)
· A strip of Hard Knocks star Victor Cruz for a PD (Q4, 7:18)
The Ravens continued to vary pressure on Saturday after a frantic rush on the Skins the previous week. They rushed 7 or more on 5 occasions. While I didn’t count the plays specifically, it seemed like the Ravens showed less in terms of pre-snap movement, stunts, and cross blitzes than they did a week ago vs. Washington.
Here are this week’s deltas and cumulative ratings for the preseason. Please see last week’s article for a definition.
Barnes (+1/+3): Most of his success came in the 4th quarter, but on a 4-play sequence he:
· shared a sack with Jones (Q4, 12:55)
· drew a holding penalty on Chandler (Q4, 12:19)
· was blocked to the ground, but got up and nearly reached Bomar as he screened left (Q4, 11:51)
· applied good pressure as Bomar checked down to Brown; Phillips tackled him well short of the marker (Q4 11:04)
Burgess (0/+3): He didn’t distinguish himself after entering midway through Q3, but the Giants had given up on running the ball by then.
Cody (-1/+3): Let’s hope that knee injury is not serious. The Ravens are a different team with Cody in the game against the run.
Dutch (-2/-3): Gone.
Ellerbe (+1/+1): He picked up a QH and 2 PDs. While he didn’t have a stop against the run, we know that’s his strong suit and this team is desperate for a LB to make contributions against the pass.
Fisher (+1/-2): He immediately took down Hagan for a short gain (Q3, 5:45) and had a near interception (Q4, 3:45).
Gooden (0/0): He didn’t do much on defense, making 2 tackles with the 1s, but he twice took down the kickoff returner inside the 15.
Hamelin (0/+2): He piled up 6 tackles including 4 on long pass/run plays.
Hawkins (-1/-3): The Ravens backup secondary continues to play poorly and Hawkins is no exception. Calhoun eluded him for 20 yards to set up the Ravens 1st defensive TD allowed of the preseason.
Arthur Jones (+1/0): I still think he’s likely headed for IR, but he had half a sack and another QH against the Giants’ bus drivers.
Brad Jones (-2/-2): He dropped an easy pick which contributed to the Giants TD.
Edgar Jones (-1/-5): He had his 2nd personal foul of the preseason Saturday. I have to believe he is quickly running out of chances.
Kruger (0/0): He tipped a ball at the LoS and made a tackle. He’ll clearly make the team and has shown some versatility, but I think he won’t see more than 15-18 snaps per game this season without an injury.
McClain (-1/-3): He took a 10-yard ride on Jacob’s back (Q3, 14:53) on a play that was washed out by an illegal motion penalty. He’s been exposed against the pass and he hasn’t played the run well either despite 4 tackles Saturday. When is he going to get some opportunities to rush the passer again?
McClellan (0/-1): The roster is too crowded for him.
McKinney (0/0): He was active and saw some 2nd-half snaps, but he avoided the stat sheet.
Miller (-1/0): The TD fade to Cruz is a good example of why cornerbacks in this league need to be taller than Miller. He could still make the team as a punt returner who can play some emergency corner.
Phillips (+1/+6): He continues to contribute and has earned some playing time during the regular season. It’s kind of silly to say he’s earned some time with the 1s, since they’ll only see a few snaps on Thursday. It’s nice to see a young player, who you know wants to make an impression, play in control like he did to take down Brown after a short 3rd and 16 reception. Jason stopped, made sure he had Brown corralled, and made the play. He had a stonewall tackle against Brown (Q3, 10:30) which was even more impressive.
Redding (+1/+1): This was his best game of the preseason with 4 tackles. He showed the sign Saturday of being very hungry to play for a winner.
Talavou (0/+1): He played and made a tackle (Q3, 4:42) but is not credited in the Gamebook.
Cary Williams (+1/+4): He played into the 3rd quarter and stayed out of trouble as the Giants averaged 3.5 yards per pass play in the 1st half.
What’s being a sports fan about if you don’t have something to fret about? Here’s my contribution…
The Ravens benefited from a number of fine seasons from their older players (7+ year veterans) in 2009. Specifically, Lewis, Birk, Heap, Gregg, Mason, and Johnson all played well and far outstripped what would have been projected as decline. Only Pryce, Ayanbadejo, and Reed among the older players suffered productivity or health-related declines. All 9 of those players are returning and are joined by veterans Redding, Boldin, and Stallworth. While the Ravens also have a cadre of talented young players, the durability/ performance issues related to age are the most serious concerns I have about the 2010 team.