Heading into the contest the Ravens have done little on the field to address their major offseason concerns: quarterback; defensive backfield and offensive tackle. Last night did nothing but compound those problems and then some.
Joe Flacco was the beneficiary of extensive action and at times showed why the Ravens are excited about the rookie. He directed a very solid third quarter drive capped by a TD strike to Derrick Mason, the first TD pass by any Ravens QB in the preseason. Flacco also showed zip and accuracy on his sideline passes. Cam Cameron would be wise to allow Flacco to pepper defenses with short hitch routes from a 3 step drop, move the chains and set up the long ball much like a boxer sets up his opponent with body shots and jabs to ultimately deliver the knockout blow.
That said Flacco’s outing was at times very shaky. He missed a wide open Mark Clayton on at least two occasions and he still lacks a sense of urgency reading through his progressions. He also misfired in traffic several times – a better defense than the Rams could have made him pay dearly.
RUNNING BACK: B
Ray Rice was limited to five carries (sore hamstring) producing 20 yards but the diminutive rookie continues to gain yards in tight spaces by continually moving and falling forward. Le’Ron McClain looked very good carrying the football and his ascension as a competent featured back will undoubtedly spell doom for Cory Ross and Alex Haynes. Allen Patrick at best is headed for the practice squad.
Derrick Mason continues to play with passion and the Ravens would be all too happy to have four more receivers just like him. Much to the delight of team observers, Mason is getting the ball beyond the sticks and he could be a much more effective weapon in ’08. He showed great concentration and footwork on the TD catch along the right sideline. Mark Clayton created separation on two plays but Flacco threw wildly on both. Marcus Smith (separated shoulder) needs to step up on third down.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-
Pass protection improved against a pretty decent Rams defensive front. Chad Slaughter did look lost a couple of times taking on the Rams quick DE’s. Until last night I had never seen an offensive tackle turn his back to a defensive end and attempt to box out.
DEFENSIVE LINE: F
No pass rush, little penetration, gaping running holes. This unit missed Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata and even Dwan Edwards in a big way.
In case you missed it, Dan Cody was in the building and made a tackle. If you didn’t catch his stealth appearance don’t worry about it. The entire corps of linebackers was basically MIA. Antwan Barnes, Bart Scott and Nick Griesen all looked lost at times. Tavares Gooden looked quick to the ball in spurts.
This group looks completely clueless and if Ed Reed and Chris McAlister don’t get healthy soon, the Ravens will be in for a long season. Samari Rolle looked like a player trying to catch up. He whiffed in run support. Corey Ivy and Frank Walker are not corners. They are nickel backs and should stay there assuming of course
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
The only blemish in the special teams’ play was the coverage on the game’s opening kickoff. Other than that, they were very good. The coverage teams were very solid helping Sam Koch pin 3 inside the 20 while averaging 49.9 yards per punt and a stellar 43.4 yard net. Yamon Figurs and Zbikowski were standouts on coverage and the rookie safety, a special teams beast also blocked a punt. Figurs looks like he could break one at any time with both punt and kick returns. Jim Leonhard provided a nice return. On whole the Ravens averaged 25 yards per punt return and 30 yards on kick returns.
Defense: Why does Rex Ryan insist on putting
Offense: A lob pass to a 5’10” receiver for a potential score?
OTHER OBSERVATIONS: Like most of you, I think I missed half the game with the abysmal presentation by MASN. The broadcast booth offers little help to viewers. I thought CB Derrick Martin was hurt but last night I would swear the announcers had him playing receiver. The entire MASN package is embarrassing. RaveTV? Maybe they should change it to GRaveTV and bury it…After 3 preseason games it seems to me that the key is to get the special teams unit on the field more. They seem to be the only unit stopping anyone and the only unit consistently threatening to score. The Ravens are minus 32:28 in time of possession after 3 games! They’ve allowed a 50% conversion rate on third down (25 of 50) and they’ve only converted 7 of 35 tries of their own on offense (20%).