It’s great to be back at M&T. To me, the game itself provides a respite from the ambiguity of camp information, depressing injury reports, and the over reporting of news surrounding Favre and Revis.
As is the case each preseason, my focus is entirely on the players who are new to the Ravens or for whom we don’t know what their role will be in 2010.
Below, I have given a number of Ravens a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much my perception of their impact on the 2010 Ravens will be. I didn’t waste time rating starters, players who have no place on the team, or anyone for whom I don’t think I have any data for a judgment. The players here are new to the team, rookies, on the cusp of making the team, or have questions entering 2010.
Barnes (+3): Thursday was easily the best game Barnes has had as a pro. With the Ravens depth at LB, he was in danger of being cut, but his defensive contributions, Kindle’s injury, and his past success on special teams should guarantee him a spot. I liked the way he did not shy from contact and contributed in run defense. The 5 defensive tackles (excluding special teams) are a career best for any game. Aside from the goal line fumble recovery, he beat Jordan Gross for 2 holding penalties, one to the inside and the other to the outside, which was big bonus. Let’s hope he’s this year’s late-developing star.
Boldin (0): It’s nice to have Anquan’s first catch recorded at home. There were 2 other balls delivered off target, the second of which Boldin nearly caught by the left sideline.
Bulger (-1): Marc, like most backup QBs in preseason was the victim of a patchwork, 2nd-team offensive line. While it’s probably the best for injury avoidance purposes, I didn’t like that every pass he threw seemed to be a short drop and quick release. He had some accurate short throws, but we saw little in the pocket from Bulger. Given the fact that he was throwing off his back foot most of the night, I don’t think it was just the weather that made me unimpressed with his arm strength. The 10-12 yard out is the bread and butter of NFL quarterbacks, but Bulger had nothing on his (Q2, 2:34) and nearly had it picked. He also badly underthrew Stallworth (Q2, 6:04) when he didn’t step into his throw.
Burgess (+1): I noticed 2 plays where he failed to set the edge (Q2, 11:48) and (Q3, 1:53), but he otherwise played well with a PD at the line of scrimmage (“LoS”), and some pressure. With 3 linebackers turning in solid efforts (Barnes, Phillips, Burgess) the battle between them and the 3 rotating incumbents (Ellerbe, McClain, Gooden) should be very interesting.
Clayton (+1): He had a solid game and I think he’s in a good spot on the depth chart. He needs to prove he’s an outside threat by doing exactly what he did on the TD grab to maximize his 2010 snaps. On that play he got separation physically (Munnerlyn wanted an OPI flag, but the push was just light enough to have it go uncalled), timed his leap, made the grab on first contact, and got his hand down in bounds. Previously, he beat Munnerlyn to the post (Q1, 12:20), but mistimed his leap. The ball was thrown behind him, however, so it would have been a nearly impossible catch if timed properly.
Cody (+3): I tried to write down what I thought of several players at the game before watching the game again. I was off most on Cody. There was an awful lot to love, and that’s not a fat joke. Gruden commented about his size, but I was shocked to see how good he looked. I was expecting Grady Jackson, but Talavou, McKinney, and Divens all look just as fat or worse to me. He played a lot of snaps (perhaps 30-35), contributed several tackles, and seems to affect a wider area with good lateral movement. He pursued well with at least 2 tackles from behind. He was ineffective as a pass rusher, at which I doubt he’ll improve much, but he ate doubles consistently and even a triple (Q2, 10:08). However, he didn’t collapse the pocket effectively, even when singled. His 2-gap recognition wasn’t good when blocked straight up by Kalil, but I believe that is correctable as is the unfortunate false start at fullback. He was credited with 1 tackle while lying on the ground (Q4, 11:29). I can’t really tell who brings down the ball carrier, but it seems like a scoring error. As a team, the Ravens were much more effective stopping the run with him on the field.
Cousins (0): The starting linemen played 20 non-penalty snaps together. I graded those plays. Oniel missed 5 of the 20 blocks, none of which resulted in a penetration, sack, or QH, but he was twice bailed out of a sack or QH by McGahee, including (Q2, 14:27) when
McGahee made the reception! Cousins would score a .75 by my system which isn’t good, but he played worse.
Dickson (+2): I like the whole package. He’s got speed, size, hands, and it looks like he’ll be a good YAC player. With the combination of speed and size, he should be a matchup problem wherever he lines up.
Dutch (+1): He had a 3 late PDs, but probably should have been called for PI (Q4, 0:49). We’ll see what he can do in a game with better passing conditions.
Ellerbe (-1): He didn’t do anything to distinguish himself and falls into the same category as the rest of the Ravens run defenders who allowed the Panthers to rush for 5.5 YPC.
Fisher (-1): Despite tight coverage and good position, he failed to get a hand on Moore’s tip to himself for a 25-yard gain (Q2, 9:24). It would have looked worse had Williams not peeled off his man to make the open-field tackle.
Gooden (0): He registered an overload sack, but did not distinguish himself in the run game. I didn’t record snaps for this game, so I don’t know if they were trying platoon usage on passing downs, but that is where Gooden should be able to help the team.
Graham (0): Kickoffs from both kickers were outstanding. Graham barely pushed a 50-yard FG attempt right, but I think he has the inside track now.
Grubbs (-2): As a veteran in his 4th season, he wouldn’t even belong on this list had he not played so poorly. He matched Oher with half a QH and a full sack allowed, but he also had 2 missed blocks. I have found myself making the notation “66 shed” (as Q1, 1:04) much more than I’d like the last couple of years. Despite the fact that play resulted in a 14-yard gain, Grubbs was beaten. I’m not terribly concerned that he won’t recover as a pass blocker, but he may have benefited from playing next to a good pass blocker for most of the past 2 seasons.
Hamlin (0): He played special teams and was used at safety. Most of the defensive backfield was used to rush the passer and Hamlin recorded a QH.
Harewood (-2): He needs to learn how to play the position. He was beaten for a 4-yard loss by E Moore (Q4, 15:00) who was playing so late, I’m not even going to bother to look up what the “E” stands for. He doesn’t seem to want to stick to the jersey across from him, but several times passed up a LoS block to move to the second level. Two examples were (Q4, 5:50) when Steele ran left, but was stripped and (Q4, 3:03) when Ivy shot the gap and took down Steele for a 4-yard loss. I left his score at -2 because I think we really know he was a developmental player who’ll be headed for the PS or IR. If you had any thought he’d be a part of the solution to the Ravens tackle depth, forget it. He’s part of the problem.
Harper (0): He caught 1 of 2 balls thrown his way, which is better than the 4 of 12 he registered in last year’s preseason opener. He remains a long shot to make the team.
Hawkins (-1): It’s disappointing to see so many of the corners missing their chance. Hawkins looked soft on a slant (Q4, 2:47) and subsequently lost Jackson for a 25-yard play down the left sideline (Q4, 1:55).
Edgar Jones (-2): He lined up several times in a 3-point stance, but hurt his chances to make the team with his roughing the passer penalty. With the Ravens having 3 viable tight ends, I think he’s done there for now, so he’ll need to prove he can get to the QB and play special teams well to have a shot.
Arthur Jones (0): He was playing in the 4th quarter and was credited with a tackle. Based on the Ravens depth at DT, I would guess he is headed for IR.
Kruger (+2): He and Talavou are vying for the Bolling Award given annually to the team’s most dominant preseason player. Kruger vulched half a sack from Talavou’s ledger (Q4, 2:28), which should help him with the voter. What impressed me about Paul was the solo sack he recorded came when lined up at DT (Q2, 1:07). It wasn’t all gravy for Kruger, however, as the Ravens were much less effective against the run with the rotation of Talavou, McKinney, Kruger on without Cody. The first trio gave up consecutive runs of 16, 5, and 6 yards late in Q2. Cody was also off the field for Williams’ 23-yard run on the first series.
McClain (-2): Jameel started and played perhaps 30 snaps. He looked bad against the run, as did Ellerbe, who I believe is still his biggest competitor at ILB. His coverage skills were exposed by Clausen’s well thrown pass to Rosario (Q2, 0:58).
McClellan (0): Nothing he did made me believe he’ll make this team. He’s in a very competitive spot playing essentially for a special teams spot on the roster, but the other players on the margin (Burgess, Phillips, Gooden) all did something more.
McKinney (0): The Ravens are very deep at DT. Whoever the Ravens release, I have to believe there will be teams looking to pick up.
Miller (+1): He had an exciting return. Part of it was the wetness, but he had to be somewhat elusive to induce that many attempted arm tackles. Unfortunately, he didn’t look good at corner, particularly vs. the run.
Nakamura (+3): It’s great to see Haruki back and playing disruptive football. He had a sack, forced the goal line fumble, and made a TD saving tackle late in support of Hawkins late in the game.
Offensive line backups (Tyler, Reitz, et al): I won’t bother to put a score on these guys, because none of the linemen who played late in the game should make the team or PS other than Harewood. In a game of very poor offensive line play, Tyler was the very worst allowing 2 full sacks and multiple other penetrations including Parmele’s fumble which resulted in the Panthers’ only TD.
Oher (-3): Michael allowed half a QH and a sack in 20 snaps. He got away with a hold (Q2, 13:14) and released his block on a screen right. His opponent, Landri, ran free across the field and tackled McGahee. If you were hoping for evidence that Oher has learned how to play the position over the off season, you didn’t get it. It’s clear from the sideline shots that Oher is aware he didn’t play well, but to the extent that size/length is the problem, better technique will only make up for so much. He had a nice run block to the whistle for which I have lost the time reference.
Parmele (-3): He had the misfortune to play behind the backup line and Tyler in particular. He had 7 carries for -7 and coughed up the ball that brought the Panthers back into the game. He also had a bad game as a pass blocker.
Phillips (+2): Other than Barnes, I thought he looked the best of the crowded LB corps. He reacted well and was close to the ball all night. Even when he allowed a reception (Q4, 8:55), he took down his opponent quickly.
Pitta (+1): He may have been in bounds or out, but I liked the sideline awareness he showed on the challenged play.
Redding (0): He’s apparently in the protected veteran group with perhaps just 9-12 snaps on Thursday. The only thing really interesting I saw was the Ravens willingness to drop him into coverage (Q1, 13:44)
Stallworth (0): Came in with the 2nd team and caught 1 ball from Bulger of the 4 balls thrown in his general direction. In his case, this was more of an indictment of Bulger’s accuracy.
Steele (0): Like Parmele, he had a tough night running behind the backup offensive line.
Talavou (+1): Looked like a man among boys when rushing the passer in Q4. The Panthers backups couldn’t block him effectively and he provided significant pressure.
Cary Williams (+3): Harbaugh mentioned him at the State of the Ravens event. He certainly looked like the real deal Thursday. He had the interception on the out route where Jackson fell down (Q3, 11:43), one of his 3 PDs saved a TD (Q2, 3:18) and he delivered a vicious hit to dislodge the ball from Edwards (Q3, 0:22). On a night where a number of players were slipping, he kept his footing and made sure tackles in support of the run and other members of the secondary. I like his size, and he displayed good hands in wet conditions. I’d be surprised if he does not start at some point for the Ravens this season.
Zbikowski (+1): He had trouble bringing DeAngelo Williams down on his long run (Q1, 14:21), but eventually made the tackle. He was also run over by Fiammetta (Q1, 5:39) for extra yardage. Make no mistake that the Ravens weakness against the run was a team effort with each level making their own contributions. Zibby came back to record a sack/FF to end the Panthers’ first drive and then contributed the long punt return.