You can’t read too much into preseason football. Coordinators only show a watered down version of their actual game plan, in an effort to reveal as little as possible to the rest of the league.
Some starters are held out for precautionary reasons, which was the case for the 49ers defense last night, and we only get a glimpse of the first team players that do see action.
With that said, the cameo that the Ravens first team offense made last night gave Ravens Nation several reasons to be excited for the 2014 season. It’s incredible what a couple of new faces and a more creative game plan can produce.
Aside from staying healthy, maybe the most important takeaways from last night was the Ravens fast start. There is no doubt it is one of the biggest points of emphasis for a unit that struggled mightily in that department a year ago. The Ravens marched 80 yards in 10 plays on their opening drive.
It was a thing of beauty, especially for a team that scored a touchdown on only two opening drives all of last season.
The first team offense couldn’t have been more balanced and unpredictable. They ran ten plays: five on the ground and five through the air and got everyone involved.
The revamped offensive line dominated the 49ers front seven. Communication seemed clear and decisive before the play, and Joe Flacco had time in the pocket. The ground game was even more impressive. Holes opened up for significant gains on first down.
Most importantly, Rick Wagner played well. John Harbaugh summed up it best: “You didn’t notice him, which is a good thing for a right tackle.”
It’s clear Kyle Juszcyck will play a big role in the new offense. His hybrid, versatile style seems perfect for Gary Kubiak’s offense. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him catch 50 passes this year, which is what Kubiak has said he envisions. He also seems much more confident when serving as a lead blocker this year than last.
Steve Smith Sr. caught his first of hopefully many passes from Joe Flacco in 2014, and it’s exactly the type of play the Ravens envisioned when they signed him: a short, 9 yard pass across the middle of the field for a first down. The play was met by loud cheers from the M&T bank crowd. With Dennis Pitta and Steve Smith Sr. working the middle of the field, and Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside, Joe Flacco could be primed for a career year.
John Harbaugh cautioned Ravens fans not to read too much into last nights performance, and he’s right. They need to stack good practices and games leading into the season considering how crucial their early schedule is.
But if last night is any indication of how the offense will look in 2014, fans have a lot to be excited about, and the Ravens won’t be watching from their couches come January.