Ravens vs. Panthers – 8/11/16
In a game where many of the veterans sat, the Ravens 2016 draft class made a huge contribution to a 22-19 preseason win versus the Panthers.
Included among the rookie performances:
• Ronnie Stanley’s performance stood out. I didn’t score him with any sort of pass-blocking event, as he displayed the good feet that made him a top-10 pick. He demonstrated athleticism on a pull left (Q1, 6:16) and again with a block on Klein in L2 (Q2, 12:24) to help lead Dixon’s 19-yard gain. He blocked well positionally, guiding players away from the play with minimum energy and displayed back-side run blocking effort. I noticed 1 missed cut (Q2, 11:53) in an otherwise outstanding debut.
• 4th-round selection, tackle Alex Lewis was almost as good, displaying snap to whistle physicality. In particular, he drove back Miley 6 yards on West’s 3-yard run left (Q2, 12:34) and it appeared the Panthers DE might retaliate after the whistle. On Dixon’s 12-yard “not-downed” run, it was Lewis’ sustained block on Mayo that both created a lane and traffic for another defender. Like Stanley, I noticed only 1 poor play where he whiffed on Thomas to cave the left side. Fortunately, the play was run right for a gain of 3 (Q4, 11:58).
• Kamalei Correa played OLB early and some ILB later. He generated some pressure, including a QH (Q2, 6:52) which went uncredited in the Gamebook. He closed the right edge when Henry dropped Wegher for a loss of 3 (Q2, 2:43). I didn’t make a coverage note.
• Kenneth Dixon led the team in rushing including runs of 9, 12, and 19 yards. His night was marred only by a QH allowed on a failed pickup of McClain (Q4, 10:49).
• Willie Henry was in the backfield all night including a tackle for a loss of 3 (Q2, 2:43), a pressure to flush the pocket, and pressure (which probably should have been a split sack) to help contain Webb on Judon’s 5-yard sack. Henry also pursued well to make a drive-ending tackle on Hill (Q2, 0:17) after misses by Will Davis and Arrington. Finally, his containment of Webb (even though he missed the tackle) kept Webb out of the end zone on the Panthers’ next-to-last offensive play.
• In addition to the aforementioned sack, Matthew Judon pressured Webb for a drive-ending incompletion (Q3, 6:15) and had another drive ending-tackle where he sniffed out a draw and took down Wegher for no gain on 3rd and long (Q2, 1:56). He played with a high energy, and like Henry, his pursuit was exceptional.
The Offensive Line Rotation
For the preseason, I find it helpful to record the offensive linemen by series. I didn’t notice any mid-series changes, but these are the 5 offensive linemen for the first play of each series.
• Marshal Yanda was the only projected opening day starter who sat out on the OL. It’s interesting that Vlad Ducasse got the start at RG and not Ryan Jensen, who played only C with the 2nd team.
• John Urschel got a drive at center after Jeremy Zuttah turned in poor performance that included a bad snap to end the first drive and a missed block on Lotulelei which resulted in a loss of 3.
• Alex Lewis saw an extended trial at LT and LG.
• De’Ondre Wesley split his time between RT and RG.
• Stephane Nembot, who had been practicing with the 3rd OL unit played the entire 2nd half at RT.
• Blaine Clausell entered for the last 4 drives at LT, replacing Lewis. I mention this, because James Hurst might have been a logical replacement to swap with Lewis when the latter moved to LG. This is a fairly clear indication to me the team has no intention to use Hurst at tackle in 2016.
• Jarell Broxton, Anthony Fabiano, and Matt Skura entered for the last 2 drives and did not distinguish themselves.
• Ronnie Stanley’s performance is detailed above. My expectations for his performance in 2016 have increased significantly.
Individual Grades and Notes
As in past years, I have given a number of Ravens a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much my expectation of their impact on the 2016 Ravens changed based on their performance Thursday. I don’t rate 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, have new responsibilities in 2016, in positional battles, or otherwise have something to prove this season.
Allen, Buck (-1): Buck didn’t look good as a runner (6 carries for 6 yards), but on his lone receiving target, he caught the pass 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage, worked off good blocks from Jensen and Ducasse, and bolted through the defense for a 19-yard TD.
Arrington, Kyle (-1): He had a disastrous night of coverage (despite playing just 23 snaps) ended by an injury on a run play. I didn’t expect he could contribute much in 2016, but there is nothing in this game indicative of a roster spot.
Beyer, Brennen (0): He played in the 4th quarter, but did not make my notes.
Boyle, Nick (0): He played well, including the exciting hurdle on a 29-yard reception (13+16 YAC) which added approximately 10 yards to the play. He also had a good block on Barber (as he was falling down) to help lead Houston’s 12-yard run right (Q4, 9:05). It’s going to be difficult for a player like Nick to improve expectation for this season, given he’ll be out until week 11, but his suspension creates a space for a healthy body to return late in the season without using a roster spot.
Brooks, Terrence (+1): Terrence entered for the 2nd drive of the 2nd quarter and played every snap for the remainder of the game. His highlight was a PD vs. Norwood (Q2, 0:45)
Brown, Arthur (0): As we have seen in previous preseasons, Brown’s athleticism has served him well versus opposing 2’s and 3’s. His performance Thursday was mixed. He was juked out of his pants by J’Marcus Webb, who converted 3rd and 9 with a 10-yard run right. Arthur penetrated past RT Williams to take down Wegher for a gain of 1 on the play where Arrington was hurt. He registered a PD with his back (Q2, 0:35), jarred a guard backwards on a blitz (Q3, 0:30) where he may have registered a QH, and maintained pressure on a drive-ending dump off by Webb (Q4, 12:57).
Brown, Daniel (+1): Daniel contributed 2 nice run blocks (Q4, 9:05 and Q4, 8:02) to lead gains of 9 and 12. He caught the only 2 balls thrown to him, the 2nd of which advanced the Ravens from the shadow of their own goalposts for their last punt of the night. The comparison with him and Waller is interesting. Waller is a WR playing TE. From what I saw tonight, the Ravens want to flex him out and he’ll contribute little or nothing as an interior blocker. Brown is much closer to a traditional TE. He can contribute some blocking ability on the edge and downfield, but as a receiving target, he is limited.
Butler, Jeremy (+1): Butler’s stats from Thursday don’t jump off the page, but he caught 5 balls for 36 while contesting the ball in traffic and high-pointing it on crossing routes. He’s been the best receiver in camp to date. I don’t see a scenario where he doesn’t make the team if healthy.
Canady, Maurice (-1): DNP (Did not play). As you’ll often hear from NFL veterans, the most important ability is availability. Maurice has missed approximately a week of practice, although he will likely get an opportunity for a live trial this preseason with the Ravens’ health concerns.
Carter, Chris (+3): He was the Ravens’ best pass rusher Thursday. He beat LT Tyler Larsen on consecutive plays for QHs (beginning Q2, 0:35). He beat TE Marcus Lucas outside to flush Webb on the Panthers’ next-to-last play, and he bulled C Reese Dismukes for a sack he shared with Michael Pierce (Q3, 5:16). He accomplished all this in just 23 snaps. I have no negative notes, and he is in the discussion for a roster spot with the Ravens’ thin LB corps.
Clay, Kaelin (-2): His costly punt fumble kept the Panthers in the game (Q3, 6:10). Had he collected Josh Johnson’s low pass (Q4, 7:56), he would be in a better position, but Harbaugh’s lack of tolerance for fumbling leads me to believe he is now in trouble.
Conner, Kavell (-1): He saw time at ILB in the 4th quarter, but did not make my notes.
Correa, Kamalei (+1): He displayed versatility and pass rush detailed above. He played most of his snaps at OLB. With Orr’s fine game at ILB, I think the chance of Correa winning that job has decreased, but that doesn’t preclude use at ILB in a passing-down nickel package.
Davis, Carl (0): I hoped Carl would have progressed further in conditioning from his rookie year, but I can’t describe him as sculpted. He rotated in through most of the game, but despite some weak opponents, and excepting his FR on Smith’s sack, his contributions continued to come against the run. I did not note any pressure events. He was driven back several yards by a double from Andrew Norwell and Michael Oher on which the Ravens were fortunate to have Eric Weddle fill quickly. It’s important the Ravens determine what they have with Davis in 2016 with Brandon Williams’ impending free agency.
Davis, Will (+1): Will had a solid game in coverage, including a PD. He combined with Henry and Brown to contribute a drive-ending pressure (Q4, 12:57). He also missed a tackle (with Arrington) on a play that had to be chased down by Henry (Q2, 0:17). Davis will be one of the keys to success for the Ravens 2016 secondary.
Dixon, Kenneth (+1): His breakaway running style was the most impressive among the backs, but he was not even targeted as a receiver. I suspect we’ll enjoy what we see from him after the catch. On the flip side, his pass blocking must improve.
Ducasse, Vlad (+1): Several factors make it more likely Ducasse will have a meaningful role in 2016. He had key blocks on both the goal-line TD plunge by Terrance West and Allen’s 19-yard scamper through traffic. He also received playing time with the first team ahead of Jensen.
Elam, Matt (+2): I debated whether this should be a +2 or +3. Elam had a drive ending tackle (Q3, 4:30) where he burst past David Foucalt’s screen block. He had a QH on a delayed blitz where he exploited the left B gap. He finished the night with a game-saving PD in coverage of Lucas on 4th and goal at the 4-yard line (Q4, 2:26, the Panthers’ last offensive play). One reason I think he could contribute more is the apparent commitment to the dime (see Anthony Levine below). While Elam still practices with the defensive backs, he’d likely be next up as the dime if Levine is hurt or unsuccessful.
Forsett, Justin (0): DNP. I’m not convinced he will be the starter or that there will be any clear starter, but I don’t believe there is a significant chance he gets cut.
Guy, Lawrence (0): He was announced among the starters and his night ended early. He’s played just over a year with the Ravens and his role is not in jeopardy.
Henry, Willie (+2): Willie had not stood out to me in camp, but he excelled in his first live action (detail with other rookies above). My only concern is quality of competition, but I expect he’ll make this team and not spend a year on IR.
Hurst, James (-2): I did not take a snap-by-snap scoring of his performance, but the fact that he did not play 2 drives at LT means he’s not in the Ravens’ plans. Said otherwise, his value would be as a swingman and the Ravens declined to try him in that role.
Jensen, Ryan (0): Ryan had extended work as the center for the 2nd unit. He made a big block to spring Allen on his 19-yard TD reception (Q2, 1:04). He was bulled by Eric Crume for pressure on the 29-yard Josh Johnson to Boyle completion (Q3, 3:08).
Jernigan, Timmy (0): DNP. He had a rib injury earlier in camp, but had returned to practice and looked like he was moving normally when I attended last on Monday. When the 2 teams lined up for the National Anthem, it appeared the Ravens were a small high school playing a much larger one in terms of number of players dressed (the Panthers probably had 10-15 more).
Johnson, Jerrod (0): He did not enter until the final 2 drives when the Ravens were trying to run out the clock. He took no chances with the football, with a hurried incompletion to Boyle, but recovered with a nice throw to Brown which made some room for the final punt. Most of you probably know your Johnsons, but Jerrod is a 1st-year player from Texas A&M who is now 28, last played for the Aggies in 2010 and has bounced around NFL camps since then.
Johnson, Josh (+1): Josh is the 7th-year pro from San Diego who is now 30. He has impressive wheels, looks a little like Tyrod Taylor, and wears his number 2. He played most of the 2nd half, ran for a couple of first downs, but was not particularly accurate as a passer. In particular, he missed a wide-open Clay (Q4, 7:56) which resulted in a long missed FG. He also threw a low ball dug out by Waller for a gain of 18 (Q3, 11:18).
Judon, Matt (+2): Matt was close with several others (Henry, Elam, Carter) for the team’s defensive MVP. In addition to the plays mentioned above with the rookies, he had a drive-ending backside-pursuit tackle (Q2, 6:32). He also hustled to push Webb out of bounds at the 4 on the Panthers’ next-to-last offensive play. He led the team with 5 tackles in an impressive pro debut. The OLB picture became more crowded Thursday, but he improved his chances to make the team.
Juszczyk, Kyle (0): Kyle dressed, but played just 11 snaps.
Levine, Anthony (+1): Levine’s practice in camp and usage on Thursday has been the most interesting story about the Ravens this year so far. If you’re a regular reader, you know the Ravens have all but abandoned the dime defense the last few years (just 62 snaps over that period, 2% of all defensive snaps). I detailed here:
Anthony has been practicing with the LBs and pairing with Arthur Brown, but the Ravens made their plans more clear on Thursday night. He played 18 non-penalty snaps, all of which came with 6 defensive backs on the field and him lined up in a traditional dime slot next to the other ILB. This represents a significant schematic shift for the Ravens and jibes with John Harbaugh’s recent comments about fielding a more versatile defense.
Levine himself played very well. He had a PD that he failed to collect as an interception (Q2, 0:22). He also had a drive-ending tackle of Wegher (Q4, 12:57) that forced a FG. A lot of fans are going to look at this game as a rookie show (which it was), but the dime scheme is by far the most significant thing to emerge from the game and Levine (or another safety) should be an X-factor on 25-35% of the team’s snaps this season.
Lewis, Alex (+2): His fine pro debut is detailed above with the OL. It would not shock me if he starts the season at LG and he should be the first tackle up in case of injury.
Lewis, Kendrick (0): He played 14 snaps in the first half and did not make my notes or the defensive scoresheet.
Lewis-Moore, Kapron (+1): The Ravens continued to rotate defensive linemen throughout the game, which kept them fresh and competing against mixed competition. KLM was scored with 50 snaps on defense in the Gamebook, the 2nd heaviest workload of any defender. He contributed to the 2.7 YPC (30 for 81), and the Panthers only success running the ball came on 2 reverses.
Mallett, Ryan (+1): I was very down on Ryan before the game, but he played the first half and completed 11 of 15 passes. His interception was primarily a function of Waller’s inability to collect the ball. However, he badly underthrew an open Butler in the end zone to lose a TD (Q1, 6:22) prior to the interception and was helped by Butler’s willingness to go up for the football. He collected a bad snap from Zuttah on the first drive, but could not keep his eyes down the field long enough to find a target before running (Q1, 7:24). He had accurate short passes on which receivers generated YAC. His highlight was a redirection of receivers as he rolled right (Q2, 11:20) which resulted in a 6-yard completion to Williams that set up the Ravens first TD.
Matthews, Chris (-1): DNP. He, like Campanaro, missed an opportunity for extensive playing time.
McClellan, Albert (+1): Albert started at OLB and played 3 series there. He, KLM, and Guy did a good job collapsing the right side of the OL (Q1, 2:55) which allowed Zachary Orr to shoot through to take down Fozzy Whittaker for a loss of 4.
Moore, Chris (-1): He’s in a walking boot and no timetable has been offered for his return. The Ravens have 3 deep threats (Wallace, Moore, and Perriman) from which they need to find 2 who can contribute regularly. On Thursday, none were active.
Ochi, Victor (-1): Victor played just 7 snaps, which is disappointing considering the absence of veterans. He did not make my notes. The play of Judon and Carter reduced his chance to make the team.
Onwuasor, Patrick (+1): He is perhaps the 2nd most likely UDFA to make the team and has played with a high motor in practice. He played 15 snaps at ILB after the departure of Arthur Brown and I did not confirm, but suspect he did the defensive signal calling while in. He had 3 downfield tackles on pass plays (6, 6, and 9 yards from the LoS), but his big contribution was the punt fumble recovery (Q4, 1:59) which set the Ravens up in victory formation.
Orr, Zach (-1): He played with C.J. Mosley at ILB (27 snaps) and recorded 4 tackles. His highlight was a 4-yard takedown of Whittaker (Q1, 2:55). He was also erroneously credited with Mosley’s QH (Q1, 13:27), but he did generate pressure on the play.
Perriman, Breshad (0): DNP. I’m going to let my eyes determine his availability.
Pierce, Michael (+1): He had good backfield penetration, including a sack shared with Carter in 27 snaps. Competition on the DL is heavy, but he did not hurt his chances Thursday. He is a player who will likely be taken from the practice squad if the Ravens attempt to stash him there.
Powers, Jerraud (-2): The play at slot cornerback was one of the major disappointments of the night. Powers was beaten by Brenton Bersin for a 3rd-and-6 conversion (Q1, 13:27). He later fell on the 23-yard pass to Bersin (Q1, 2:17). With the injury to Tavon Young, the Ravens need to find a solution at nickel.
Price, Sheldon (0): He knocked down a pass intended for Bersin (Q2, 7:00), but failed to strip the ball from Damiere Byrd on the long, bobbled pass up the left sideline despite good coverage. Price also was flagged for a 15-yard DPI (Q2, 0:27) which extended the Pathers’ end-of-half FG drive. I liked what I saw in terms of ability to stay with a receiver, but he needs to find the football better.
Reynolds, Keenan (0): Keenan has had trouble both separating and holding onto the football in practice. However, his returns (particularly on kickoffs) had improved significantly. Reynolds was bailed out by Mario Addison’s fair catch interference (Q2, 1:51), but he wasn’t in position to catch the ball properly. Fortunately for him, one of his primary competitors for the PR job, Kaelin Clay had a costly fumble and the other, Michael Campanaro, did not suit up. On the Ravens’ final punt of the night, Reynolds was in as the personal protector, something he has done in practice, but is normally Levine’s role. He played 29 offensive snaps, but was not targeted as a receiver.
Smith, Jimmy (0): He was beaten on a crossing route by Ted Ginn in the back of the end zone (Q1, 8:28), but Cam Newton misfired. He departed after the first series.
Smith, Za’Darius (+1): The Ravens are short on OLBs who can play the run effectively. Unfortunately, Smith continued to have such troubles on Thursday to go with an outstanding night as a pass rusher. To review:
–(Q1, 15:00) He bit hard on the fake as Ginn reversed past him for a gain of 17.
–(Q1, 12:45) He rushed himself out of the play as Mike Tolbert ran right for 7 yards.
–(Q1, 6:31) He beat LT Daryl Williams outside for a sack/strip which was eventually recovered by Carl Davis.
–(Q2, 8:28) He bulled Foulcault for a QH.
He departed midway through Q2.
Stanley, Ronnie (+3): Detailed above. After closer review I see he released a lineman too quickly on one pass rush, which was exacerbated by the fact Mallet floated left out of the pocket. However, he was still the team’s most effective offensive player. Since first-year LTs don’t normally play at a high level, Stanley’s performance in 2016 represents an opportunity for a big, positive surprise.
Urban, Brent (+1): He benefited from the rotation and was effective in 24 defensive snaps. Those included pressure on 2 consecutive passes (Q4, 7:14 and Q4, 6:01). He had 1 tackle. I’d be more excited if his production came against higher-quality opponents.
Urschel, John (0): He played 2 series at LG and 1 at C (see above). He got good push to help lead West’s TD dive (Q2, 9:59).
Wagner, Rick (0): He didn’t play long (see above) and committed an illegal formation penalty when he lined up too deep, but he otherwise looked healthy and moved well.
Wallace, Mike (0): DNP. I was not aware he was hurt. He’s been effective in camp.
Waller, Darren (-1): As usual, Darren’s performance spanned from Everest to the Mariana Trench in a single game. Let’s review:
–(Q1, 4:15) He was unable to collect Mallett’s pass which was taken by Klein for a 95-yard pick-6 negated by Newton’s blockheadedness.
–(Q2, 14:31) He was beaten outside by Daryl Worley for a QH.
–(Q3, 11:17) He made a sliding catch on Johnson’s low throw for a gain of 18.
–(Q3, 9:02) He pushed Marcus Ball into Charles Johnson out of bounds on what was flagged as unnecessary roughness. It gave the Ravens 2 yards and an extra down, but it was dangerous.
–(Q3, 8:51) He had the most important block on West’s 2nd TD (the 5-yard reversal of field) when he held up Robert McClain in the end zone.
–(Q4, 8:02) He short armed a ball by the left sideline with a hit oncoming.
Waller is a paradox. He can block, but not in line. He’s a deep threat, but plays TE. He can catch, but doesn’t seem to have the stomach to high-point the football like Torrey Smith or Butler. I think he’d be most valuable to the Ravens split out as a deep threat. When he is available in week 5, the Ravens will probably know if they need him there.
Watson, Ben (0): DNP. No injury of which I am aware.
Webb, Lardarius (0): He departed after the first series and lost a tackle which was credited to Mosley (Q1, 14:30) on a 3-yard completion (0 YAC) to Greg Olsen.
Wesley, De’Ondre (-2): He had a tough game in time split between RT and RG. He failed to block Eric Crume for a QH (Q3, 12:55). He was then beaten outside by Ryan Delaire for a sack/FF (Q3, 2:27) which helped keep Carolina in the game. Harbaugh has mentioned him in his interviews, but he lost ground to Lewis in this game.
West, Terrance (+1): Terrance’s YPC numbers (25 yards on 9 carries, 2.8) don’t reflect the fine night he had, because the Ravens used him as their short-yardage back. The 5-yard reversal-of-field TD was an outstanding ad-lib of a play that was shut down of the front side. He made 1 catch for 7 yards, but he’s been impressive as a receiver in camp. It appears now that the Ravens will keep all 4 of their running backs (I’m excluding Houston) in addition to Juszczyk, and they may be one of the first teams in NFL history with a true 4-headed monster.
Williams, Matt (+1): He caught both balls on which he was targeted among 19 snaps. He and Mallett communicated well on a 6-yard pass (Q2, 11:20) which set up the Ravens’ first TD.
Wilson, Julian (0): He did not play at CB, but may well get a chance in the coming weeks with injuries.
Wright, Shareece (-1): Shareece started at LCB and moved to RCB when Jimmy Smith departed. He played the first 3 series only. Devin Funchess used his body effectively to make a TD catch (Q1, 1:35) where Wright was rendered helpless to defend.
Young, Tavon (-1): His knee injury clouds this game and the general situation at cornerback looks a lot worse today than it did before Thursday night.