A little QB controversy is good.
It may even make the 4th preseason game watchable.
Josh Johnson led an impressive touchdown drive at the end of the half and prompted Harbaugh to say there was a competition for the backup role.
Harbaugh was just stating the obvious, but I was truly impressed at the game Josh put together after watching him barely get a single rep during most 10-minute practice segments at camp. Particulars on both QBs are listed below.
Here are 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.
Some notes on the OL rotation:
• Urschel did not play. The coaches may have anticipated this the entire week. Alex Lewis played LG all week in camp, which may have been in anticipation of a start in this game. Lewis played the first half at LG with mixed results. He allowed a QH on a failed stunt pickup and a shared pressure, which would grade out to a D with adjustment, but he had some good moments. He had a nice combo block to help lead Allen’s 6-yard run (Q2, 1:34).
• The fact that Jensen did not start, yet saw significant playing time at G, should be a pretty clear statement of competition for the LG spot.
• Ducasse and Jensen shared the team lead in offensive snaps with 37.
• There is probably a PS player among the last set of 5 linemen, but it’s difficult to evaluate their play when the Ravens have been sitting on leads. From that group, it’s interesting that Skuba moved ahead of Fabiano for the 3rd center.
• Ronnie Stanley didn’t start the night well with a pair of missed cut blocks, but he made every block the rest of the way with the exception of a pressure shared with Lewis. The pressure (Q2, 1:04) was probably 75% on Lewis, but was complicated by the fact Stanley gave ground as well. That was his first negative event of the preseason. His .84 raw score would translate to a low A with adjustment.
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 (a second grade is cumulative for the preseason). 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 have otherwise have something to prove this season.
Allen, Buck (0/-1): He hasn’t had a breakaway run in 10 preseason carries (long of 6), but the line hasn’t given him many second-level opportunities. He caught 2 balls for 1 total yard, but neither throw had significant potential YAC.
Boyle, Nick (0/0): He was targeted once on 3rd and 7 (Q4, 8:37), but the ball was grounded by Josh Johnson and he was well covered by Jackson at the marker. It’s hard for the needle to move for Boyle because of his suspension. I anticipate he’ll be a welcome fresh body when he returns.
Brown, Daniel (0/+1): He found an open spot for a 17-yard catch (Q4, 14:21) which set the Ravens up 1st and goal. He also caught his other target for a loss of 2 yards. I think he’ll land on his feet somewhere, but I don’t believe it will be the Ravens’ practice squad.
Butler, Jeremy (+1/+2): He’s outperforming the remainder of the wide receivers with fearless play and good hands. He caught all 4 balls on which he was targeted for gains of 11, 6, 6, and 12 (TD), all on the 2-minute drive to end the half. Among those, he fought to the sideline (Q2, 1:40) and took a big hit to make a catch (Q2, 0:44).
Dixon, Kenneth (+1/+2): He’s outshining the other running backs with ability in space. I liked 3 plays in particular:
–(Q3, 11:27) He cut past the penetration of Ridgeway for a gain of 6.
–(Q3, 10:56) He spun to finish a first down conversion.
–(Q3, 6:21) He caught Jerrod Johnson’s only completion of the night 4 yards behind the LoS and weaved for 16 YAC to convert 3rd and 9 with virtually no blocking.
Ducasse, Vlad (-1/0): He had a poor night of pass blocking that began with a QH allowed to Bailey (Q2, 7:20) where he may share blame with Jensen. He was bulled by Bailey on Johnson’s TD pass to Butler (Q2, 0:38). He was unable to pick up the stunting Simmons (Q3, 7:07) who knocked down Jerrod Johnson. The entire OL had difficulty picking up the Colts’ stunts which were a big component of their pressure.
Forsett, Justin (0/0): It was good to see him on the field even if the results weren’t impressive. He ran the ball 5 times in just 7 offensive snaps before retiring.
Hurst, James (+1/-1): James did not make my notes. That’s good, especially since he played primarily at LT.
Jensen, Ryan (-2/-2): Ryan had a bad night at center that included a fumbled exchange with Josh Johnson (Q4, 15:00) and a pancaking at the goal line by DT Lumpkin (Q4, 12:23) that blew up Dixon’s run for a loss of 2 and forced the Ravens to settle for 3. He and Skuba failed to pick up the stunting McGill who took down Jerrod Johnson for a sack at the LoS. Ryan’s play, coupled with the fact he did not start at LG is a good indication he won’t be a starter when the season opens, even if Urschel is not healthy.
Johnson, Jerrod (0/0): Let’s review. He dropped back 6 times which included a sack, 2 other QHs, an intentional grounding where the officials failed to determine he fumbled (Q3, 4:43), and a single completion for 12 yards where Dixon ran for 16 YAC with great individual effort. I’ve seen enough. And apparently the Ravens coaches had as well given they reinserted Josh Johnson after Jerrod’s 3rd series, something rarely seen in the preseason.
Johnson, Josh (+3/+4): What’s not to like? The ball came out quickly and accurately. He was a threat to run and converted two long 3rd downs with runs for 18 and 11. He threw a ball under extreme blind-side pressure for a gain of 17 and took a big hit to do so. On the 2-minute drive, he eschewed the run and passed the Ravens up the field efficiently finishing with the gorgeous touch pass to Butler for the TD. He was the Ravens offensive MVP.
Juszczyk (0/0): Kyle dressed again, but played just 4 offensive snaps, bringing his preseason total to 15. He’s not in any real danger of being cut, so I’m going to drop him from the review list next week.
Lewis, Alex (-1/+1): He took a step backward from the first game as detailed above. He was unable to pick up the stunting Walden who knocked down Mallett (Q1, 6:27). That was his biggest error and it’s an error of recognition, which is probably correctable (as opposed to being beaten regularly by bull rushes, for example). On Mallett’s TD pass to Aiken (Q2,12:19), Lewis was bulled by Muir and took 2 steps backward yet somehow managed to flip the Colts DT to the ground and flopped on the surprised pancake victim for good measure. I can’t recall the last time I saw a guard recover from being bulled like that on a pass play.
Mallett (0/+1): He had 6 completions for a modest 47 yards, but that included 45 yards after the catch (YAC). However, he threw an on-target deep ball for Aiken that helped generate a 41-yard DPI (Q2, 13:01) which should be included among Ryan’s successes. He was knocked down twice in 8 non-penalty drop backs.
Matthews (-1/-2): DNP for a 2nd straight week.
Moore (+1/0): He gets back his point for being previously injured, but the performance was mixed. It’s obviously a good thing that the opposing corners respect his speed by playing soft and allowing short completions. However, the Ravens need a 2nd legitimate deep threat to go with Wallace and create space in the 2nd and 3rd levels. The one time Moore was targeted on a deep ball (Q3, 10:18), he had an unpressed release from the slot and Jerrod Johnson threw a nice looking pass up the left sideline that fell incomplete and in bounds. Moore seemed to slow as he looked over his shoulder for the ball and did not show the top gear you’d want on a vertical route.
Perriman (0/0): DNP. This is an example of a needle which won’t move this preseason until he plays, which is another way to say I have no expectation he’ll contribute in 2016.
Reynolds (0/0): He played 18 snaps and was targeted once (Q4, 8:41) but the ball was batted down at the LoS. He appeared open by the right sideline with a soft corner. That’s the only time he’s been targeted in 47 offensive snaps this preseason. However, he looked good as the personal protector on special teams and had parts of 2 tackles. He did not return a kick or punt. While motioning left, he blocked the much larger OLB Okine to help trigger West’s 9-yard run (Q4, 3:27) which gave the Ravens a big first down. He’s doing a lot of little things right, which is a good place to start, but he needs to break a kick return, display elusiveness in the open field, or break off a couple of routes impressively.
Stanley (+1/+4): For you people who are all about the score, here is my reasoning. Last week, Stanley was outstanding and that was the first hint of how good he may be relative to other rookie LTs (who don’t tend to be good, even if drafted in the first round). The score is intended to reflect how much my expectation for his 2016 contribution has changed and the first game changed it a lot. In a sense, Stanley entered the 2nd game as a nearly fully valued stock. He almost duplicated his game 1 effort versus the Colts, but there is limited room for upside valuation. I bumped him another 1 and I think +1 more would be appropriate if he plays this way the next 2 games, but he’s not starting like Matt Judon as a 5th round selection or with the enormous baggage of Matt Elam. That said, he’s played 2 preseason games and 47 graded snaps at a high level and it is entirely appropriate to be elated with what he has accomplished to date.
Urschel (-1/-1): DNP. We could have a LG controversy brewing in Baltimore, I’m guessing that might generate slightly less talk show traffic than Mallett/Johnson.
Wagner (0/0): He was shed by Bates that blew up Forsett’s 1-yard run (Q2, 12:53). He was also bulled by Walden for a pressure (Q2, 0:53). I included Wagner in the preseason review group because he’s returning from an injury-plagued 2015 where he wasn’t moving well. We’ve seen enough in 2 games to know he won’t lose his starting job at RT and we’ll have in-season scoring to determine his progress relative to last year, so I’ll drop him from review next week. The Ravens have 3 significant free agents following 2016, Williams, Wagner, and Juszczyk. It would be great news if all 3 played so well they earned huge contracts even if the Ravens could only retain 1.
Wallace (0/0): He played just 14 snaps and was not targeted. He’s been solid at camp with the bulk of his passes from Flacco. The coaches may feel there is no need to disrupt that.
Waller (-1/-2): He was listed as the targeted receiver just once, on the interception by Jerrod Johnson (Q3, 13:45). I think that was probably intended for Butler, but neither receiver had a shot at it. I will say that if those routes were both run properly, the play was a disaster waiting to happen with 2 receivers ending in close proximity. Waller’s negative score is a function of injury. Even though he has passed the concussion protocol, he may miss some practice time and he does not have much before the season (and his suspension) begins.
Watson (0/0): Ben was not targeted in 13 snaps, a common affliction. Put me down for “unconcerned”. He’s been a favorite target for Flacco in camp.
Wesley (+1/-1): Because it’s preseason, I don’t do a full offensive line scoring, particularly for the 2nd/3rd string. It’s a good sign that he didn’t show up with a pass blocking note. However, he failed to maintain his level 2 block (Q4, 13:08), which may have cost Dixon a touchdown. He also recovered the ill-advised grounding fumble by Johnson (Q3, 4:43) which could have been a disaster had the play been called properly on the field.
West (0/+1): West had some good runs, but the failure to follow the great blocks from Stanley, Lewis, and Aiken on the fake reverse (Q2, 8:04) was a bad time to ad lib. I’d also like to see less hurdling from him, because it entails both injury and turnover risk. Both the hurdles I noted (Q2, 13:35 and Q3, 0:53) resulted in minimal additional yardage. His screen reception on the left side (Q3, 2:12) was an uncashed opportunity to make CB Williams miss in the open field. He doesn’t have to convert all of those, of course.
Williams, Maxx (-1/0): DNP. There should be a lot of competition for skill position snaps in 2016. In an ideal world, that means rested players who can wear down a defense, but of the 53, there will probably be 2 skill position players who have to sit each week. Given the TE depth, those may include Williams at times in 2016.