Ladies and gentlemen, Ravens football is back. Yes, it’s just the preseason, but it’s better than the drudgery of the offseason. With the return of football, comes the return of my weekly articles, the first of which is The Good, The Bad, the Ugly, and the (celebrity to be determined by the end of this article).
For the new readers, this will be a weekly edition where I give you a quick-and-dirty breakdown of what went right, and what went wrong for the Ravens in their game that week. This week? We take a look at Preseason Week 1, when the Jacksonville Jaguars came to town.
The Good – Defensive Depth
The Ravens are coming off of a season in which they ranked No. 1 in overall defense, but had (have) some questions about who would replace the production of veterans like ILB C.J. Mosley, FS Eric Weddle, and Ravens legend Terrell Suggs.
Some, not all, of those questions were answered on Thursday night, when the Ravens had themselves a little shutout of the Jaguars (granted, the Jaguars sat 30+ starters). Whether it was Anthony Averett, Cyrus Jones, or Kenny Young, the Ravens second and third-string defensive players seemed to come up with play after play after stop after pick.
This is both good and bad (stay with me here). It’s good because it gives the Ravens, and fans, confidence that if the worst happens, the talent drop off won’t be massive at any defensive position (unless Earl Thomas goes down – there’s no easy replacement for a HoF caliber FS). It’s bad because it’s going to make for some extremely hard decisions come cut-down day.
Jones appears to have improved as a defensive back, which strengthens his case to return to the roster in 2019. Bennett Jackson has had an up-and-down NFL career, but came on strong as soon as he got reps. Kenny Young absolutely decimated the Jags’ 3rd string quarterback, coming unblocked to de-helmet him at the goal line (followed immediately by an absolute travesty in a coverage assignment). Patrick Onwuasor started at MIKE, with the Magic Green Dot, and was flying around like a man possessed. Young followed him at the MIKE, MGD and all, and neither of them seemed to have much trouble lining the defense up, albeit in a vanilla scheme.
Now, after taking the grain of salt that is the zero depth of Jacksonville, Ravens fans should absolutely be excited about the potential of this defense, especially considering some pretty hefty starters didn’t even touch the field, including the two starting safeties. The pass rush was able to get home more than once, and it seemed like every linebacker that saw the field, contributed something. Wink has a wealth of weaponry in his pocket, and I expect a very good year from the reigning No. 1 defense.
The Bad – Antoine Wesley, not as advertised…
We’ve all seen/heard the reports of Antoine Wesley, the UDFA receiver that had a breakout year in 2018. We’ve seen the comparisons, and the gushing over potential ceiling. Thursday night may have shown him to be a practice hero, and that’s okay (for year one). He’s a UDFA for a reason. When he saw the field, it looked like the game was too fast for him, and that’s saying something in PWk1, when the game is only about ¾ speed for everybody else.
Wesley ran shoddy routes, his blocking left a lot to be desired, and his hands were reminiscent of a certain former 1st round pick that is no longer with the team. If I’m being honest, he reminded me a lot of the 2018 version of Jaleel Scott. Too skinny, unsure of himself, and lost when the lights came on. Perhaps he needs the Jaleel Scott treatment (who was very good on Thursday night, by the way), and a year on IR is in his future. If the trend continues, the battle for the 6th wideout spot belongs to Scott, and it isn’t particularly close.
All is not lost, Wesley fans (I’m speaking to myself as well). He has a chance in the next three weeks to make an impression, but as of right now, go ahead and cross him off of your 53-man roster predictions. Too much talent in front of him leaves him without a home.
The Ugly – The offensive line is offensive…
It’s never a good night when you have to trot out a starting offensive line of Stanley-Aluminum-Skura-Hurst-Brown, but that’s how the chips fell this week. For what it’s worth, Stanley, Skura, and Brown were all very good. Yes. Skura. Good. Wanna fight about it? Because we can.
Aluminum was horrendous, getting absolutely no push, and in a few reps, getting absolutely bowled over by second-stringers, or letting a guy go unblocked, which is, you know, bad. On the other side, Hurst looked slow-of-foot, and if you’re slow-footed as an offensive lineman, guess what? You’re bad at your job.
The second and third-string lines were even worse, with the exceptions of Booze, Mekari, and of course Powers. Powers definitely looks the part, and if anything, Thursday night should net him more first team reps, and more play time in PWk2. Booze was solid in limited play, allowing one pressure and no sacks. Mekari, another UDFA, had some good pulls, and showed quick feet in pass protection.
If this offensive line suffers any injuries at all, the fans are in for a long season. So are the running backs. Hell, so is Lamar Jackson.
The Chloe Bennett (celebrity to be changed later)
Every week, I will choose a player of the week, as it were, and they will win this award. This week, in limited snaps, it was without question Lamar Jackson. Here’s why.
All offseason, this kid has had to endure questions about his throwing. His size. His ability to command an offense. His ability to lead.
He answered a lot of those questions immediately, when he took control of the Greg Roman vanilla-scheme. He showed more poise in the pocket, a better read of the defense, and a better understanding of protections. He used his play action perfectly, finding Chris Moore down the sideline for a big gain, and followed that up with Moore completions to the opposite sideline. The first was a perfectly placed ball, allowing Moore to snatch it out of the air in stride, getting some serious YAC. He trusted Willie Snead in the red zone, lasering a pass and allowing him to wiggle his way into the end zone for a score.
And guess what, guys? He didn’t run once. He didn’t even try to run – although there was one incompletion where I think he would’ve tucked and ran if it was a regular season game.
I’m not saying he’s a finished product. Most of you know that I’m of a mind to wait and watch when it comes to Lamar. But he’s definitely made progress during the offseason, and the people that pick apart every little thing that he does? Those people need to evaluate their own lives before they evaluate him as a player.
That’s it for this week, Flockers. If you think I missed on something, feel free to argue about it with me on Twitter, where you can find me @ChibsRSR.