I liked the extended performance of backup QB Tyrod Taylor for the Ravens--- he has seemingly evolved into a thinking man's (or woman's) QB as a read-option change of pace compared to the gunslinger Joe Flacco...
I also liked the special teams energy shown by Baltimore against Tampa Bay on Thursday night...
But there were a lot of personnel questions still left unanswered after the Ravens beat the Bucs 44-16 in a slopfest down at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa...
I know it's still way early to judge anything, but...
Welp, here are ESPN beat-writer's Jamison Hensley's thoughts on the 2013 debut of the Ravens, which I tend to echo for the most part:
"As far as the first-team offense goes, it was a forgettable performance. Joe Flacco went 7-of-9 for 57 yards in one quarter of work. His worst throw was getting the ball late to Jacoby Jones on the sideline, where it was intercepted by former Ravens cornerback Danny Gorrer. The offensive line didn't open many holes for Ray Rice (7 yards on three carries) and let an unblocked Lavonte David sack Flacco, while left tackle Bryant McKinnie was standing around and blocking no one."
Two veteran newcomers on defense, defensive lineman Chris Canty and inside linebacker Daryl Smith, made great first impressions. On the first three plays of the game, Canty pushed his blocker back (which led to a 1-yard loss on a run), hurried quarterback Josh Freeman into an incompletion and then sacked Freeman on third down. Smith was everywhere in that first quarter and displayed great awareness when he jumped on an inside screen pass.
There were two injuries of note, but it appears neither is serious. Backup running back Bernard Pierce limped off the field after scoring a 20-yard touchdown and didn't get another touch the rest of the game. Wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who is fighting for a starting job, appeared to hurt his ankle late in the second quarter. Because it occurred with less than two minutes remaining, Thompson made sure he got off the field so the Ravens wouldn't be charged with a timeout. Asked about the injuries after the game, coach John Harbaugh told reporters, "We're looking pretty good right now."
Wide receiver LaQuan Williams made a strong case to make the team. Williams knows he has to to have a presence on special teams and he came up big, recovering a fumble of a muffed punt return and recovering a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown. He also caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Nothing was cleared up in the Ravens' competition for the No. 2 receiver spot. Thompson had one catch for 5 yards, and Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss both failed to make a reception. Jones couldn't hold onto a Flacco pass on third-and-2 in the first quarter.
Based on the limited action for the first-team defense, it looks like Courtney Upshaw will play outside linebacker on running downs and Elvis Dumervil will come on the field for passing situations. Dumervil, the team's biggest free-agent pickup, is regarded as one of the top pass-rushers in the league.
The Ravens obviously want to give a lot of work to backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who hasn't seen much playing time in the regular season in his two previous seasons. He completed 13 of 23 passes (56.5 percent) for 154 yards and two touchdowns. His last touchdown pass, a 21-yarder to Aaron Mellette, showed nice touch. Taylor also ran for 27 yards.
Starters who didn't play: CB Lardarius Webb (knee), TE Ed Dickson (hamstring), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and ILB Jameel McClain (back).
Give props to rookie QB Mike Glennon for Tampa Bay. He made the Ravens' 2's and 3's look stupid on defense at times. In fact, I think he outplayed Tampa's QB#1 Josh Freeman.
On the first play of his first series under center in an NFL game, the third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State calmly stepped up in the pocket to escape the hands grasping for his ankles and unfurled a long, soft throw over the heads of the Baltimore Ravens defense and into the waiting arms of tight end Tom Crabtree, who turned the catch into a 61-yard reception and a Bucs scoring chance.
For both Glennon and the Bucs, though, it was all pretty much downhill after that. But I liked the calm determination shown by Glennon. I think he has a chance to fare well in the future. On this rainy night he was somewhat abandoned by the game conditions and the fact he was stuck with the 2's and the 3's.
On a night when cornerback Darrelle Revis was among six projected starters who didn’t dress for game, the Bucs started strong but slowly fell victim to a morass of mistakes that allowed the Super Bowl champion Ravens to leave Raymond James Stadium with a 44-16 win in the first preseason game for both teams.
With the exception of a 41-yard pass to Chris Owusu that closed out the first half, Glennon largely struggled after making that initial throw, completing 11 of 23 passes overall for 169 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
“I thought Mike Glennon handled himself with really good poise,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “The one interception, it was a good throw, it was the wrong route. You have to throw that route before it breaks, so it looked awful because it was awful, but that was not on him.
“For his first time out, it didn’t look too big for him.”
On this night, Glennon had plenty of company. A muffed punt return by Owusu and a blocked Chas Henry punt in the end zone led to a pair of first-half Ravens touchdowns.
Baltimore also produced a fourth-quarter field goal and touchdown off turnovers committed by fourth-team quarterback Adam Weber, who had his first two throws of the game intercepted. Weber had just simply an awful outing.
The Ravens had over 100 yards in penalties--- not a good thing if you're trying to repeat as NFL champion. But to be fair, most of those yards in penalties were called on Chykie Brown, the 3rd year cornerback who had a sudden complete lapse of technique in the first half. Face-guarding, out of position, biting on double moves--- Brown needs a complete makeover in the classroom.
Not that it was all bad for the Bucs. Rookie kicker Derek Dimke helped turn Glennon’s 61-yard toss into points with a 35-yard field goal, one of three he kicked in the game.
The Bucs defense got off to a good start, as well, generating a sack of quarterback Joe Flacco by linebacker Lavonte David and an interception of Flacco by cornerback Danny Gorrer during the Ravens’ first offensive series.
“That was a good way to start the game, by making a play and getting the defense off the field,’’ Schiano said. “That was good.’’
Those two plays helped the first-team offense get off to a good start, as well. Starting quarterback Josh Freeman drove the Bucs 56 yards for their first score, a 29-yard Dimke field goal.
“The reason for the preseason is tuning up,’’ said Freeman, who completed four of seven passes for 34 yards during two series. “We talked about coming out and playing physical and not turning the ball over as an offense.
“That was one of our main goals. And then just the whole procedure, whether it’s breaking the huddle, substituting — a lot of different things. I thought it was an effective day.’’
It was for some. Backup running back candidate Brian Leonard ran six times for 23 yards and a touchdown, including 13 yards on a first-and-10 play that helped the Bucs take a 3-0 lead on their second series.
Leonard also threw a key block during that series, picking up a blitzing Chykie Brown in the backfield and allowing Freeman to get off a 22-yard pass to Kevin Ogletree.
Sparked by Glennon’s 61-yard passing play to Crabtree, which started with Tampa Bay backed up at its 6-yard line, the Bucs improved their lead to 6-0 on their next series. That drive stalled when Glennon had a ball batted down behind the line and threw short for Owusu downfield. Dimke salvaged the effort with his 35-yard field goal.
The Bucs lost that lead midway though the second quarter by giving the ball away on a fumbled punt return by Owusu at Tampa Bay’s 20-yard line. Of course, to be fair, it should be mentioned that the fumble occurred during a driving rain.
The Ravens needed one play to regain the edge as running back Bernard Pierce ran through the line and beat linebacker Jonathan Casillas to the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
Pierce came up limping after that play, so we will keep an eye on that....
The Bucs came right back, and taking advantage of a pass interference penalty drawn by Owusu at the Ravens’ 5-yard line, took a 13-7 lead on a 3-yard rumble into the end zone by Leonard with 5:25 left in the half.
The Ravens cut their deficit to 13-10 when Justin Tucker hit a 43-yard field goal with 3:26 to play and took a 17-13 lead when Anthony Allen scored a 2-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left in the half.
The Bucs chose to play for a score after getting the ball back with 29 seconds to play in the half, but two Glennon incompletions and a sack at Tampa Bay’s 11-yard line set the stage for LaQuan Willimas’ recovery in the end zone of Henry’s blocked punt.
“I’ve been in this league before,” Schiano said. “Even after we won our first preseason game last year, I had no visions of grandeur, so neither am I going to go ballistic about tonight. There will be some good things on that tape.”
And no doubt John Harbaugh and his coaching staff will be doing the same---poring over tape in the next few days. Some of the Ravens played their way into further consideration as 53-man roster guys--- and some played their way out down in Tampa.