The Baltimore Sun’s Matt Vensel spotlights Baltimore Sports Report and contributor Matt Lund in this week’s Blogger on Blogger feature to give an unique perspective on the Baltimore Ravens. Here is the transcript of the conversation.
Matt Vensel: Are you concerned with how the Ravens’ first teams played against the Atlanta Falcons last week?
Matt Lund: I’m not entirely concerned yet. However, I’d like to see the offense get some rhythm going. There were a few things to be happy about. The nice catch and run from Torrey Smith showing off his speed that led to a 77-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco. His route running has been crisp. You don’t have right guard Marshal Yanda on the offensive line, so right now, their play as a whole leaves a lot to be desired.
Defensively, after the first drive, the starters weren’t solid. One thing I noticed that concerned me were the arm tackles that Steven Jackson continued to run through. Jimmy Smith had trouble in his time on the field being picked on by Matt Ryan. He didn’t locate the football well at all. This unit needs Lardarius Webb ready to go. One player I thought had a solid game overall was Elvis Dumervil who pressured Matt Ryan a couple times.
Overall, the third game will be where you see both the offense and defense crank up and get going. This is what preseason is for: to work out the kinks.
MV: Do you think the Ravens will be able to get by with the wide receivers on the roster? Who is most likely to step up?
ML: It doesn’t appear so. The Ravens are waiting for someone, anyone really, to step up behind Torrey Smith and be the No. 2 receiver. Jacoby Jones has been inconsistent. Brandon Stokley was brought in to help that along, but we’ll see more from him in the slot, working the soft spots of the defense.
I’m really high on Aaron Mellette. He’s a tough, physical receiver who can make catches in traffic. I like his athleticism and his hands. But he has yet to be on the field with Joe Flacco in a preseason game.
Can he continue to translate it to game speed against starting-caliber players? That remains to be seen.
MV: It doesn’t appear that top picks Matt Elam and Arthur Brown will start in Week 1. Can the Ravens afford to be patient?
ML: Yes, they can be patient, more so with Arthur Brown. I’ve been impressed with Daryl Smith’s play at middle linebacker which can take the pressure off of Brown assuming the starting spot right away. When Brown has been in, he’s looked good in coverage on passing downs and has the recognition to do well against the run. He recorded three tackles, two of which were for a loss against Atlanta. I expect he won’t be the backup for long. Talent finds its way on the field.
With Elam, it may be sooner that he sees the field. He’s too dynamic a player not to be. He’s a hard hitter, so he fits right in on this defense. It’s Elam’s knack for finding the football and his ability to tackle that sets him apart from the others.
MV: Would you like to see Marshal Yanda and Lardarius Webb play in the preseason, or do you think it’s unnecessary?
ML: I think it benefits the offensive line more so if Yanda gets reps in a game. The line has been inconsistent in its run-blocking duties and not having the starting center decided really throws this line off. Yanda is a mauler who understands this offense. He should see a little action in the fourth game, but getting reps in practice with the starters is key.
Lardarius Webb hasn’t played since last October, so getting him into a game situation would be beneficial. He’s looked solid in practice all camp and with Jimmy Smith struggling, they need Webb badly to be a full-go once the season starts. Again, long enough to get comfortable but he won’t need many game reps.
MV: What do you want to see most in the third preseason game?
ML: The thing I want to see most is the starting offense get into a good rhythm and execute some nice drives. I think Flacco has things to iron out with his receivers and he’ll likely play most of the third game as a tune-up before the real deal.
Keeping everyone healthy is high on my list as well.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.