I can’t believe football season has finally arrived. Well, sort of. Last night the Ravens defeated the Carolina Panthers 17-12 in their first preseason game and I had to privilege to endure the rain and take this one in from M&T Bank Stadium. Before I get started I should say that it’s the preseason, which means that you should take these observations with a grain of salt.
- Improvements at the stadium – Though it was just about impossible to get out of M&T Bank Stadium when the rain started coming down, I left the stadium impressed with the new HD scoreboards and the purple fireworks shot off during the player introductions.
- Flacco looked solid – Quarterback Joe Flacco went 8 for 12 with 120 yards and a touchdown pass to Mark Clayton. It was Flacco’s second long attempt to Clayton. I was surprised to see the number of short completions to the running backs, specifically Willis McGahee. A few of the plays were designed that way, but the offensive line didn’t allow much time to really show case the new receiving corps. Which leads me to my next point…
- Oher struggles – Ravens quarterbacks were sacked four times and Flacco appeared hurried on several more occasions. I hate to single out Michael Oher, but he appeared to be failing to hold back the blitz on Joe Flacco against Carolina’s starting defense.
- Cundiff up 1-0 on Graham – The 2010 Ravens kicking battle is underway and after one preseason game Billy Cundiff has the early lead. Cundiff kicked two balls in the first half into end zone and converted two extra points. Shayne Graham’s kick offs weren’t as deep and he failed to convert a 50 yarder, though was able to put a 32 yard field goal through the uprights.
- Bulger using a different playbook? – As impressed as I was with Joe Flacco, I was equally as disappointed in Marc Bulger. He struggled with the same offensive line issues that Flacco and Smith did, but appeared to be throwing off his back foot and making sever mis-reads on wide receivers.
- Zbikowski returning punts? – The one thing I hated seeing was Tom Zbikowski returning a punt right after he recorded a sack on defense. John Harbaugh needs to focus on keeping his defensive backs as healthy as possible, getting them injured on special teams (like Lardarius Webb last season) would be a dumb and costly mistake.