Week 1 of a preseason game in the NFL gives the Baltimore Ravens an opportunity to go out and hit someone in a different color uniform and a first chance to see where they are in the present, playing in a game situation for the first time since last February.
Many things can happen between now and the start of the regular season. We have already seen a great deal of things happen to this team since the start of training camp, but this first tilt gives everyone a chance to see what the young players have taken from what was learned on the practice field and translate it to game situations.
Its also an opportunity to take a look at some of the veterans brought in this offseason to bolster the defense. Here is my take on what I saw from the Ravens preseason opener in Tampa Bay.
Defensive Line Shines
Its just the first game, but the defensive line (if healthy) could be very scary. Haloti Ngata ran well and was consistently in open space, gunning for the quarterback.
Chris Canty really impressed me. His legs looked fresh and set the tone early for his inital Ravens debut, swallowing up the hole during the Bucs first drive, recording a sack. It’s the reason they brought Canty in because he excels in both rush and pass situations and played both well last night. That kind of speed will do wonders for Ngata and Art Jones to name a few.
ILB Looking Strong
I mentioned recently Daryl Smith in the positional battle article being the potential starter at ILB. He started there last night and looked good in pursuit. He’s strong, physical and tackles well. He also forced a fumble in the 2nd quarter that was overturned. Smith played often on all three downs and Dean Pees mixed in Arthur Brown as well. That will certainly go a long way in easing the concern about who will start there, allowing Brown to work his way into the mix.
All reports during training camp about Josh Bynes showed up last night. A couple open field tackles where he slipped off defenders to make plays. If Jameel McClain is still recovering, Josh Bynes could be the guy next to Smith as he continues to grow confidence and make plays on the field.
Wide Receivers Outside of Torrey Smith Need Work
Torrey Smith ran good routes as the Ravens displayed some new looks. Some crossing routes and five-to-ten yard outs. Again, I stress, its very early in this season, and yes, the offensive game plan is very vanilla, but relying on Jacoby Jones for meaningful catches behind Torrey Smith may not be the best bet.
We saw a drop from Deonte Thompson, Jones also had a drop while Joe Flacco was in the game. Jones is certainly capable of the big play, but the young, unproven receivers need to begin stepping up behind him.
One guy who did just that was LaQuan Williams who hauled in a 21-yard touchdown from Tyrod Taylor in some heavy traffic. Williams has good hands and maybe the coaches are waiting for him to jump ahead of guys like Doss and Thompson. Ravens Insider, Aaron Wilson tweeted this gem last night:
Combined night for Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones: Five targets, one catch for five yards for Thompson.
— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) August 9, 2013
What’s important is continuing to establish rapport with Joe Flacco and to a certain extent, Tyrod Taylor in the last three weeks of preseason.
– Quite a statement from LaQuan Williams who is battling hard for a roster spot and made coaches take notice tonight in special teams and the battle for play time at WR. In addition to the receiving TD, recovered two fumbles and one was for a TD.
– Adrian Hamilton is also looking to make an impact at linebacker. In three consecutive plays just before the half, pressured Bucs QB Mike Glennon on first down, narrowly missed a sack on 2nd down but was able to hit the QB. Then on third down, recorded the sack to force Tampa Bay into a punt deep in their own territory.
– Its always a great thing to hear some pad-popping action going on, and there were plenty to go around last night. Bryan Hall, returning from an injury, had one and Matt Elam, fighting for a starting safety spot, had two form tackles which is nice to see.
– Tyrod Taylor actually made some really nice throws in the game, showing some touch off the back foot. Hooked up with rookie Aaron Mellette for a nice pitch and catch TD.
– Much maligned last season, Jerry Rosburg’s special teams set the tone in the preseason opener. They were alert, got to the football on recoveries and cleared the way for a nice 58-yard run by Bobby Rainey.
– Kyle Juszczyk received a lot of opportunity at fullback as a lead blocker in the 4th quarter and struggled at times. He had struggled at times in camp, getting blown up at the spot of contact or finding someone to block. He’ll be fine as he gets more experience under his belt, but that’s why Vonta Leach was brought back.
– Justin Tucker nailed a 57-yard field goal that hit the cross bar and went through. His leg is ready to go. Earlier, he connected on field goals from 43 and 29 yards respectively.