Oh preseason, how I loathe you, but your third game is somewhat worth watching. The third preseason game is typically when the starters go the longest and fans get the best look at what the team will field in September. Here are my five takeaways from tonight.
1. Ice Up, Son
Have yourself a day, Steve Smith. Today, he really proved age is just a number, while putting up numbers himself. The old man pulled in six receptions for a total of 80 yards, and one touchdown. Shaking off a number of defenders, Smith broke off a 30 yard catch and run. Later he made a stumbling grab in the endzone for one of the Ravens touchdowns. Smith made a statement tonight, showing the NFL that while he may not be the Steve Smith of old, you still don’t want to see him on the other side of the ball.
2. Keep On, Keep On Running
Run as you will, this defense looks like it’s ready to stop runaway trains. The Ravens defense held the Redskins to 81 yards rushing, and were absolutely chaotic in the Redskins’ backfield. Brandon Williams led the charge with five tackles, two for a loss, one quarterback hit and looked like the guy General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Coach John Harbaugh talked up when he was drafted. It was also nice to see the rookie Safety, Terrence Brooks, disrupt the opposing backfield once or twice, a welcomed skill set in the Ravens’ secondary.
3. Secondary Grabbing Air
Fans hear all the time that tackling is a lost art. The Ravens’ secondary, while decent in coverage, could not tackle properly. Fans were witness to a large amount of ankle diving, one armed tackles, and defenders simply not wrapping up the ball carrier. And while the entire starting secondary was not available today, it does not bode well that we are getting closer to the regular season. There are going to be games where the secondary is simply outclassed and they’re going to need be able to the limit the yards after the catch in order to give the team any chance of winning. This needs to be a priority fix before the season starts.
4. Bread And Butter Hurry-Up
Joe Flacco’s biggest weapon, in my opinion, is the hurry-up offense. His last drive of the game went 74 yards in eight plays and took a total of one minute and 40 seconds. That beat the Ravens’ second longest drive by less than three plays, totaled five more yards, took about 5 minutes less to complete, and achieved four more points. Flacco always seems to excel in the hurry-up and I was really hoping Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak would utilize it more frequently after he came over. Alas, I have not seen much of the hurry-up in the preseason, but hopefully I will see it emphasized more in the regular season.
5. Offensive Line Problems?
One of the big things Ozzie Newsome went out of his way to try and fix this year was the offensive line. While he may be a great General Manager, he may not have fixed the problem completely and that’s the last things fans want to hear. I say completely because while the pass protecting looked shaky at best, the run blocking looked much better and more refined. I do believe the Redskins have one of the better defensive lines in the league (when healthy), but Flacco still had an excessive amount of pressure in his face and it came fast. The starting offensive line only gave up two sacks, but the pressure on Flacco caused many bad passes. That is the reason why the Ravens’ started going to quicker passes, and the offense started moving the ball and got into a rhythm.
There are definitely improvements to be made on both sides of the ball for the first regular season game, but there are also positives to be excited for, like Steve Smith, the hurry-up, Brandon Williams, and just tough nosed Ravens football. While that and this may sound cliché, we really won’t know what we are dealing with until September 7th.