Sunday, August 17, 2008

RAVENS REPORT CARD: Vikings 23 Ravens 15


Troy Smith showed excellent mobility which prevented at least two sacks, one of which he turned into an 18 yard gain. He is at his best executing designed rollouts and waggles and can keep defenses honest with naked bootlegs off the edge. He needs to be more accurate throwing to receivers in traffic. He adeptly audibled to a running play featuring zone blocking after recognizing a key provided by the Vikings defense. The result was a 42 yard scamper by Ray Rice.

Kyle Boller started his evening hitting his first eight passes but then missed on four straight including another interception while under pressure. The pick was thrown into heavy traffic with three defenders boxing in the intended receiver Justin Harper. The turnover was particularly costly since the series started at the Vikings 42 yard line. Boller needs to sell the screen pass better.

Joe Flacco had a much better outing following a near disastrous preseason debut in New England. Flacco was 10 of 15 for 74 yards and caught a break when an interception was negated by a Vikings’ face masking penalty. Flacco has poise particularly when leading a no huddle offense but he lacks a sense of urgency in the pocket. That has to improve otherwise he will be hit hard and stripped of the ball regularly. Flacco made a poor throw on the game’s final play intended for Justin Harper in the back of the end zone. He failed to spot Adam Bergen open breaking towards the right sideline inside the goal line on the game's final play.


Ray Rice shrugged off the jitters from his career debut last week and brought what many have seen in camp to the field of play against the Vikings. He had 8 carries for 77 yards including a touchdown. He showed patience in the red zone while picking his way through traffic. Le’Ron McClain made a key block on the TD run and also made a nice block on an 8 yard scamper by Rice in the first quarter. On his very first snap as a Raven, Lorenzo Neal stood up Jaren Allen springing Rice for a 7 yard pick up.


Ernie Wheelwright had a productive night on mostly short crossing routes. He had 5 catches for 37 yards. Adam Bergen also hauled in several short passes including a shoe string catch on the Ravens’ first offensive play. Matt Willis and Yamon Figurs caught the only other 2 passes distributed to any receivers. The longest completion on the night was 14 yards to Willis from Flacco on a key third down conversion with 46 seconds left in the game. Marcus Smith could have given a better effort on a sideline route nicely delivered by Kyle Boller early in the fourth quarter. Figurs has played with more physicality absorbing a big hit from Darren Sharper and supporting the run with solid blocking. During the few times when Ravens’ QB’s had time to set up and deliver, this unit failed to create separation downfield.


Chad Slaughter had a nightmarish evening. He struggled throughout the contest and was regularly beaten badly by Jared Allen. He was not in synch with Joe Flacco on what appeared to be a 5 step drop. Slaughter’s set looked like a 7 step and his man easily beat him to the inside. Jason Brown’s and Marshall Yanda’s push to the left help spring Ray Rice on his 42 yard run. Mike Kracalik was key on the play as well driving his man well to the right creating the gaping hole. Kracalik was guilty of a false start which took the Ravens from a third and 8 to a third and 13. Chris Chester was pushed around rather easily at times once pancaked by NT Fred Evans. Oniel Cousins was adequate at right tackle although he was beaten badly on one play by the not-so-household name Letroy Guion, a rookie from Florida State. Guion forced a Boller fumble and he also shook up the Ravens’ signal caller on the play. "We didn't protect the quarterback the way you have to," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. That might prove to be the understatement of the year.


The Ravens were without Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata, both nursing knee injuries. Dwan Edwards was the most effective of the starters, scrapping down the line of scrimmage to drop Adrian Peterson on a third down run. A couple of the reserves made the most of their increased workload. Amon Gordon had 6 tackles (2 for a loss) and a sack. Darrell Campbell had 5 tackles. Justin Bannan and Trevor Pryce were fairly limited.


Bart Scott shrugged off a slow start that included a missed tackle of Adrian Peterson after a short catch. Peterson turned the catch into a 22 yard gain to the Ravens’ 7. Scott rebounded with one tackle for a 2 yard loss delivering a jolting hit on Maurice Hicks. He also show good instincts when he disrupted a screen deep in Ravens’ territory. Nick Greisen was pushed around a bit while taking on the Vikings first unit players but played much better against the reserves. Antwan Barnes failed to hold down at the point of attack on a power sweep his way. He needs to sacrifice and contain to allow the pursuit to bring down the ball carrier. He did recognize a draw on a Vikings third down play deep in Minnesota territory. Jarret Johnson was active and disruptive at times.


Frank Walker has yet to show why the Ravens invested in him. The Vikings threw his way with success seemingly at will. He made Sydney Rice look like Jerry Rice. It was suggested to me that Walker’s new nickname should be “G-String” because he doesn’t cover anything. At best Walker is a nickel back and even at that he isn’t as good as Corey Ivy. Ivy did a nice job of shielding Vikings’ receiver Martin Nance on a go route down the left sideline. He was solid tackling as well in run support. Derrick Martin had a very good game although it could be his last performance for quite some time. Martin has a labrum injury to the left shoulder. MRI test results will determine the extent of the injury but it is feared that he could be lost for quite some time. Martin had a pick six to go with 3 passes defended and a tackle for a loss in run support. His loss could be costly. Dawan Landry was a little shaky in coverage. He and Fabian Washington mixed up their signals paving the way to an easy pitch and catch TD from Tavares Jackson to Martin Nance.

That wasn't Ravens defense," Ryan said. "Our communication from the coaches and on the field wasn't what it should be. You can put that on me. We didn't contain the quarterback, and that can't happen. "Secondary-wise, we just need to focus on our communication," safety Dawan Landry said. "... We gave them two touchdowns, one in the first quarter on miscommunication, and in the second quarter with miscommunication."

Now this seems to be a redundant theme in the Ravens secondary now doesn’t it?

Despite a missed tackle, Haruki Nakamura played well in coverage and in support of the run. He was one step from a pick six of his own. Tom Zbikowski continues to come on strong. He had 5 tackles (two for loss), a sack and a QB hurry.


Matt Stover’s deepest kickoff landed at the 10. The other landed at the 13. That is just unacceptable yet the Ravens may have no choice but to accept it. The Ravens averaged about 7 yards on punt returns while yielding 28 yards on 2 Vikings’ punt returns. They averaged roughly 24 yards per kick return while giving up about 18 yards per. Sam Koch had an off night with a 40.3 yard average and a 29 yard net. He had 2 touchbacks as well. Ronnie Prude pushed a Vikings’ gunner right into Zbikowski on one punt return.


Offense: Cam Cameron is utilizing the delays and screens to calm down the pass rush. That said he seems to be dipping into that well a bit too much. He may be holding back during the preseason. The team seems to be much more diversified when practicing. Look for more no huddle from the Ravens during the regular season.

Defense: On third and goal for the Vikings from the Ravens’ 5, Rex Ryan opted to send only 3 defenders after Gus Frerotte – Amon Gordon, Dwan Edwards and Antwan Barnes. Justin Bannan peeled back in coverage over the middle of the field around the 2. Frerotte had all day to throw and it cost the Ravens as Frerotte connected with his third option Robert Ferguson in the back of the end zone behind Corey Ivy...Leaving Frank Walker on an island when blitzing was a bad idea particularly after he was beaten all day.

OTHER NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS: The chop block penalty called against Ray Rice was a poor interpretation of the rule by the referee…Minnesota converted seven of 10 third downs during the first half of last night's game. Six of those conversions involved yards-to-go of at least five yards and two were of 11 yards each…The Ravens managed only 17 offensive plays in the first half to the Vikings’ 42. The Vikings dominated time of possession in the first half (17:56 v. 12:04) and in the game (34:35 v. 25:25). Overall Minnesota ran 25 more plays than the Ravens (78 v. 53)…The Ravens failed third down attempts had an average yards-to-go of over 14 yards. Their 4 successful conversions averaged less than 5 yards…The Ravens have yet to throw for a touchdown in two preseason games…If the Ravens had tied the game in regulation, it would have forced overtime and it probably would have preempted the scoreboard play of the Michael Phelps’ record setting eighth gold medal telecast. You think Flacco overthrew that pass on purpose? After all, the tuba player in the Ravens Marching Band had a better chance of making that catch than Justin Harper.