Friday, August 26, 2011

The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox: Preseason Ravens v. Redskins

The third preseason game is widely viewed as the real tune-up for the season opener and it is generally the most entertaining contest on the preseason docket – a docket often brimming with yawners.

Thursday night’s game was about as exciting as a preseason game could be and for the Ravens offense, it showed that they could come off the mat and get back into the fight.

Entering the Battle of the Beltways Cam Cameron’s unit had struggled to find a rhythm (despite what John Harbaugh says) and collectively they looked to shed the monkey on their back. Flacco’s completion percentage was down; he had yet to throw a TD pass and the offensive line was as reliable as wedding vows from Tiger Woods.

The first quarter of the game was not only more of the same for the offense it was arguably worse, marked by a Flacco to DeAngelo Hall pick 6. To their credit the first and second team offenses each rallied and now they can carry some confidence into their home opener against the Steelers and that’s a whole lot better than marinating in the stench of the ineptness we witnessed in last night’s first quarter.

Before I get to The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox, it’s worth mentioning that players play at different intensity levels during the preseason. Upper echelon players aren’t going 100%. There’s too much at risk financially. Other veterans whose starting positions are secure, same thing. Reserves, rookies and players on the bubble are playing with their hair on fire because their futures depend upon it.

Consequently the results are mixed and it’s nearly impossible to project future performance levels during the regular season when all players are dialed in at 100% based upon the varying and conflicting agendas that permeate during the preseason.

THE GOOD: Joe Flacco rebounded from a slow start to finish the evening 17 for 29, 217 yards, 2TD’s and an INT. When Joe looks at the tape he’ll see that he predetermined where he was going with the football on that pick 6. No. 5’s highlights included a terrific back shoulder throw to Ed Dickson between two defenders for a 33 yard gain along the left hash mark. Flacco was also effective under fire finding Ray Rice to keep plays alive. On one such play He hit Rice for a 6 yard gain avoiding a sack and picking up a first down. On the very next play he dropped a 9 route right in the bucket down the right sideline to Lee Evans who beat DeAngelo Hall on a 35 yard scoring strike.

Ray Rice ran with determination and a spark while following some solid run blocking up front. He broke arm tackles when he had to and accelerated quickly when space was there and despite the attention he attracts, he continues to find space as a check down receiver despite being a small target. Both he and Ricky Williams did a nice job in pass protection.

Anthony Allen ran hard and looks like a 7th round steal. He churned out 27 yards on 4carries and continues to impress with his quick accelerator. He had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter but was unable to corral a touch pass from Tyrod Taylor in the left corner of the end zone. Vonta Leach is a battering ram and his contributions in short yardage cannot be understated. Cam Cameron needs to show more confidence in that…

Ed Dickson has a vertical aspect to his game and the ability to produce yards after the catch that Todd Heap didn’t possess. If he can develop consistency he will be a force. Thursday night was a start…Lee Evans’ play must put a smile on the face of Ozzie Newsome. In two preseason games he’s shown that he can toe-tap a sideline for a first down, get deep and make catches in traffic…Receiving mate Anquan Boldin was adept at finding soft spots in the Redskins zone and on this night was much more sure-handed than he had been last Friday against the Chiefs…Tandon Doss is polished, instinctive and he has very good ball skills. For the moment he’s earned the No. 3 WR position. Whether the Ravens give it to him remains to be seen…David Reed shows flashes but his alligator arm effort on a slant from Taylor is a bit concerning. Reed looked explosive in the return game as did LaQuan Williams on his 38 yard punt return to set up the team’s game winning drive…Brandon Jones will get lost in a numbers game but he’s done very little wrong during training camp. Sometimes the NFL is political. He made a great play to get to the pylon for the winning score last night. Here’s hoping that others were watching and that he can catch on with another team.

Defensively Cary Williams was a half-step behind in man coverage a couple of times but showed good presence of mind to recover and strip Santana Moss in the end zone. He needs to improve in run support but look strong blitzing from his corner position to record a pressure and knockdown of QB Rex Grossman…Lardarius Webb is explosive in short spaces and that makes him a threat when blitzing from his nickel position. He also showcased textbook coverage while finding his man, positioning himself and turning for the ball to intercept a deep pass from John Beck. He gets the Sybil Award too. He can look so dangerous on one play and then look like he’s auditioning for Dancing with the Stars when covering a slot receiver with good change of direction skills. He gets turned around far too often for someone possessing such athleticism…

Cory Redding played well both in run support and rushing the passer. Pushed by the solid play of Art Jones, the veteran is stepping up and picking up where he left off late in 2010…Pernell McPhee continues to make plays and make observers wonder how he was still around in the fifth round.

THE BAD: Jah Reid is a tough player once he’s engage with a defender. But in space against faster opponents he struggles. Ryan Kerrigan made him whiff after a spin move even though he had some chip relief provided by Leach…Not sure where the safeties were last night, maybe at Mother’s in Federal Hill because none were very noticeable or around the ball during passes over the middle…The linebackers’ drop have to be questioned too because the center of the Ravens defense looked like the Grand Canyon at times…Jimmy Smith can play but he still needs to learn as evidenced by the mental breakdown that led to a 24 yard scoring strike from Grossman to Moss on a third and 15.

THE UGLY: Torrey Smith on an end around for a loss of 7. Somewhere along the Redskins sideline Donte Stallworth had to be laughing. Smith also did his best Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran impersonation with two drops on perfectly delivered passes from Flacco…Michael Oher takes the bait every time on overload blitzes. The man he’s lined up on takes a hard angle to the left; Oher follows then before he can recover the DE gets to the QB untouched. The Steelers did it with Troy Polamalu (a play I’ve seen on ESPN about a million times) and the Redskins did it last night, with Brian Orakpo getting the easy sack…When fighting for a job you can’t fumble. Unfortunately for Jalen Parmele he did exactly that…Domonique Foxworth is recovering from his ACL surgery from a year ago. I get it. But on field, he looks just like Samari Rolle did when he was no longer effective.

THE MEGAN FOX: Back during the lockout days when the fellas were practicing over at Towson University, I watched Tyrod Taylor and wondered why the Ravens wasted a sixth round pick on him. I had him cut and heading for Canada. But ever since those days he has steadily progressed and has grown better and better each time he takes the field. His athleticism, escapability, toughness and poise are impressive and now he’s standing in and delivering passes on time while making plays with his feet when the offensive front breaks down. He made an All-Pro touch pass to Anthony Allen that should have won the game but the rookie RB couldn’t hang on. Taylor shrugged that off on the Ravens’ next possession and calmly took his team 35 yards in 32 seconds with no timeouts to win the game on a pass to Brandon Jones.

The Ravens dialed up the 3T Network – Tyrod Taylor Time, and he delivered.

Shoe leather never tasted so good!


Jerry B said...

Hard to disagree with your assessment, TL, but I still believe much of the offense's issues aside from the OL, which should be improved with McKinnie at LT and Oher back at RT, rest squarely on Cameron's shoulders! My major criticism is that his offense still looks out of sync and he insists on keeping Flacco under center when it is apparent that the guy is more comfortable in the "gun" where he's set when he gets the ball, can see the pass rush and passing lanes and doesn't have to turn his back and lose valuable seconds setting up! Maybe we'll see more of it in the regular season, but I'm still skeptical. Torrey Smith has been a disappointment this preseason, but there appears to be a plethora of talent to choose from. And, Tyrod Taylor is already a much better QB than Troy Smith! That being said, they still need an experienced backup QB.......

richieG said...

hey TL,
On target, as usual...but, a little different perspective on my part re Joey under pressure: his check-down/escaping pressure throws seem to be thrown into congested areas (more so than other QBs) and therefore very tippable, and then up for grabs. DEoesn't make sense to me.
Also, I don't see how the O-line will be stabilized and ready for the Steelers - hope I am wrong.

Tony Lombardi said...


Good point about the check downs and tipped balls. It bears watching but for a defense to account for Rice with 2 players at times and Flacco still unable to find receivers down field suggests that they are holding in too many for pass protection...and that could be because they don't want to risk injury in the preseason to Joe.

It bears watching for sure.

As for the Pitt game, I think they'll have to win it in other phases...defense, special teams and field position. And I think they will.

Jerry B said...

Note to you and my buddy, richieG: I share those concerns expressed, but believe that poorly designed pass receiver routes account for much of the apparent confusion and hesitation in the pocket. And, that is a function of coaching, which gets back to my concerns about the OC.......