BALTIMORE – There wasn’t much that made Thursday night’s preseason opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium particularly watchable. If you don’t REALLY love NFL football, it was probably tough to stomach once Joe Flacco was pulled in the 2nd quarter.
There were penalties and turnovers, the weather was terrible and there were players on the field that not even the most passionate football fans know much of anything about. As preseason games go, this one was somehow more painful than most-played out in front of a national audience on ESPN. It was a game won 17-12 by the Ravens, although I’m not sure how many folks were still watching when it went final.
That being said, there were a number of good things that happened, even if they weren’t so easy to notice.
Flacco was particularly impressive during a 96 yard TD drive that began at the end of the 1st and spanned into the 2nd; culminating with a TD pass to Mark Clayton. Paul Kruger and Antwan Barnes both looked solid, and Marc Bulger showed the strong arm that made him a Pro Bowl QB with the St. Louis Rams.
And then there was Terrence Cody.
Cody was an incredible talent during his college career at Alabama, creating havoc throughout SEC backfields with a combination of overwhelming size, great strength and deceptive speed. He was considered by some scouts to be a Top 25 talent in the NFL Draft, but red flags allowed him to fall to the 57th overall pick-where he was selected by the Ravens.
Cody immediately impressed in OTA’s, including the team’s mandatory mini-camp. He was in the backfield constantly, highlighted by an impressive sack of QB Troy Smith where the former Crimson Tide standout proved his speed did not necessarily match his 6’4″, 349 pound frame.
OTA’s and mini-camps traditionally tend to be less challenging from a studying and scheming standpoint. Teams tend to avoid breaking open their playbooks and unleashing too much on a new group of young players too quickly. Much of that is saved for Training Camp.
For Terrence Cody, Training Camp hasn’t exactly been a finest hour. He failed the team’s conditioning test multiple times upon reporting to McDaniel College; and even John Harbaugh was forced to admit he was “surprised” when Cody finally managed to work his way off the PUP list. He has frustrated coaches during practice, with D-Line coach Clarence Brooks at one point labeling him “persona non grata”-as reported by WNST.net’s own Luke Jones.
Cody’s struggles were particularly frustrating for fans in Westminster given the absence of fellow 2nd round pick Sergio Kindle-who remains on the PUP list after fracturing his skull in an accident the weekend before camp opened.
Driving in to M&T Bank Stadium Thursday night, Rex Snider and I chatted on AM1570 WNST. We touched on a number of topics, one of which was Cody. I suggested to Rex that the concerns surrounding Cody early on might disappear once he hit the field in an actual game. Or in this case, at least something that resembled an actual game. I suggested that some players (Terrell Suggs came to mind) are just better when they have the natural rhythm of a game than they are when they are on a practice field.
Terrence Cody looked like just that Thursday night, and he knew it. “In a game, you just get that adrenaline and you just want to do a lot more” he told me following the win.
The night started poorly for Cody, as he was inserted in Cam Cameron’s red zone offense and was flagged for jumping early on a crucial 3rd down play. However, the offensive side of the ball is not the area where Cody is going to be asked to make an impact.
On the defensive side, Cody was very good. He displayed a natural feel for where the ball was and where it was going. He handled double teams from John Fox’s Carolina defense and showed the pure dominance that him a star at the collegiate level. For the game, he finished with 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 TFL); but made an impract on even more plays.
Harbaugh was impressed with the play of his young DT, noting “he made some plays in some big situations” and the coach thought Cody “controlled the middle in there pretty well.”
But despite the solid night, Harbaugh said he still needs to see improvement from the man nicknamed “Mount Cody”.
“The biggest thing with Terrence right now is…again…technique. We play a 2 gap system, a little bit different than what Alabama does. We think he’s very well suited for that, but he’s gotta learn those techniques.”
Harbaugh admitted there will need to be a learning curve with Cody. “It’s gonna be that way all year. It’s going to be a learning process all year for him. He’s really kinda built for that kinda system, that’s why we drafted him. It did show up tonight.”
As an early pick, Terrence Cody is going to be expected to make a great impact for the Baltimore Ravens, even early on. To do so, he’s going to have to match his on-field ability with equally impressive performances in workouts, classroom sessions and practice drills. Should he do so, he could press incumbent starter Kelly Gregg early and steal quite a bit of playing time in his first full season.
And in a game that was otherwise painful to watch, it was refreshing to see that Cody’s god-given ability appeared to translate perfectly to a semi-real game of football.
Hear reaction from Coach John Harbaugh, DT Terrence Cody, QB Joe Flacco, WR Mark Clayton and WR Anquan Boldin NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net. LB Antwan Barnes is scheduled to join Drew Forrester tomorrow morning on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST at 9:30am.