LANDOVER, Md. – Looking at the 23-3 final score, it would be easy to assume the Baltimore Ravens had no troubles with the Washington Redskins Saturday night at FedEx Field. It would also be easy to assume that after a less than overwhelming performance against the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens reminded their regional rivals and other teams throughout the NFL that they are a true favorite to win the AFC and reach the Super Bowl.
And to some extent, maybe all of that is true.
The reality is that after four weeks of practice at McDaniel College in Westminster and two preseason contests, everything that was a concern for this team as they entered Training Camp remains a concern still.
Without Domonique Foxworth, the biggest concern facing the Baltimore Ravens was in the secondary. Injuries (Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb), inexperience (Cary Williams and Prince Miller) and…well…insignificance (Chris Carr and Travis Fisher) still make the unit a rather large question mark to at least some extent.
Fabian Washington played a very solid first quarter in DC, but his long-term durability remains a question-especially considering his standing as the team’s current top corner. There has been a great fear that Lardarius Webb would end up starting the season on the PUP list, but it looks more and more like he will be active within a week. But little is known about how quickly Webb will be able to get into NFL game action, and how much he will resemble the player who was a pleasant surprise after being selected in the 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Nicholls State.
Chris Carr was at least adequate if not better for a 2nd straight week; but the same cannot be said for Travis Fisher. Fisher (and Dawan Landry) were torched early by a 45 yard pass from Donovan McNabb to Anthony Armstrong (which set up a Graham Gano field goal-Washington’s only points of the game). Fisher would have been torched by the same receiver again in the 2nd quarter had McNabb not been guilty of an overthrow.
Cary Williams was a bright spot for the Ravens, recording his second interception of the preseason on an underthrown ball from McNabb intended for Santana Moss. The only unfortunate part of Williams’ solid play is the reminder that he will be unavailable when the Ravens visit the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 1 and 2 due to a suspension handed down by Roger Goodell for a violation of the league’s conduct policy. Behind Williams; Prince Miller, Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins offered little to nothing in late game play.
The concerns surrounding the Ravens don’t stop there. At inside linebacker, there was no separation created by Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden or Dannell Ellerbe to lock down a starting role next to Ray Lewis. All three took turns having trouble with the likes of Chris Cooley and Moss over the middle; although none were liabilities against the run.
While the Ravens may have gotten pressure on Donovan McNabb at times, only once was Terrell Suggs able to put him in the dirt. With the question marks at corner, it is well known that the pass rush must improve for this team this season. Suggs had his hands full with rookie Skins tackle Trent Williams, while Trevor Pryce, Cory Redding, Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg appeared to do little more.
Offensively, the Ravens’ concerns surrounded scoring points and sustaining drives. The longest sustained scoring drive they put together with Joe Flacco and the offensive starters in the game was 40 yards to start the 2nd quarter (which was capped off by a 26 yard field goal from Billy Cundiff). They also put together a 68 yard TD drive two possessions later, but 51 of those yards came on a direct snap run by Haruki Nakamura off a fake punt.
The areas of concern are just that. Areas of concern.
But in the nature of building a team up after breaking them down, the Ravens did INDEED manage to prove that they are still the AFC North and Super Bowl contenders we believed them to be before Camp started.
The areas that WEREN’T concerning before Camp started are in no ways concerning now. The Ravens’ run defense allowed just 25 yards rushing. The Ravens spread the ball around offensively, with 7 different receivers catching at least two passes, and 16 different receivers hauling in at least one reception. Joe Flacco was steady if not spectacular-completing 9 of 16 passes for 72 yards. Sam Koch was absolutely stellar-totaling 235 yards on 5 punts and pinning the Redskins inside the 20 yard line 3 times.
Where we know the Ravens are good, we still know the Ravens are good.
Following the game, coach John Harbaugh said “we’re pleased with where we’re at, but we know we have a long way to go.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This team has shown nothing to make us think they aren’t capable of reaching every lofty goal that fans have for them. That being said, they’ve also reminded us that it’s going to be a long road to reaching those goals.
The good news is that the Super Bowl is still scheduled for February 6th in Dallas (or Arlington, Texas); not next weekend at M&T Bank Stadium. That will be nothing more than another preseason game-this time against the New York Giants.
Between now and February 6th, concerns will need to be limited.