Once again, there were lots of good signs and only a few bad ones coming out of Saturday night’s Ravens pre-season win over the Giants.
The 24-10 win moves the Ravens to 3-0 in 2010 pre-season and continues to prepare them well for the September 13 opener at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets.
The biggest disappointment was an injury to Donte’ Stallworth (broken foot) that will keep him out of action for at least 8 weeks. But if a team could ever withstand a serious injury to a newly acquired wide receiver, it’s the Ravens — this year. Isn’t that odd to say for a team that has been wide-receiver-challenged throughout the last decade? Yes, indeed, it is.
Back to the game.
Joe Flacco was superb in his nearly 30 minutes of work, completing 24 of 31 passes. Obviously, there won’t ever be a game this season — or most likely won’t — in which Flacco throws 31 times in one half of play. So it was clear from the outset on Saturday that one of Cam Cameron’s goals was to get Flacco plenty of work and, hopefully, give him a confidence-booster going into the start of the regular season. Goal accomplished. Flacco was sharp throughout the first half, connecting with Todd Heap and Anquan Boldin for TD passes and throwing just one interception, which bounced off Boldin’s hands into the chest of Giants’ defensive back Corey Webster. It also looks as if Flacco might be picking up some of the nuances of Mark Bulger’s game. Flacco’s release was noticeably quicker on Saturday night. He made two outstanding throws in the first half to highlight that point: a sideline bullet to Derrick Mason that met #85 just as he broke to his right, and a nice throw across the middle that Boldin collected in traffic. A split second earlier and the Giants secondary would have disrupted the play. Make no mistake about it, Flacco looked every bit the part of an elite quarterback on Saturday night, pre-season or not.
Boldin looks to be the real deal, which we all suspected anyway. But watching him in action on YOUR team gives you a much better respect level for what he can do and also makes you wonder what on earth Arizona was thinking shipping him away for a couple of tackling dummies and a ball throwing machine. The man is a beast. He’s everything the Ravens need. He can go across the middle, he can stretch the field and he can catch it in traffic. Think Hines Ward — without the need for two or three cheap shots every game.
Is it me or do the Ravens have about 6 different offensive weapons to punish teams with in 2010? Rice can scoot around for 100 yards every Sunday if the game plan is designed for that. Inside the ten, you can give the ball to Willis McGahee three times and odds are really good he’s getting in the end zone. And if the situation calls for it, hand the ball to Le’Ron McClain 12 times in the 3rd and 4th quarter and he’ll wear down any defense in the league. In the air, Flacco can use Boldin, Mason or Mark Clayton, who appears to be well-suited for his new role in the slot and could wind up being the team’s offensive “sleeper” if teams decide they won’t let Boldin beat them. And then there’s the ever-present Todd Heap, who is still a threat to provide reliability and sure hands.
It’s pre-season and all, but this Ravens offense appears to be a handful. And that’s being kind.
There are still some question marks about the Baltimore defense. The interior line is as good as any in the league and few teams will find enough daylight to try running the ball up the middle on the Ravens. But both the Panthers (in week 1) and Giants found success by taking the ball outside and running on the Ravens linebacker corps. There were two plays in specific last night that showed the Ravens’ vulnerability in that area. Both occurred in the first quarter. On one play, Ahmad Bradshaw scooted left and used a blocker to get to the outside, where Ray Lewis chased him down and swooped in for the tackle and a gain of about 2-3 yards. Bradshaw, a step quicker at least, just got past Ray’s outstretched arms and turned a short gain into a 12-yard run. Anyone with a keen eye for the career of Ray Lewis whispered to themselves — “Ray makes that tackle two years ago”. Later on in that quarter, Brandon Jacobs shoved Jarrett Johnson out of the way and avoided the shoulder tackle of Fabian Washingotn for a huge gain.
It’s never smart to make a big deal out of two plays in a 60-minute football game. The other team is trying too, of course. But because no team in the league will be able to run up the middle against the Ravens, the only way to gain yards on them on the ground is by venturing outside the left and right tackles. Both the Panthers and Giants had moderate success in doing that — a fact I’m sure Greg Mattison will review at length this week and next.
Tavares Gooden had a superb night on Saturday and took advantage of his opportunity to make up for last Saturday’s poor performance in Washington.
Fabian Washington looks primed for the regular season and in good form after his ACL surgery last December.
And in the kicking battle, not much was decided on Saturday, as Billy Cundiff connected on a short field goal.
The long snapper, Morgan Cox, looked great again. It’s always fun to get a long snapper mention in there.
So with that 24-10 win over the Giants in the books, the Ravens will finish up their pre-season schedule with a Thursday night game in St. Louis.