I am not one for jumping to concrete opinions after the first pre-season game of the season but I did make some observations that I feel pretty strong about. Before I get into my observations about the Ravens let me say that I agree 100% with other fans that the new kickoff rule is awful and has all but removed one of the most exciting plays from the game. On the other hand the Ravens are really going to benefit from this rule from having perhaps the kicker with the strongest leg in the NFL and not possessing a game breaking returner.
First of all, offensive coordinators are going to target Chris Carr every single week. I’ve had this thought since the Ravens decided not to resign Josh Wilson and my fears were heightened when Dominique Foxworth was scratched just before kickoff. Carr is clearly the weakest corner on the team and the Ravens are going to need to get Jimmy Smith up and running very quickly if they don’t want to be torched on a weekly basis. On the topic of Jimmy Smith I was impressed with how big he looks in pads; if his talents are as touted and he stays out of trouble Smith looks like the big, shutdown corner the Ravens have been missing since Chris McAllister went AWOL in Miami.
Speaking of impressive physical specimens on the Ravens defense, Sergio Kindle looks like he could have the speed and power to become a great pass rushing counterpart to T-Sizzle. Kindle got into the backfield numerous times against the Eagles first and second team offense and did a good job of collapsing the pocket on the edge.
Overall I was impressed with Chuck Pagano’s defensive philosophy as he brought “heat” from all angles and the Ravens were consistently in the Eagles backfield all night. Unfortunately once in the backfield the Ravens seemed to miss every tackle. In fact it seemed like the Ravens missed at least one tackle on every single play, but I will chalk that up to it being the first pre-season game and an abbreviated training camp.
On offense Oniel Cousins looks horrible; he was getting beat by the Eagles third and fourth string defensive ends in the second half and looked more like a rookie than a fourth year player.
As for the offensive line as a whole, they look to have zero depth behind the starters and the loss of Chris Chester may be more damaging than first thought. Once the second string offense came in Tyrod Taylor did not have a clean pocket once all night and he was running for his life EVERY time he dropped back to pass.
As for Tyrod Taylor he seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed and he showed flashes of a skill set that could make him a valuable dual-threat quarterback down the road. I liked his toughness as he was getting knocked around all night and he seemed to have good command of his teammates for a rookie quarterback.
And fellow offensive rookie LaQuan Williams showed why he has been the talk of training camp catching three passes for 46 yards including a slant and a screen where he ran hard and made big plays after the catch. Williams looks like he could be a viable option at receiver and a player that will run hard and pick up the tough yards after first contact.
After watching this team play I think it is pretty obvious that they still need to bring in a veteran backup quarterback and they will need to address the right tackle position before the games count. But I trust Ozzie and his front office and I believe the correct moves will be made before the Ravens and Steelers open this thing up on September 11th.
Overall the Ravens didn’t show much and they didn’t do anything that is going to make fans start making travel plans for Indianapolis on February 5th 2012 but this is going to be a different season as the Ravens try and get younger at a lot of key positions. I think the Ravens will be a better team in December and January then they will be on September 11th but fans are going to need to be more patient with this team than they have been the last three seasons. But no matter what you took away from this game one thing is certain, Football is back and we all the better for it!