Ravens Depart to Dallas
The first pre-season match was encouraging for the small sample size that fans got to witness out of the first team units. The defense did allow the 49ers to run the ball successfully on the opening drive, but they held it down when the defense needed to the most. In the first exhibition, it is better to see a defense bend and not break, rather than giving up six from the get go.
What stuck out the most from the game against the 49ers was the Ravens success offensively. All eyes were anxious to see the new look of the Kubiak-ran offense and the fans got a small glimpse of things to come. The use of tight ends stood out the most with the unique misdirection screen to Dennis Pitta. Kyle Juszczyk is not a tight end, but he assumes the H-back type role and looked solid in the first appearance.
As the Ravens head into Saturday night’s matchup in the house that Jerry built, there are a couple of things to look for. Although the sample size will once again be small, there are a couple different facets to observe.
Joe Flacco and the starters got yanked quickly after a perfect first drive that resulted in a touchdown. The choice of pulling the starters after a successful scoring drive against a defense like the 49ers was a smart decision.
The offense should not show any sign of slowing down against the Cowboys due to the fact they are facing a far less superior defense. The Dallas Cowboys arguably have the worst defense in the league, so it is imperative that the Ravens offense keeps the momentum rolling with productive drives from the starting unit.
The passing offense got it done last game, but the ground game is what to watch for this time around. The rush offense was the Achilles heel last season and it will be interesting to see how Kubiak can turn it around. If the offense shows signs of quality gains through the trenches against Dallas, it will be something to build off of.
Another facet to take note of for the upcoming exhibition is how Baltimore will defend the run. The Ravens struggled to slow down the 49ers rush offense, but they are among the best in the league at just that.
Dallas has a solid look in the run game, led by DeMarco Murray. The offensive line features some solid young starters such as Zach Martin and Tyron Smith. With that being said, CJ Mosley is someone to watch in game two.
The first round pick is coming off of a solid first performance and it would be encouraging to see progress in the second game. His natural football instincts will be put to the test to break down the plays and distinguish where the ball may end up.
Facing the Cowboys offense also means a defense is going against a quality air attack. The Ravens glaring depletion is in the secondary, depending on inexperience and lack of depth. The coaching staff is hoping someone can step up to fill that hole as the nickel corner and the Dallas game is the perfect opportunity to put that challenge on display.
Note to Bradley: Just Start Bortles
When the Jaguars made Blake Bortles the third selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, it came across that night as a slight surprise. It should not have been because Bortles was clearly the number one quarterback coming out of college.
Once the Central Florida star was drafted, head coach Gus Bradley made it clear that Bortles would sit the entire season to groom him for the future. All that sounded cliché during the off-season because the landscape of that decision could change once the exhibition season begins.
Bortles now has gotten reps in two exhibition games and he has been nothing short of impressive. In his first appearance against the Buccaneers, Bortles went 7 for 11 and 117 passing yards. In the Thursday night showing against the Bears, the former Golden Knight went 11 for 17 and 160 passing yards.
It is nice to see the yards and completion percentage, but the number one thing to account for in watching a young quarterback is decision making. Bortles has not turned the ball over yet in his two brief stints, which is a good sign since ball security at times was a concern in college.
Bradley has not given a lot of action to the rookie quarterback in training camp when it comes to getting first team reps. It is time now to give Bortles the chance with the first team in the next pre-season game.
The third exhibition in the NFL is known as the showcase game for every team as the starters play at least the first full half. It is somewhat of a dress rehearsal and the Jags would be smart to see what the rookie has in him against an opposing starting defense for a full half.
The Jaguars coaching staff already know what they have in Chad Henne. During his career, he has been a decent quarterback who is better served as a backup. He is not a franchise quarterback; he plays the role of a stopgap quarterback for a franchise. It is time that the staff eats their words from the off-season and throw in the rookie quarterback.
You know you have a stopgap quarterback in Henne, but what you do not know in Bortles is if you have a franchise quarterback. Coach Bradley needs to put the rookie in and see how much promise he has. Everything we have seen so far out of Bortles has been great and one play stuck out the most in his second game against Chicago.
It was second down and a good distance for Bortles as the offense was set up at their own five-yard line. They had the lead and a mistake would cost the team a good chunk of the points. The situation of the game would force the Jags offense to just run the ball conservatively, but it was an exhibition game. So the Jags took a risk to see how the rookie could handle it.
Bortles ran a play action fake and rolled to his right side looking up field. The rookie had a defender crashing down on him quickly and Bortles launched a throw on the run. Over 20 yards down the field, Bortles dropped the ball over and in between four Bears defenders to the wide receiver’s arms.
It ended up as an incompletion, but that was not on Bortles. Jon Gruden, the analyst on the ESPN telecast, went on a rant about the bad decision made given the situation of the game. Once the replay was shown, he was quickly scrutinized by fellow commentator Mike Tirico because the quality of the throw.
It was an absolute perfect throw, launched into the breadbasket of the receiver who failed to keep his second foot in bounds. The first thought that came to mind after that throw was simply just Wow.
Bortles has “it” to be the franchise quarterback for the Jaguars. That’s the same kind of throw that he displayed multiple times on film playing at UCF. He makes those “wow” throws that back up him being the real deal. Like the incredible opposite hash throw, deep down the field against Penn State, he has translated some of that magic to the next level.
So note to Gus Bradley, start the rookie because Bortles looks like he is the truth under center. He gives the Jags their best chance to win because of his playmaking ability with his arm and he has shown so far he can be smart with the ball.
With a good defense in place and a potential franchise quarterback, there is reason for optimism in Jacksonville. If Bortles can get the experience this season and continue to show these signs, the Jaguars can be a team to watch out for during the 2015 NFL season.