The preseason did not start well for the Baltimore Ravens. The starting offense, defense, and special teams units struggled throughout their time on the field. That said, we still need to keep in mind that this is the first preseason game and the Ravens still have three more weeks to get their act together.
Although it is the preseason, there were still some obvious concerns on the team. Scratch that, there were many issues with the team. Going into the 2012 season, many Ravens fans are counting on the secondary to make up for the loss of Terrell Suggs. The secondary should be one of the team’s biggest strengths but it looked like a weakness last night. Maybe the loss of Terrell Suggs will prove to be much more significant that we thought seeing as Matt Ryan was able to stand in the pocket with little to no pressure. Still, Carry Williams and Lardarius Webb did not look like themselves. Williams was attacked the entire first quarter and was beaten badly by Julio Jones on more than one occasion.
If Jimmy Smith can return from injury, he should help the secondary. If Smith had played last night, I think he would have played well against Jones. Smith is the only corner on the Ravens roster that has the physical attributes to cover receivers like Julio Jones. Hopefully, Jimmy Smith can return next week when the Lions come to Baltimore. After all, Calvin Johnson is far superior to Julio Jones and it would be a great test for Jimmy Smith.
Matt Ryan had all day to throw the football. That said, the loss of Terrell Suggs might be more significant than anticipated. Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan, and Sergio Kindle struggled to apply pressure throughout their time on the field. The return of Courtney UpShaw should help this defense get pressure on the quarterback. Although UpShaw is more of a run stuffer, he also has pass rush ability. If Kruger, Kindle, and McClellan continue to struggle when it comes to rushing the passer, UpShaw might be asked to play a bigger role than he expected.
Now to the offensive line…where do I start? The best possible solution for the offensive line is to have Bryant McKinnie return to the first team offense. Michael Oher looked good at left tackle but McKinnie is just a better option. Having McKinnie and Oher at tackle gives the Ravens one of the better tackle combinations in the league. It also lets players like Jah Reid and Kelochi Osemele develop until they are asked to play a bigger role in the years to come.
The interior of the offensive line had a bad night. Marshal Yanda looked good but Bobby Williams and Gino Gradkowski struggled. I recognize Gradkowski is a rookie and I will give him a pass for now. He struggled early but looked good as the game went on. Matt Birk’s return should help the line as a whole and should also help in Gradkowski’s development. Bobby Williams did not play very well either. Williams is a run blocking nightmare for defensive lineman but Williams looked sluggish when pulling. If Bobby Williams continues to struggle, Kelechi Osemele could start at left guard. Osemele has shown some great run blocking ability in camp thus far and will be a valuable starter one day for the Ravens.
Bobby Rainey was a bright spot for the Ravens last night. Rainey got a lot of playing time at punt returner and was solid, but not great. Rainey shined when it came to catching the ball out of the backfield and running between the tackles. Rainey is almost a clone of Ray Rice. He is about the same size, has great speed and acceleration, and for his size, he is a surprisingly powerful runner.
Rainey’s biggest play came in the fourth quarter. Rainey caught a screen pass from Curtis Painter and broke several tackles on an eighteen yard touchdown. If Rainey can continue to play like he did in Atlanta, it will be hard to cut him. Rainey is getting some help from Damien Berry and Anthony Allen, both of whom are competing to back up Ray Rice and make the roster. Both Berry and Allen struggled last night with Berry having the more impressive night of the two.
Throughout this blog I have been down on some of the players and I think it was well deserved. But, I also recognize that its the preseason and Ravens fans should not panic unless the Ravens first team units continue to struggle.