Come thursday night, the Ravens will be looking to exercise some demons against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In week seven of last season, the Ravens suffered an embarrassing loss to the Jaguars on national television. Joe Flacco and the offense could not move the ball as the Ravens fell 12-7.
Even though this is the preseason, the Ravens still want to win the game. More importantly, the first team offense and defense must show improvement.
In the preseason, the offensive and defensive schemes are very vanilla. Defenses dont give away their exotic blitzes for other teams to study. Because of this, there is usually a three to four man rush which means a lot of one on one match-ups on the offensive and defensive line. That said, the Ravens defensive line has not generated any pressure this entire preseason.
The loss of Terrell Suggs might prove to be more of a predicament than first expected. Courtney UpShaw had a disappointing performance in his debut against the Lions but I think he will get his act together and perform well throughout the season. UpShaw wont be handed the job but he will be expected to play a lot and make a sizable impact.
In addition to UpShaw, the Ravens have many other young and unproven linebackers. Albert McClellan, Paul Kruger, and Sergio Kindle will be asked to take the place of Suggs. I am not so optimistic that they can do that. Kruger had a good year in 2011 but Suggs was a big part of his performance. Suggs was able to command double teams which would in turn, leave Kruger one-on-one with an offensive lineman. Even with Suggs’s help, Kruger only amassed 5.5 sacks.
Hopefully, I am wrong and Kruger can play well this season but I just dont see it. If the front seven cant put pressure on the quarterback, expect the Ravens secondary to struggle.
Joe Flacco needs to have a good game this thursday. He has looked solid but not great this preseason. Torrey Smith should be back which will help Flacco tremendously. The Jaguars will be a good test for Flacco seeing as the Jaguars had a top ten defense last season. But, I think Flacco will have a very good game against the Jaguars. He seems to be more confident and decisive after the AFC Championship game where he outperformed Tom Brady.
Jim Caldwell has also had an impact on the growth of Joe Flacco. In the first two games, Flacco seems to be surveying the field more rather than just checking the ball down to Ray Rice. He has also gotten better at looking off safeties to make plays.
Also keep an eye on rookies Omar Brown, Bobby Rainey, Deonte Thompson, and Asa Jackson. All four of these players have performed very well and if the preseason ended today, I think they would be on the team. Thompson, Rainey, and Jackson have all showed their potential on special teams as return men and on coverage. Jackson and Thompson have performed extremely well returning kicks and both had long returns against the Lions which were both called back on penalties.
Omar Brown on the other hand, is making play after play. Brown is a turnover machine and seems to have a future on the team if he continues to perform at a high level.