Offense the Focus Facing Washington
Pre-season football is nearly unbearable to watch throughout its entirety, especially with the abundance of penalty flags that have been thrown through the first two weeks. Fortunately for the fans, the third exhibition game is on the horizon.
The third game of an NFL pre-season game is better known as the “dress rehearsal” for a team as the starting players play more than the first half. With Baltimore entering their second to last exhibition match, the offense will be the focal point of their match up against Washington.
It would have been interesting to see how the Ravens questionable secondary would do against an offense that is loaded with talented receivers, but that opportunity has been squandered with injuries. Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson will not suit up against the Redskins.
With Baltimore’s top three cornerbacks not seeing any action, the defense will most likely not fair too well against a solid offense. Their performance will get an exception if it displays a poor effort due to the significant injuries. So take the eye off the defensive side of the ball and focus on what the Ravens offense has to offer in week three.
The Redskins have a decent defense with a solid group across the front seven. The number one thing to watch for is how the Ravens rush offense fairs against that group.
One of the main problems last season for Baltimore was the lack of production from the rush offense. The Ravens finished the regular season with the 30th ranked rushing offense in the league with only Jacksonville and Atlanta behind them. They also only averaged an underwhelming 3.1 yards per carry average, which ranked last in the league.
Part of the problem with the rush offense was the offensive line and the running backs not playing up to their ability. So far in the pre-season, the offense has shown progress in that area.
Through the first two games of the pre-season, Baltimore has a 4.9 yards per carry average that ranks second amongst the league. That is encouraging even though it is through two exhibition games. If the Ravens can continue that success against Washington, it will be a good sign going forward with a revamped offensive line.
Start the Rookies When the Situation is Right
Last weeks column featured a piece on how Gus Bradley should start the third overall pick from the 2014 NFL Draft Blake Bortles. He has shown flashes throughout the pre-season of being a legitimate starting quarterback and the coaching staff needs to take the plunge and plug him in for week one.
That same leap of faith should be a league-wide choice made by the head coaches that have talented rookie quarterbacks battling for a starting position. That of course being said, if the situation presents the rookie with an opportunity for success.
Dating back to 2008, Josh Freeman, Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker are the quarterbacks selected in the first round that did not start week one. It almost sees like too much of a coincidence that those quarterbacks listed above have not had success in the NFL.
As mentioned earlier, the situation has to be somewhat set up for the rookie to have a chance at some success. One of the only rookie quarterbacks that should not start week one is Johnny Manziel.
The former Heisman trophy winner does not have a great situation that surrounds him as his receiving corps is severely depleted. The offensive line is good and the backfield features talent, but not much can be accomplished without Gordon on the outside.
Hoyer is the right choice to start right off the bat because Manziel would struggle heavily under center due to the difficult schedule ahead. The Browns face Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore to start the season.
Starting any rookie quarterback against Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is extremely risky. Even when a rookie is having success, LeBeau knows how to make the game confusing and difficult for a rookie. When RG3 was having a stellar rookie season, one of the few struggles he had during his rookie campaign came against Pittsburgh.
So with the Browns, Hoyer is the right choice until the Browns bye week comes shortly into the season. The bye week would be the perfect opportunity to work Manziel into the starting fold.
The rookie quarterback with the best chance at early success is Teddy Bridgewater. The former Louisville star is currently in a battle with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder for the starting position. First year head coach Mike Zimmer needs to come to the realization that Bridgewater gives his team the best chance to win.
Ponder was drafted in the top fifteen during the 2011 Draft and has not shown any signs that he has franchise potential. Matt Cassel has been around the league since 2005 and at this point he is what he is. If you have a quarterback situation that features a stopgap type of starter and a rookie, just go with the rookie and see what you might potentially have.
Throwing Bridgewater into the mix is not like throwing the young quarterback into the wolves because he is in a good situation. He has the best running back in the league lining up behind him and one of the better up and coming tight ends in the league. Bridgewater has a veteran wide out on the outside to go along with a young promising playmaker in Patterson.
With a good looking set up on the offense, the defense will give Bridgewater opportunities to win games. Coach Zimmer is a defensive mastermind and his unit will definitely do its part with the plethora of talent they have.