PHILADELPHIA — Midway through the second quarter of the Ravens’ 40-17 preseason defeat to Philadelphia on Saturday, one question came to mind in regards to the abysmal performance.
How much uglier might it have been had Baltimore not practiced against the Eagles the previous three days?
Head coach John Harbaugh said his team had “plenty to learn” from one of the worst preseason performances in franchise history and cited the lack of game-planning against Chip Kelly’s unique offensive attack as a factor, but when Bryn Renner, Terrence Magee, Fitz Toussaint, and Tom Nelson figure prominently into your first scoring drive after you’ve already given up 30 points, it isn’t difficult to conclude how the night went.
What was reinforced on Saturday is that you’ll get your butts kicked in the NFL if you’re banged up and play poorly.
As frustrating as it was to watch, it was only a preseason game, making the performance ugly but inconsequential to the big picture as the Ravens will go back to work on Monday. Joe Flacco threw interceptions on the first two offensive possessions, the defense couldn’t stop the run, and the Ravens committed nine penalties for 82 yards in the first half — four others were declined by the Eagles over the first 30 minutes — but none of those factors should have anyone rethinking Baltimore’s expectations for the 2015 season just yet.
The injuries are concerning, however, as the absence of rookie Breshad Perriman was felt on Flacco’s first interception that came on a deep throw intended for Kamar Aiken, who is hardly a burner in terms of speed. Flacco isn’t free of blame as the pass was underthrown, but you couldn’t help but assume a play like that is designed for the speedy Perriman, who was taken in the first round of this year’s draft to replace Torrey Smith.
Perriman still hasn’t practiced since injuring his knee on July 30 and the Ravens are without a wideout who can stretch the field until the 6-foot-2 Central Florida product finally returns to action. Three weeks still remain before the season opener in Denver, but it’s fair to wonder how ready he’ll be to make a significant impact early in the season after missing so much valuable practice time this month.
The current state of the offensive line is also a mess as the night began with starters Kelechi Osemele and Rick Wagner sidelined and only got worse from there. James Hurst drew the start at right tackle in place of Wagner since backup right tackle Jah Reid was also out with back spasms, but Hurst exited the game with a concussion in the first quarter and was replaced by rookie De’Ondre Wesley, who promptly injured his knee.
It was unthinkable to see Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda move out to right tackle in a preseason game when the Ravens have a 90-man roster, but that’s what it came to late in the first quarter. Fortunately, Flacco’s health remained intact as the Ravens had to wonder if director of player development and Super Bowl XXXV right tackle Harry Swayne might need to suit up before the night was over.
How concerning are the injuries with nine offensive linemen — left tackle Eugene Monroe was also seen icing his arm on the sideline — currently less than 100 percent?
“Those guys are all slated to come back, to my knowledge,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see about Wesley. I don’t think there’s anybody else off the top of my head that wouldn’t be slated to come back. At one point, we had three guys playing out of position who had never practiced [at their new spots] before. I thought they did a pretty good job with that.
“That’s the preseason. That’s how it works.”
Thankfully, it was only the preseason.
Because the impact of the injuries and the overall sloppiness weren’t indicative of a team with high aspirations for 2015.