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Late For Work 8/11: We Know, We Know. It's One Preseason Game. But That Ravens Defense Looked GOOD

Posted Aug 11, 2017

What were reasonable expectations for an offense with only four starters? Will the quarterback debate reignite? Tim White and Keenan Reynolds notched the biggest plays … and they’re competing against each other. Jaylen Hill’s just doing what he’s been doing in practice. Any worry about Justin Tucker? Nah.


We are not going to make sweeping judgments after one preseason game. We are not going to make sweeping judgments after one preseason game. We are not going to make sweeping judgments after one preseason game. We are not …

With that said, here are some (perhaps sweeping) judgements after the Ravens’ 23-3 season-opening win over the Washington Redskins:

Oh Whatever, That Ravens Defense Looked GOOD

We are reminding ourselves not to get too excited about this defense. But it was hard for some observers not to get a Grinch-like smile while watching just a couple of series with the starters.

The depth looked strong too, as Baltimore pitched a first-half shutout and ultimately allowed just a field goal.

Defensive leaders including Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson and Brandon Williams, have talked this offseason about wanting to reach the “legendary” standard of the 2000 defense. It’s a lofty goal, but one each defender should strive to, because why reach for anything less?  But just the mention of that defense has created quite the buzz around town and …

“The Ravens’ starting defense did little to tone down any of the preseason hype about how good it can become,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec.

Ok, so we’ll allow a little excitement … just this once.

As Good As the Defense Looked, the Offense ‘Struggled.’ But What Did You Expect?

While the defense had all its starters on the field to open Thursday’s contest, the offense only had four of its 11 starters.

The top three receivers rested. Three-fifths of the offensive line was on the sideline. And franchise quarterback Joe Flacco wasn’t about to risk his ailing back in a less meaningful preseason game.

“I’m not sure what anyone could have reasonably expected from the Ravens offense,” wrote WNST’s Luke Jones.

Well, actually, Zrebiec saw exactly what he expected.

“If you've spent any amount of time following Ravens training camp coverage or you happened to go one of the team's open practices, Thursday's preseason opener played out exactly as you might expect,” he wrote. “The offense, which has struggled the first two weeks of training camp, continued to struggle against the Redskins. The defense, which has looked great in camp, overwhelmed the Redskins. Look, the concern about the Ravens offense are legitimate. But let's also keep in mind that the Ravens had only four offensive starters on the field Thursday.”

So when will we be able to start making judgements about the offense? The Sun’s Child’s Walker says we probably can’t do so until the first regular-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals. But if things continue on the current projection, he says it will be difficult for the Ravens to make the playoffs.

“In the most reductive terms, the Ravens enter their new season with an iffy offense and a potentially stifling defense,” Walker wrote. “That was the equation last season, and the Ravens essentially doubled down on it with their defense-heavy draft. … If that pattern holds, it’s fair to wonder whether this team will remain stuck in the same middle-of-the-pack rut.”

Hensley: Mallett’s Performance Will Reignite Quarterback Debate

While the aforementioned circumstances should be taken into consideration, backup quarterback Ryan Mallett’s performance didn’t alleviate concerns about his ability to consistently play at a high level if Flacco were to miss time.

“Mallett's uneven performance will reignite talk that Baltimore needs to improve the backup spot and some will call for [Colin] Kaepernick,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “There is still no definitive timetable for Flacco, who has yet to practice in training camp (which is now two weeks old).

“He completed nine of 18 passes for 58 yards in the first half, with many of his throws being overthrown or underthrown. It was a tough situation for Mallett. … But Mallett had trouble hitting his open receivers downfield. Nearly half of his completions (four of them) went to running backs.”

Pretty Nice Stat Line in a Single Half, Brent Urban

Question.

Who spent more time in the Redskins backfield? Ravens 6-foot-7, 300-pound defensive end Brent Urban or Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins? Because it appeared kind of close.

What’s crazy is that as good as this stat line looks, it doesn’t fully convey the impact Urban had on the field. For example, he bullied his blocker to open a hole for safety Anthony Levine Sr. to get a sack on Cousins on the Redskins’ first series. Then, on the next series, Urban reached and slowed running back Rob Kelley while tackle Michael Pierce jumped in to finish things off.

“Depth along the front seven is an obvious strength of this roster,” wrote Walker. “But if Urban, who made just 10 tackles last season, can remain productive game in and game out, that group will be even more overpowering than expected.”

Tim White and Keenan Reynolds Notch Biggest Plays … and They’re Competing Against Each Other

This is why Head Coach John Harbaugh likes competition. It raises the play of everyone.

Second-year player Keenan Reynolds, who converted from college quarterback, returned a punt 43 yards in the second half. It clearly made Harbaugh happy (see GIF below), and it also set up the biggest play on offense, for the very guy who is competing for the same spot on the roster.

On the very next play, Tim White reeled in a 33-yard touchdown pass despite it being slightly underthrown.

“Tim White is making himself hard to ignore,” wrote Walker. “That score reinforced White’s excellent work from the first few weeks of training camp. The undrafted free agent now feels like a genuine threat to make the roster, especially if he can break a few plays as a returner.”

Jaylen Hill’s Just Doing What He’s Been Doing in Practice, Right Steve Smith?

I said it before, and I’ll say it again.

With the injuries to Tavon Young and Maurice Canady, it sure is nice to see undrafted rookie Jaylen Hill stand out. He continued to do so when he picked off quarterback Colt McCoy while running stride for stride with rookie Redskins receiver Robert Davis.

But this is nothing new, right Steve Smith Sr.?

Any Worry About Justin Tucker? Nah

When kicker Justin Tucker banged a kick off the uprights on a 43-yard attempt, it seemed as if Twitter was trying to decide whether to be concerned.

The missed kick was negated by a penalty, and Tucker later nailed an impressive 59-yarder, but it reminded onlookers that Tucker has missed more than usual during training camp practices.

Quick Hits

  • “First-round pick Marlon Humphrey went through a rigorous pre-game workout and appears poised to return to practice after a week-long absence,” wrote Jones. “However, Breshad Perriman was nothing more than an observer and doesn’t appear particularly close to returning from a hamstring injury.” [WNST]
  • “Second-round pick Tyus Bowser had a strong debut with three tackles, a quarterback hit, and solid all-around work at outside linebacker, but fellow rookie Tim Williams struggled to set the edge and remains a work in progress as anything more than a situational pass rusher for now,” Jones added. [WNST]

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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