The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Thoughts on Ravens vs. Packers

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I’m sure they had their reasons, but it was disappointing when the Packers reversed course and elected not to play Aaron Rodgers, after announcing earlier that he would take some snaps. If Rodgers had played, a game on a warm summer night would have become a genuine measuring stick for a Ravens defense still adjusting to a batch of new faces. How would it fare against one of the game’s top quarterbacks? Could it generate pressure? With Rodgers out, the early snaps went to DeShone Kizer, whom the Ravens last saw as the starter for the winless Cleveland Browns in 2017. The starting defense didn’t allow a touchdown and was dominant against the run, but the Packers did move the ball a bit through the air and Kizer didn’t face intense pressure. It’s possible to speculate that Rodgers could have accomplished more with the opportunity before the backups took over, but honestly, who knows? Hey, it’s August.

When he isn’t playing in a regular season game, Lamar Jackson is like a loud song on mute, mostly kept under wraps. Whistles blow on the practice field before he can unleash his video-game skills. The Ravens’ coaches surely would prefer that he didn’t take off and run in the preseason or unveil too much of what lies ahead for the offense. Occasionally, though, Jackson overrides the mute button and shows why he’s considered one of football’s most electric players. If you missed his 18-yard touchdown run against the Packers, which was nullified by a penalty, check out the video.

Jackson took off upfield, stutter-stepped by Green Bay’s Tramon Williams and leapt over Jaire Alexander to reach the end zone. The move on Williams was a classic ankle-breaker out of the Allen Iverson school, so dazzling that Williams, a 13-year veteran, found Jackson and congratulated him after the play. The fact that it was called back doesn’t matter; film of the play, sure to circulate, will remind the rest of the NFL how dangerous Jackson can be.

In the end, the first-team offense generated two field goals on two possessions with Jackson under center – not bad, not awesome. The coaches won’t be happy that a penalty negated a touchdown, but overall, I don’t think they’ll be displeased at all with what went down on that side of the ball. Just like a year ago, Jackson and the offense moved the chains and controlled the clock, holding the ball for 10:25 of the first quarter. That’s a winning strategy, period. What was different from last season, though, was how they controlled the clock – with a dead-even run-pass balance (10 runs, 10 passes). It’s pretty clear that, as pledged, they’ll be passing more in 2019. They also have all sorts of big-play potential between Jackson, rookie running back Justice Hill, who showed serious speed and quickness Thursday night, and rookie receiver Marquise (Hollywood) Brown, who hasn’t even played yet. This is going to be one interesting offense.

With Terrell Suggs and several other familiar names gone, who would take over as the last player on the starting defense to be introduced before the game? It’s a position of some honor, having been filled in the past by Suggs and Ray Lewis. Perhaps not surprisingly, Earl Thomas III got the nod. The All-Pro safety immediately became the defense’s most decorated player when he signed as a free agent in March. After sitting out last week’s preseason opener, he was in uniform Thursday night and became the last starter introduced. He went to his knees and beat his chest, then rose and raced through a corridor of teammates as the fans cheered. He hasn’t been in the news much during spring practices or training camp because the Ravens aren’t pushing him, preferring to save him for the season. But he took his first live-action steps on his new home field Thursday night, flew around a bit, contributed a tackle. I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: As long as he’s healthy, he’s going to be seriously fun to watch.

That’s a tough-luck injury for inside linebacker Chris Board, who left the game with a concussion. He was running with the starters but will likely miss some time now … With Tavon Young sidelined, Cyrus Jones started at slot cornerback and had a busy night. Early, he was energetic, around the ball and almost registered a sack. Later, the Packers had some luck going after him … Darrius Shepherd’s 36-yard kickoff return for the Packers will not be a piece of game tape that argues positively for the rookies and other young Ravens on the coverage team. Shepherd found a seam and could have gone a lot farther … Among the wide receivers, Chris Moore (four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown) had by far the best night … You had to love Patrick Ricard recovering a fumble as a defensive lineman and then staying on the field to block as a fullback on the next play. Talk about finding a way to make yourself valuable.

Check out the best photos from the Ravens' preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at M&T Bank Stadium.

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