WR Mystery Remains, Forgotten Man ShinesThe Ravens have maintained all offseason that they would give their receivers most of camp to win a starting job*before they would make a phone call to bring in *a veteran wide receiver.
That's why it's too soon to make final judgments on the limited work Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson saw yesterday, even though each of them did little to ease the concern about filling the Anquan Boldin void.
The three players combined for one 5-yard catch.
"The wide receiver position remains a mystery, which would have been the case regardless of how Jones, Doss, and Thompson performed," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
The three strongest candidates for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots heading into the preseason opener failed to impress onlookers. And Head Coach John Harbaugh reiterated to CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan prior to the game that if the receivers didn't reach expectations adding a veteran “is not out of the question."
Jones and Thompson were each on the field for only 16 offensive snaps (22 percent) and Doss for 26 snaps (25 percent), and they produced little during that small period.
Doss was targeted once by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but didn't record a reception. Thompson was targeted twice by Joe Flacco and reeled in one catch for 5 yards before heading to the sidelines with an injury to his lower left leg (more on that below).
The two Jones targets ended in disappointment. The first was intercepted, and Jones deserved "at least half the blame" for it, tweeted The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel. "[It was a] decent ball by Joe, but Jacoby has to come back to the ball there," he added. The second was a short pass in the middle of the field on third-and-2, where Boldin excels, but the ball clanked off Jones' hands with tight coverage.
None of Flacco's seven completions went to the top candidates for the starting role opposite Torrey Smith. Instead, the quarterback mostly relied on short dumps to backs coming out of the backfield and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
"It wasn't an impressive debut for the wide receivers," Jones wrote.
"Again, it's early. But over the next two weeks, when the regulars play more, someone is going to have to emerge from an odd lot of players to be a reliable target for Flacco," added ProFootballTalk.com's Darin Gantt.
There was one "forgotten man" that shined.
LaQuan Williams has flown under the radar in the wide receiver battle after finishing last season on injured reserve. The former undrafted rookie has made a living on special teams the last two years, but he was the standout offensive performer in the preseason debut.
He made an impressive 21-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, and added two fumble recoveries (one in the end zone) on special teams. Williams made a strong case to make the team, but he knows that it will take more than one big night to get more consideration on offense.
The question becomes whether he did enough to get more work with Flacco's unit.
"Williams may have earned himself a few more reps with the starting offense after Thursday's outing and was in the mix as a wide receiver as a rookie in 2011," Jones wrote.
Even with Williams' big night, questions still surround the Ravens' passing game.
"Needless to say, the voids left behind by Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin were apparent, but the Ravens are fully aware that Flacco will need time to develop chemistry with a new batch of targets," Jones wrote. "And that doesn't mean a veteran addition won't become a reality at some point between now and September."
Pierce Wrapped Knee, Thompson Wearing Soft Boot
Expect reporters to follow up with Harbaugh Saturday (off day today) on injuries to Thompson and running back Bernard Pierce.
Harbaugh said that he'll have to get more information with some X-rays and MRIs today.
The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec saw Pierce with his knee wrapped and Thompson with a soft boot as the two were leaving the stadium last night.
"A long-term injury for Thompson would be a significant blow to the Ravens' receiving corps after the offseason trade of veteran Anquan Boldin," Zrebiec wrote. "Torrey Smith is the team's No.1 receiver, but neither Tandon Doss or Jacoby Jones, who were in competition for the second and third spots, caught a pass tonight.
"Pierce, who had his knee wrapped, declined to talk to reporters, saying that he had to get treatment."
Suggs' Telling Leadership Moment
Utah rookie free agent Moe Lee made a career-impacting play with a fourth quarter interception, but during his return, he made an ill-advised, Ed Reed-like lateral as he was being tackled to the ground.
The ball bounced on the turf before safety Brynden Trawick could jump on it.
The risky play provided an opportunity for Terrell Suggs to step up as a leader, a telling moment that was caught by television cameras.
"Though former Ravens safety Ed Reed may have been smiling somewhere if he caught a glimpse of that play, the coaching staff certainly wasn't amused," Jones wrote. "However, it wasn't Harbaugh or his assistants who ran to correct the rookie defensive back as the veteran Suggs calmly walked onto the field and explained to Lee why that wasn't a smart play.
"It was the kind of defensive leadership the Ravens need following the retirement of Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Reed. Yes, it was only one example of what you're hoping to see from the 30-year-old linebacker and longest-tenured Raven, but a snapshot is all a preseason game is really worth in the scope of the entire summer."
Tyrod Adds Comfort To QB Position
Flacco has proven to be one of the most durable quarterbacks in the NFL, missing a grand total of zero games in the last five seasons.
But if Flacco were to ever suffer an injury that would put him on the bench for an extended period of time, Tyrod Taylor performed well enough in Tampa Bay for Baltimore Beat Down's Jason Butt to feel more comfortable with the backup.
"It was only one game, and perhaps this is a little too reactionary, but Tyrod Taylor looked like a more-than-capable backup Thursday night," Butt wrote. "He made plenty of tough throws, read the defense well, scrambled to extend plays and helped his team run away with a 44-16 win over the Buccaneers in the first preseason game of the season.
"Taylor was poised in the pocket when protection allowed it. When plays broke down, he scrambled out to either run or buy time to throw it downfield."
He completed 13 of 23 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in less than three quarters of work.
He also added 27 yards rushing, and the Ravens displayed a little read-option offense with him under center. Will we see more of that in the future?
"Possibly," Taylor told Comcast SportsNet. "That's all in Coach [Jim] Caldwell's mind. I'm definitely gifted ... athletic-wise. Coach Caldwell sees some opportunities for that and I'm ready for it."
Updated Depth Chart
Pro Football Focus' Neil Hornsby put together his updated Ravens depth chart with added position battles in purple.
He has Elvis Dumervil listed as the starter, and he could be, but it will largely depend on the Ravens' opening defensive package. They are mostly using Courtney Upshaw on running downs and Dumervil in passing situations.
Hornsby was "mildly surprised" when he learned rookies Matt Elam and Arthur Brown weren't immediate starters.
- "A revamped defense showed versatility and strong play from veteran newcomers such as inside linebacker Daryl Smith (five tackles) and defensive end Chris Canty (a sack on the opening series) but also featured communication breakdowns in the secondary that led to a few big plays surrendered in the passing game, including a 61-yard completion to tight end Tom Crabtree to end the first quarter," Jones wrote. "With so many new pieces in place, it will take time for Dean Pees' unit to get on the same page, but the front seven looks quite formidable on paper, especially with healthier versions of Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata in the mix." [WNST.net]
- "Receiver Marlon Brown finished with two catches for 31 yards. But what stood out was his ability after the catch," Butt wrote. "Brown bounced off defenders on both of his catches, showing no ill effects of the ACL he tore last November in college." [Baltimore Beat Down]
- @A_Mellette3: Favorite moment tonight was when I hit my big bruhs @TheRealJacoby12 td celebration and he was the first person to congratulate me [Twitter]
- @ravens: Terrell Suggs also has his jersey rolled up during warmups, showing off his trimmer figure. [Twitter]
- @JuiceCheck44 Kyle Juszczyk]: What a night! First NFL pre-season game in the books. [Feeling really good about this team! #PurpleandBlack [Twitter]
- @TorreySmithWR: Honored to be able to put on a Baltimore Ravens uniform...truly appreciate the opportunity to play in the NFL for this city #blessed[Twitter]
- @TorreySmithWR: I'm way to[o] hype for my bro @i_amQUAN and @MFurstenburg #terpfam #TerpNation [Twitter]
- @aqshipley: Felt great getting back out there tonight! Good start will only continue to build upon this one! Love this team and what they stand for! [Twitter]
- @untouchablejay4: Good Start Ravens Nation. But there's still work to be done!!! #back2work [Twitter]