John Harbaugh finally had a chance to see his team under the lights.
The head coach and his staff were eager to see their young 90-man roster in a game environment after two weeks of matching up against each other in training camp, and the Ravens responded with an exciting 30-27 comeback victory over the New Orleans Saints at M& Bank Stadium.
Here's a breakdown of how the victory impacted the stock of several players in the middle of position battles:
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro – The backup running back* *spot is one of the positions up for grabs this preseason, and Lorenzo Taliaferro made a clear case for the job with a strong showing Thursday night. Taliaferro, who is battling rookie Buck Allen, was the first running back off the bench when starter Justin Forsett came to the sidelines, and he capped off the opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown on fourth down. Taliaferro looked quicker and more nimble after shedding some weight this offseason, but he still had plenty of power out of the backfield. He finished the game with 12 carries for 36 yards and the touchdown. He also flashed solid hands with two catches for 18 yards.
QB Matt Schaub– The backup quarterback was one of the biggest storylines coming into the preseason opener after struggling at times during training camp. The veteran may have quieted some of the concerns about what he has left in the tank with the way he looked early against New Orleans. Schaub connected with wide receiver Michael Campanaro for a 45-yard touchdown on his first drive of the game, and he showed good command in the huddle. Schaub's biggest issue in training camp has been the interceptions, and he did have a miscue in the second half when he got picked off attempting a pass to wide receiver Jeremy Butler. However, the turnover could be credited more to Butler not coming to the ball. Overall it was a solid night for Schaub, who orchestrated three scoring drives and finished 11-of-18 passing for 134 yards with a touchdown and interception.
WR Michael Campanaro– The receiver competition was billed as the main attraction entering the preseason, and Campanaro helped boost his standing in the race. He caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Schaub on the second drive of the game, finding the soft spot in coverage and then stiff-arming a defender on his way to the end zone. The second-year player also took reps at kickoff returner, but didn't get a chance to show what he could do because Saints kicker Zach Hocker booted kickoffs out of the end zone. Campanaro finished with two catches for a team-high 58 yards.
TE Maxx Williams– Williams had a notable miscue in the second quarter when he let a touchdown catch bounce off his hands on third down. Schaub hit Williams over the middle on the play, but the second-round pick couldn't haul in the completion. Williams redeemed himself later in the game. He picked up a first down on 4th-and-20 with a nice catch-and-run where he broke a pair tackles in the open field. Williams nearly jumped over one defender and then absorbed a crushing hit before falling forward to move the chains on the Ravens' game-winning drive. He finished the night with two catches for 36 yards.
WR Jeremy Butler – Butler has been the toast of the town during training camp, but he had a quiet outing against the Saints. He caught one pass for 14 yards and just missed an opportunity for a leaping catch down the sidelines that would have gone for a big gain. Schaub's interception was also thrown in Butler's direction when he was matched up against the cornerback in single coverage and could have come back toward the football to prevent the turnover.
WR DeAndre Carter – The undrafted rookie looked jittery in his first NFL action. He bobbled a kickoff as the return man when he started to run out of the end zone, and ultimately had to take a knee. His offensive reps were mostly limited to late in the second half, and he did come up with two catches for 33 yards.
DT Carl Davis – The third-round pick got some pressure on the quarterback at times and also flashed when he broke through the line of scrimmage to make a tackle for loss on running back Tim Hightower. Davis played perhaps as much as anyone else on the team. He started and played deep into the second half because the Ravens were thin in terms of defensive line depth. The Ravens expect him to be an important player in the middle of the defensive line, and his first outing was a good sign.
OC Marc Trestman (Bonus)– The new offensive coordinator had about as good a debut in Baltimore as he could have hoped. The first-team offense marched down the field for a 16-play touchdown drive on their only series of the game. Backup quarterback Matt Schaub then took over and led the offense on three straight scoring drives. Trestman has set the bar high for himself.