Ravens Rookies Ball Out In First Preseason Game


Much of the attention was on rookie left tackle and No. 6 overall pick Ronnie Stanley in Thursday's preseason opener.

While Stanley impressed with his eagerness to play after sustaining an injury, not to mention his strong blocking, he wasn't the only Ravens rookie to stand out in their debut.

Fourth-round cornerback Tavon Young, fourth-round offensive tackle Alex Lewis, fourth-round defensive tackle Willie Henry, fourth-round running back Kenneth Dixon, fifth-round outside linebacker Matt Judon and undrafted linebacker Patrick Onwuasor also all made plays.

Baltimore was excited about its rookie class coming out of the draft, and that momentum carried throughout the summer workouts. On Thursday, in their first test against another NFL team, the class continued to show promise.

"Some of these young guys, we drafted them for a reason, and I think they showed up tonight," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They have to take it to another level, but it's a good place to start – making plays in the first preseason game."

Dixon had a good night running the ball. He ripped off a 19-yard gain on his first NFL carry and finished with a game-high 44 rushing yards on nine touches. Dixon showed strong lateral cuts and a physical style, particularly on the perimeter.

"I feel like we were really coached up to go out there and be very prepared for our first game," Dixon said. "My O-line really opened up a great hole for me, and I was able to make a guy miss."

Lewis, who stepped in at left tackle when Stanley left, finished with one of the highest grades (plus-1.5) on the team from Pro Football Focus (PFF). Stanley got a grade just a shade higher. Lewis received particularly good marks for his pass blocking.

Henry, who hasn't flashed much in practice, did so in the game. He made three tackles and was key in plugging up the run game with starting big men Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan held out.

Judon led the Ravens with seven tackles, including his first career sack. He had the second-highest grade from PFF (plus-2.0), only trailing veteran outside linebacker Chris Carter.

Judon is the small-school product out of Grand Valley State who led all of college football with 20 sacks last season. He showed the NFL hasn't been too big a leap for him, and his athleticism was too much for the Panthers' backup offensive linemen.

"It just felt good to get the first one under my belt," Judon said. "I'm still learning and I've got a lot to improve on, but it felt good to get my first sack as an NFL athlete. … I just have to go out there and prove that I belong in this league and show people what I can do. I went to a small school. It happens."

Even Onwausor made his impact felt, as he got a tackle for loss and recovered a fumble on special teams. He finished with three tackles overall.

Even though it's just a preseason game, rookies will never forget the first time they suited up in the NFL. Second-round linebacker Kamalei Correa said he couldn't believe he was playing against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Correa didn't make it on the box score, but he was still jacked up in the locker room afterwards.

"It's a bunch of mixed emotions. It was fun and exciting," he said. "I was nervous, but I had a lot of fun out there. Shoot, it's football so I just try to do what I can."

The Ravens felt confident about their rookie class coming out of the draft. They liked what they saw over the summer in Organized Team Activities, minicamp and the start of training camp. Now they'll try to keep the momentum going after a positive M&T Bank Stadium debut.

"I don't think you ever really know," Harbaugh said. "The last couple of days, waiting for this game to get here, I was like, 'How are they going to play? How are they going to look in a game against another team?'

"You just don't know until you see something happen. Now that we have this game behind us, we can watch the tape and have a sense of, 'OK, this is kind of our beginning, this is where we start.'"

Football is back! The Ravens host the Panthers in the first preseason game of the 2016 NFL season.

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