Five thoughts on the Ravens' 33-7 preseason win over the Los Angeles Rams Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
-- The moment everyone will be talking about came late in the first quarter. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson was on the field in place of Joe Flacco, who had led the starting offense to a touchdown to open the game. Jackson had the offense back in the red zone and took off running when he couldn't find an open receiver. Sam Shields, a veteran cornerback for the Rams, closed in for the tackle, but Jackson danced by him with a classic stutter-step cutback that sent Shields tumbling as Jackson crossed the goal line. It was the first time with the Ravens that he publicly exhibited the unique, dynamic playmaking he is known for, and the first in-game indication that his ceiling might be high as a change-of-pace option under center, especially in the red zone. I'm sure the Ravens' coaches were pleased to see him get a bunch of snaps, command the offense and complete passes from the pocket, all a measure of his development, but the "ankle-breaking" cutback showed how he can contribute right now – with the ball in his hands, one way or another.
-- The Rams sat most of their starters, including defensive stars Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, so it wasn't a shock when Flacco drove the starting offense 70 yards in 10 plays to open the game. The possession would have ended with a field goal if not for a pass interference call that nullified a third-down incompletion in the red zone. But honestly, the result of the drive wasn't as important as what it contained, namely, signs of a developing chemistry between Flacco and new targets Hayden Hurst, Michael Crabtree and John Brown, all of whom caught passes. The simple fact that Flacco was healthy, agile and playing is an improvement over last year, when a bad back forced him out of the entire preseason, hindering his preparation for the season. Now he's on the field and connecting with new targets, a more encouraging scenario in every way.
-- The fact that the Rams waved the white flag before kickoff makes it difficult to grade the performance of the Ravens' defense. It was dominant, no question, but the Rams were without quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and most of their other starters, so the Ravens' defense should dominate. What did stand out for the Ravens on that side of the ball was the explosiveness of Tim Williams, a second-year linebacker who is rapidly improving, according to Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale. A week after Kamalei Correa stole the headlines with a strong showing in the Hall of Fame Game (Correa was quieter Thursday night despite extensive playing time), Williams made his presence known with five overall tackles and a sack against the Rams. Rookie inside linebacker Kenny Young also excelled for a second straight week, using his speed to plug holes and run to the ball. Patrick Onwuasor remains the starter next to C.J. Mosley, but Young is making a push.
-- Rookie right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is the Cal Ripken Jr. of the Ravens' preseason so far. Which means what, exactly? That he's the Ironman. After getting an extended look during the Hall of Fame Game, Brown was again on the field for much longer than any other offensive starter Thursday night. Most of the others headed to the sideline after one series, but Brown continued to take snaps well into the second half. What's going on? Aside from the fact that Brown needs all the experience he can get, the Ravens are trying to determine if he can start in 2018. He has mostly lined up against backups, which makes his progress difficult to gauge, but Flacco, for one, has been impressed. "You can't ignore the fact that he's got ability. He's just so big, he swallows people up. He's a good football player; it's exciting to see," said Flacco of Brown. On these long, hot summer nights, the rookie is making an impression.
Quick hits: After starting the Hall of Fame Game, Robert Griffin III didn't play until the middle of third quarter in this one. He again looked solid running the offense and tossed several completions to Breshad Perriman, including one for a touchdown … Best defensive play of the night goes to cornerback Maurice Canady, who made a leaping interception late in the second quarter … Best catch overall goes to receiver Chris Moore, who pulled in a contested 36-yard completion from Lamar Jackson in the first half … With Tim White sidelined, rookie Janarion Grant was given first crack at the punt and kickoff return duties. He lost yardage on one punt return, gained 16 yards on another and overall looked the part … Rookie kicker Kaare Vedvik drilled field goal attempts of 41 and 44 yards. He missed a 53-yarder, but with his powerful leg and punting abilities, he's still a candidate to get a shot elsewhere when his time with the Ravens is up.
Check out the best shots from Thursday night's preseason game between the Ravens and visiting Los Angeles Rams.