Five thoughts on the Ravens' 22-19 win over the Carolina Panthers Thursday night in their preseason opener at M&T Bank Stadium:
Hard To Imagine Ravens Cutting Any Up-And-Coming Running Backs
The Ravens gave Justin Forsett the night off, guaranteeing that young running backs Buck Allen, Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon would get multiple chances to show what they could do. They all made things happen. Dixon, the only rookie among the three, ran for 19 yards on his first pro touch and wound up averaging 4.9 yards per carry, displaying the quick feet and acceleration that convinced the Ravens to draft him. Allen showed less burst and elusiveness on his carries, but he's a versatile back and turned a short reception into a 19-yard touchdown in the second quarter. West started quickly with several sharp runs and then tailed off a bit, but he also scored a pair of touchdowns, showing potential as a red-zone threat. It's hard to imagine the Ravens letting any of the three go. In fact, while Forsett has looked sharp in practice, a multi-headed monster at running back is looking more and more plausible.
Ronnie Stanley Sets A Different Tone At Left Tackle
Five days after leaving a practice with a soft-tissue knee injury, rookie Ronnie Stanley made his pro debut, starting at left tackle and playing until the middle of the second quarter. The fact that he played at all was the most noteworthy aspect of his night because Stanley is taking over for a tackle who played so seldom the Ravens gave up on him. Stanley certainly set a different tone by making his pro debut so soon after suffering an injury, albeit a minor one. As for how he performed, there was nothing negative to report – no penalties, no sacks allowed. And Stanley showed power and explosiveness on several runs to his side. All in all, a good start for the Ravens' highest draft pick in a decade.
Cam Newton Got The Best Of Ravens Secondary
The Ravens' starting defense squared off against Cam Newton for exactly one series, the first of the game, and there was no doubt who got the best of it. Newton completed five of six pass attempts and led the Panthers down the field on a methodical drive that took up 14 plays and almost seven minutes. It only produced a field goal when the Ravens stiffened in the red zone, but full disclosure, Newton overthrew an open receiver in the end zone on third down. (Ted Ginn had two steps on Jimmy Smith.) Yes, the defensive interior was without starters Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, but the secondary's troubles continued after a turnover gave Carolina a first down at the Baltimore 26 later in the first quarter. The Panthers' backup quarterback, Derek Anderson, quickly completed a pair of passes, including a touchdown over Shareece Wright. Backups and deep-depth guys manned the Ravens defense for the rest of the night and fared better, allowing no touchdowns and four field goals as the Ravens rallied to win. But Newton's brief appearance produced a batch of plays that won't look good on film.
Ryan Mallett Was Solid In His Preseason Debut
Since the Ravens elected to sit Joe Flacco, backup Ryan Mallett got the start under center and played the entire first half. Which Mallett would show up, the one who upset Pittsburgh last December or the one who struggled against Cincinnati a week later? The odds were against him considering eight of the Ravens' 13 wide receivers, including all of their top ones, didn't suit up, but Mallett performed more like the quarterback who upset Pittsburgh. He misfired on just four of his 15 pass attempts. The one interception he suffered wasn't his fault. (Darren Waller botched the catch.) He was 6-for-6 on an 84-yard touchdown drive. He even scrambled for a first down to keep a drive going. Flacco probably will make his preseason debut next week, but Mallett was solid.
Of all the Ravens' new pass rushers, little-known Chris Carter had the best night. He dominated on the edge, amassing two tackles, a half-sack and three quarterback hits. Carter, 27, actually is a veteran; the Ravens are his fourth team … The heat index was 102 degrees when the game began, which may be partly why the Ravens let so many healthy players sit out. It's a long, long season … A trio of pass catchers who have been making plays in practice – Jeremy Butler, Darren Waller and Daniel Brown – continued to make them Thursday night ... Filling in for Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith made a Suggs-like play early, forcing a fumble with a strip sack. Smith looks improved in his second season … The Panthers had an interesting night with penalties. An assistant coach was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after being warned about it, and Cam Newton ran on the field during a pick-six interception return, drawing a flag that cancelled the score … Defensively for the Ravens, rookies Matt Judon and Willie Henry were especially active and made plays.