Five thoughts on the Ravens' 30-9 preseason win over the Detroit Lions Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
Flacco's Outing Was Encouraging
Admit it: the first time Joe Flacco took a hit and went down, on a sack by Haloti Ngata, you held your breath until you saw him stand up. A lot of people might feel that way for a while as Flacco bounces back from the knee injury that ended his 2015 season. But Flacco himself seems to have put the injury behind him, out of mind, etc. In his first game action of 2016, it was impossible to tell he was ever hurt. He didn't wear a bulky knee brace. He moved quickly in the pocket and easily evaded rushers. Although he failed to produce a touchdown on two possessions before calling it a night, he was decisive, generally accurate and moved the chains, completing 11 of 16 passes for 94 yards. Significantly, he unleashed his arm and threw downfield to wideouts rather than settling for dump-offs. His cameo will serve as the entirety of his preparation for the regular season since he won't suit up for Thursday's preseason finale in New Orleans, but it was an encouraging performance.
Brutal Development For Benjamin Watson, But Ravens Can Absorb His LossThe Ravens are officially scrambling at tight end after losing Benjamin Watson for the season. Coming off a career year in New Orleans, he was set to lead the Ravens at his position on and off the field. When he went down with a torn Achilles on Saturday's first play, it was a brutal development for Watson and also rough for the Ravens. But if they were going to lose a starter at any position, tight end probably can handle it the best. Yes, there are short-term issues because Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams are injured and Darren Waller and Nick Boyle are facing suspensions when the season starts. But Crockett Gillmore can produce as the starter, a role he has already filled, and the others will make their way back. Watson will be missed, but the Ravens have the depth to ease the sting.
Anthony Levine Showing He's A Playmaker
Before the preseason began, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was as interested as anyone to see who stepped forward and made plays. Well, the results are in. Anthony Levine Sr. is making plays. One week after his "pick two" provided the margin of victory for the Ravens, he contributed a sack and an interception in the first half Saturday. For those keeping score at home, Levine now has two picks and the rest of the Ravens have zero. Wide receiver Jeremy Butler also is making plays, so many that the Ravens almost surely are going to have to find a roster spot for him. When he dove for a touchdown grab Saturday night, you could practically hear him shouting, "I want a job!" Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon also was consistently making plays until he left Saturday's game with a knee injury (see below).
Love What We're Seeing From Terrell Suggs
If I'm the Ravens, I love what I'm seeing from Terrell Suggs. No one in uniform had more fun Saturday night than the 33-year-old veteran. Playing for the first time since he suffered a torn Achilles last September, he was as frisky as a rookie; he ran around in warmups, dashed to midfield to represent the team at the coin flip, then provided energy and physicality during a pair of defensive series. Although he didn't register a sack, he made two tackles and looked like his old self. "It felt great, I'm not going to lie," he said. He has returned with renewed enthusiasm and dedication, having obviously been influenced by his year away from the game. "You never really know how much you miss something until you don't have it anymore," he said. It remains to be seen whether he has the burst that leads to sacks, but the smart money is on him.
Looked Like Dixon Was No. 2 Back Before Injury
I'm sure the Ravens breathed a deep sigh of relief when they learned Dixon had "only" suffered a sprained knee after being carried off the field late in the first half. He was having a big night with 41 rushing yards on six carries, looking more elusive and explosive than any Baltimore back. Although the Ravens probably are going with a by-committee approach at the position, it appeared to me that Dixon was in the process of nailing down the No. 2 spot behind Justin Forsett, and frankly, if he kept it up, the starter's job was not out of reach. Sorry to sound grim, but when his knee bent awkwardly in a pile as he fell to the ground, it appeared to be a bad injury. A sprain is no picnic, but it's a better outcome than some of the Ravens surely envisioned. The bad news is he's going to be out for a while. The good news is he looks like a bona fide playmaker.
Go down on the field with the Ravens as they battle the Colts in the third game of the 2016 preseason.