Five thoughts on the Ravens' 31-13 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
Scoreboard Didn't Tell Whole Story
This was one of those nights when the scoreboard didn't tell the whole story. When the starters were in early, the Ravens dominated, opening a 13-0 lead that could have been bigger. Joe Flacco and Steve Smith Sr. hooked up on a long touchdown pass, and Flacco was generally sharp, completing eight of 13 attempts. A penalty kept the score from being 17-0. Meanwhile, the Redskins' first three drives ended with an interception, a fourth-and-short stuff and a punt. The Ravens pulled starters from both units at that point, and things dramatically changed. The Redskins dominated the final two-and-a-half quarters, with quarterback Kirk Cousins looking especially sharp. But that dominance was achieved against second-team and third-team Ravens. Does that mean it's meaningless? No. I'm sure the Ravens' coaches weren't happy to see their backups give up 31-straight points. And No. 2 quarterback Matt Schaub struggled for a second-straight game. But Schaub and most of the other reserves won't be on the field when the Ravens' regular season begins.
Smith Shouldn't Lose His Cool, But He Didn't Need To Play Anymore Anyway
If the Ravens are going to get into a fight, the smart money is on Steve Smith Sr. being involved. A highly emotional player who loves trash talking, Smith plays with an edge. Thus, it wasn't exactly shocking to see him become the only Baltimore player to get ejected when tempers flared and a mini-brawl broke out. Although a number of players were involved, Smith and Washington cornerback Chris Culliver kept mixing it up the
longest and paid a price. (Culliver was also ejected.) The Ravens certainly don't want to see Smith lose his cool like that and get tossed from a regular-season game; they don't have another receiver with his kind of track record. But they probably didn't mind that he was forced to leave this game. He had already shown he was ready for the season, having turned an out route into a 63-yard touchdown on the Ravens' first possession. He didn't need to play anymore.
Jackson Electric On Kick Return, But Job Not Set In Stone
Asa Jackson made his case to become the No. 1 kick returner. Near the end of the first half, he fielded a kickoff in the end zone and ran it back 103 yards before being brought down just short of the goal line. Although the Ravens failed to turn the opportunity into points, Jackson made his point with his electric runback. Opposing kickers have given the Ravens' returners few chances in the preseason, but Jackson finally got a shot and made the most of it. He obviously has the speed for the job, and it appears he's got the playmaking touch, too. Ironically, later in the game he showed his inexperience as a punt returner, trying to make a play when defenders were bearing down on him. His bad decision-making resulted in a fumble, and it could lead the coaches to wonder about him as a punt returner, a job he seemed to have locked up. Jerry Rosburg, the Ravens' special teams coach, said recently that the "ideal" situation is for one guy to handle both return jobs. Jackson is closer than anyone to making that happen, but nothing is set in stone because he violated the "no turnover" commandment.
Ravens' Run Defense Rebounds
After getting gashed repeatedly on the ground in Philadelphia last week, the Ravens' starting defense fared much better against the run, limiting Washington's Alfred Morris, a prolific back, to four yards on seven carries early in the game. I've gone on record saying I think the Ravens' run defense will be fine without Haloti Ngata because they've assembled enough young talent to carry on, but that prediction didn't hold up last week in Philadelphia. This was more like it. Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams completely dominated the middle, a recurring scenario from week to week, and when tackle Timmy Jernigan went out with a knee injury, impressive rookie Carl Davis stepped in and played well. The reserve defensive interior didn't fare nearly as well and the Redskins wound up with close to 100 yards rushing, but the starters were stout.
Penalties negated a spectacular 33-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from Flacco to tight end Crockett Gillmore, who bulldozed through three defenders to reach the end zone … Flacco avoided a sack in the second quarter by switching the ball to his other hand and attempting a left-handed pass as he was being brought down … Schaub compiled a dismal 10.7 quarterback rating, completing three of seven attempts for just 17 yards with one interception … It wasn't a great night for rookie running back Buck Allen. He averaged just 2.0 yards on a dozen carries, and of all the mistakes the Ravens made as the game slipped away, his fumble at the goal line was especially damaging. Allen has a huge opportunity with Lorenzo Taliaferro injured, but fumbles won't help his bid to get carries.