Five thoughts on the Ravens' 30-27 win over the New Orleans Saints in their preseason opener Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
Trestman Hits Home Run, Flacco On Same Page
Marc Trestman hit a home run with the first-team offense in his debut as the Ravens offensive coordinator. On the first series of 2015, quarterback Joe Flacco and the starters held the ball for more than eight minutes while driving 80 yards to a touchdown in 16 plays. Right away, you could see what Trestman, a proponent of the West Coast offense, likes in a passing game. Flacco's first four completions went to a running back, a wide receiver, a tight end and another running back, all on quick routes set up by play-action fakes. Flacco passed for 33 yards on the drive and also rushed for 17 on a nifty scramble. That was Flacco's only series and he never attempted a downfield throw, but it was impossible not to come away thinking he's in step with Trestman's vision for the offense and in command of what he's doing. Early returns, the quarterback and his new OC are on the same page.
Exciting Ending For Preseason Game
It appeared the Ravens were going to blow a 17-0 lead and lose when the Saints turned an interception into a touchdown that gave them a 27-23 lead with less than two minutes to play. But the Ravens offense, led by third-team quarterback Bryn Renner, impressively drove 80 yards to a game-winning touchdown, which Renner himself scored on a run with two seconds to play. The big play was a fourth-and-long completion to rookie tight end Maxx Williams, who fought through a pair of tacklers to pick up a first down and keep the drive going – a big-time play. After Renner dove into the end zone a few plays later, the Ravens' starters flooded the field in celebration, congratulating Renner. No one will remember it in November, but for a preseason game that felt more like a scrimmage at times, it was a pretty exciting ending.
Schaub Looked Better Than In Practice
For the past four years, whenever Flacco came out of a preseason game, it signaled the start of Tyrod Time. Flacco's backup, Tyrod Taylor, dominated August for the Ravens offense. But Taylor is gone and a new reserve, veteran Matt Schaub, now backs up Flacco, so he handled the long interlude formerly known as Tyrod Time. (Suggestions for a new nickname are welcomed. I couldn't come up with one. Matt Time? Uh, no.) It was interesting to see how Schaub would fare because he had thrown some interceptions in training camp practices, and he got off to an excellent start, tossing a 45-yard touchdown pass to Michael Campanaro on his first series. He trailed off a bit after that and threw an interception that wasn't really his fault, but generally, he exhibited more command and playmaking skill than he had shown in practice. "Matt played well," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
The needle didn't move much in several competitions that have dominated conversations at training camp. Other than Campanaro delivering the big play that will help his roster prospects, the wide receivers didn't do a whole lot. And there was even less action in the race to replace Jacoby Jones as the kickoff and/or punt returner. Every New Orleans kickoff resulted in a touchback, so there were no returns, and the only punt returns were three by Asa Jackson and Campanaro for 27 yards. If that keeps up, the coaches will have to rely on what they see in practice to make a decision. There was more action for reserve running backs Lorenzo Taliaferro and Buck Allen, both of whom were solid. Taliaferro gained 36 yards on 12 carries and moved the pile several times, exhibiting power. Allen gained 35 on 11 carries.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees dressed but never played … Dannell Ellerbe started at linebacker for the Saints. A key contributor on the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl team, Ellerbe signed a $35 million free-agent deal with Miami after that season when the Ravens elected not to match his market price. Two years later, he's on a new team because the Dolphins traded him to get out from under the deal. It's hard to argue with the Ravens' decision making in his case … Rookie defensive lineman Carl Davis had an impressive debut. He played most of the game, consistently controlled his gap and made several tackles. It appears he's headed for a spot in the defensive interior rotation … The Saints were horridly sloppy, piling up 143 penalty yards … Cornerback Jimmy Smith didn't even suit up, and he's not injured. If the coaches just didn't see any need to play him and expose him to risk of injury, I wholeheartedly support the idea. Other than Flacco, Smith is the player the Ravens can least afford to lose. Why not be extra careful?