Five thoughts on the Ravens' 23-3 preseason win over the Washington Redskins Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
With the Offensive Starters Resting, the Backups Played WellWhen the Ravens had the ball, it was a night when that old sports axiom was appropriate: You couldn't tell the players without a scorecard. Joe Flacco, Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Danny Woodhead, Benjamin Watson, Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis didn't play. Most are healthy and could have suited up (not Flacco, Yanda and Lewis) but simply were given the night off. As a result, the night was ceded to backups and rookies. If you didn't have a scorecard, or roster, you possibly didn't know Jermaine Eluemunor and Matt Skura were the starting guards, Buck Allen was carrying the ball and the receiving snaps went to Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo as well as Michael Campanaro and Chris Moore. The pieces actually came together pretty well, with the offense generating 10 first downs and 13 points in the first half before the coaches reached even deeper into the depth chart in the second half.
Defensive Performance Was Eye-Popping
There was much better participation among the Ravens' defensive starters. In fact, the entire projected starting defense was on the field for the first few series. The results were eye-popping. The front, consisting of Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce and Brent Urban, was completely dominant, blunting all rushing attempts and collapsing the pocket on Washington's quarterbacks. Urban was everywhere, totaling four tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles by early in the second quarter. It's way early, but this looks like a front that opponents are going to have a hard time budging. Kamalei Correa was solid in his first start at inside linebacker, and Lardarius Webb manned the slot cornerback spot, which has been under scrutiny because of injuries. As a whole, though, the starting secondary was barely tested because of the unit's dominance up front. It's hard not to be encouraged.
Run-Pass Balance Was Encouraging
The Ravens have endeavored to improve their running game in 2017, and they received a decent return for their efforts Thursday night, generating 64 rushing yards on 18 attempts in the first half. In a brief early appearance, Terrance West broke a nice run to set up a touchdown, which he then scored on a flying leap over the goal line – impressive stuff. Of course, with three of the projected starters on the offensive line not on the field, it's probably not wise to gauge too much from anything that unfolded. In my view, the most promising aspect of the performance was the commitment to the running game from Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The Ravens set a franchise record for pass attempts on his watch a year ago, and they want to get back to being more balanced. In the first half Thursday night, they had 18 rushes and 18 pass attempts. I'd call that balanced.
Circumstances Make It Hard to Judge Ryan Mallett and Ryan Jensen
Of the offensive players who were on the field, two were under closer scrutiny than most – quarterback Ryan Mallett and center Ryan Jensen. Mallett, who played the first half, had a tough slog, completing just 9 of 18 passes for 52 yards. He had plenty of time to throw behind a line that generally protected him, but he still struggled to complete passes to downfield targets. With so many of the Ravens' starters and top playmakers not on the field, though, it's probably not fair even to assign Mallett a grade. As for Jensen, he certainly seemed to handle the play-calling aspect of the center's job, as there were few apparent communication problems. The Ravens weren't necessarily dominant on running plays between the tackles, but Jensen wasn't pushed back, either.
Tim White handled the punt return duties in the first half, and the Redskins punted five times, but White had little chance to show what he could do, making just one return for 9 yards. Keenan Reynolds dropped back for punts in the second half and had better fortune. He broke a 46-yard return that brought the crowd to its feet, a positive step in his battle for a roster spot … On the first play after Reynolds' return, White made a nice adjustment on an underthrown ball and caught a touchdown pass, a similarly positive step for him … When the first-team defense was playing and Correa came off the field on third down, he was replaced not by another linebacker, but by a safety, Anthony Levine Sr., who generated a sack from Correa's spot on the game's first series … You know it's football season when Justin Tucker converts a 59-yard field goal attempt, as he did on the last play of the first half Thursday night.