Five thoughts on the Ravens' 44-16 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their preseason opener Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium:
Starting Offense Was Just 'OK'
The Ravens' starting offense failed to produce a point in two first-quarter possessions, so you can't give it high marks. The team's first possession of 2013 ended with Joe Flacco throwing an interception. The running game was especially tepid with Flacco under center, managing just eight yards on five carries. But the performance was not without positives. Flacco actually moved the sticks fairly effectively, totaling seven completions in nine attempts, mostly on crossing routes to wideouts and short tosses to backs. He used the no-huddle a lot and looked in command, but he didn't attempt a deep downfield throw, so the speed of the wideouts was not put to use. "I felt like we operated OK," Flacco said.
D. Smith Was Ravens Best Player
The best player on the field for the Ravens was Daryl Smith, the veteran inside linebacker who was signed as a free agent. He was extremely active, piling up five tackles, four solos, one tackle for loss and a pass deflection against the Bucs' starters in the early going. It was a continuation of the strong play he has delivered throughout training camp, and at this point, there is little doubt that he will be starting when the Ravens open the regular season in Denver next month. He is showing the younger guys on the roster how to play the position. It's almost enough to make you forget about the guy he's replacing, who was, you know, pretty good, too.
Receiver Play Will Not Ease Concerns
This performance will not ease the minds of those worried about the caliber of the wide receiving corps without Anquan Boldin. Flacco didn't complete a pass to any of them other than Torrey Smith. LaQuan Williams and Aaron Mellette made some nice catches against Tampa Bay's backups late, but the candidates for the No. 2 and No. 3 slots had little impact against the starters. Jacoby Jones dropped a pass over the middle, as did Deonte Thompson. That stuff happens, but the Ravens are going to need more consistent hands, especially from Jones if he starts opposite Smith. At tight end, veteran Visanthe Shiancoe, the de facto starter with Pitta and Ed Dickson out, showed some rust with a pair of drops but did make three catches and showed he could produce. Rookie Matt Furstenberg also contributed nicely with a long catch over the middle.
Of all the punt and kick return candidates trotted out, Bobby Rainey showed the most game-breaking ability … Chykie Brown didn't do himself any favors with a rough stretch in the second quarter that included being called for pass interference on back-to-back plays, setting up a Tampa Bay touchdown … It seems that Vonta Leach has simply resumed his duties as the starting fullback. Rookie backup Kyle Juszczek lined up in a couple of different spots and caught two balls. It's going to be interesting to see how he develops. If Juszczek's primary contributions in 2013 come on special teams, he delivered a nifty solo tackle on a punt … If the goal for fringe players is to make plays that get you noticed, rookie Brynden Trawick certainly delivered with a blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half, effectively breaking open the game. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh gets the assist. He called what looked to be a pointless timeout to force the punt when he could have let the clock run out, and a touchdown ensued.
More Short Takes
Strong special teams were on display between the blocked punt for a touchdown, the Rainey kick return that set up a touchdown, and Justin Tucker's three field goal … It's a good night when you're battling to make the team and reach the end zone two different ways, as Williams did, recovering the blocked punt for a touchdown and then catching a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor … Second-year cornerback Asa Jackson needed to make a splash in the wake of his second PED suspension, and he picked off a pass. He also had two tackles and a deflection … Pretty neat moment for Gilman grad Brandon Copeland, picking off a pass in the fourth quarter … Ravens went on a 37-3 run after being down 13-7 in the second quarter.