The Baltimore Ravens earned their first win of the 2011 preseason, beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-13, on Aug. 19 at M&T Bank Stadium.
But in a contest that meant nothing towards the actual won-loss record of the regular season, most fans kept their eyes focused on certain players, hoping to catch a glimpse of what to expect come September.
Who will be good? Who will be bad? And who will be downright ugly this season? It’s still a few weeks before the official regular season kicks off, but some of those questions may have been answered in Friday night’s victory over the Chiefs.
Baltimore’s defense still looks like the dominant unit on the team, just as it has been for the last 10-plus years. Legendary linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t play because of personal family issues, Danelle Ellerbe and Jameel McClain filled in well as replacements, combing for six tackles.
But it was the big guys up front that were the most impressive. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and second-year tackle Terrance Cody swallowed up the Chiefs’ premiere running game, holding Pro Bowl running back Jamal Charles to just 12 yards on four carries, only 3 yards per rush (2 yards less than his average). The defensive secondary also played well, with rookie Jimmy Smith at left cornerback and veteran Cary Williams at right cornerback. The duo played well together, keeping Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe out of the end zone.
As for offense, the Ravens picked up speedy veteran receiver Lee Evans via free agency less than a week ago, and he’s already showing he’ll make an impact this season. Baltimore needed a speedster who could stretch the field, and that’s exactly what Evans did in his unofficial debut for the Ravens, catching 3 passes for 68 yards, averaging 22 yards per catch. He caught a 43-yard bomb at the end of the first half that set up Baltimore’s only touchdown scored by the first team offense.
The touchdown was scored on a 26-yard scamper by running back Ray Rice, who cut back through a hole set up by newly acquired fullback Vonta Leach. Leach was smashing helmets throughout the entire first half, and looks every bit of the pro-bowl caliber blocker that he was advertised when he first signed to the team weeks ago.
But while the Ravens’ newest additions to the offense showed well, it was the returning stars that appeared out of sync. Ravens’ four-year quarterback Joe Flacco made some really good passes in the game, but he also made some poor ones. For some reason, he wasn’t on the same rhythm with Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin. Flacco tried to hit Boldin twice for the deep ball, but both times he overthrew him. The two stars needs to get their timing corrected quickly before the real season begins.
Pro Bowl Punter Sam Koch also had a couple bad punts, at least according to his own standards. Kock built a reputation for booting some of the most beautiful punts ever last season, but he kicked a few flat, errant punts against Kansas City. He’s a savvy pro, so look for him to get it together before September arrives.
Any desire to watch a Ravens’ pre-season game seems to go away once the Ravens benched Flacco in the preseason. Why? Because Baltimore’s backup quarterback position is probably the ugliest position to watch on the field. Usually the Ravens bring in a quality veteran to man the backup quarterback position.
But so far this summer, they’ve let rookie Tyrod Taylor play backup and he hasn’t exactly flourished at the role. Taylor is an extremely athletic quarterback who can make a lot of moves with his legs and arm, but the speed of the NFL still appears too fast for him. He hasn’t made all of his reads, and has made a lot of inaccurate passes. Just imagine how ugly things can really get if Flacco goes down with an injury during the regular season and Taylor has to take over.