The preseason is usually the least exciting part of an NFL season, but after a five-month-long lockout, fans were eager to watch anything football related. That may have led more viewers than usual to tune in and catch the Baltimore Ravens open the preseason with a 13-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, August 11.

The stars of both teams, including Ray Lewis of the Ravens and Michael Vick of the Eagles, didn’t play long, saving themselves for the regular season. But Baltimore is expected to use a number of young, inexperienced players this season—some of the players projected to start for the Ravens this year have never played an NFL game before, until last night.

Quick Look at the Starters:

The Ravens’ starting offensive unit, led by four-year quarterback Joe Flacco, played only two series before sitting out the rest of the game. Flacco’ best pass came on the opening drive when he found second-year tight end Dennis Pitta for a 23-yard pass-and-catch that helped move the Ravens into field goal position for the game’s first score.

Pitta is expected to help fill the void left by veteran pro bowl tight end Todd Heap, who was released from the team after serving as one of the Ravens’ primary pass catchers for the last nine seasons. Pitta caught four passes for 47 yards, while Flacco finished 3-for-6 for 60 yards—not too bad for a young offense facing a Eagles secondary that includes three Pro Bowlers in Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodger-Cromartie, and Asante Samuels.

On defense, the Ravens looked decent, considering defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano used a “vanilla” scheme to avoid showing his hand on which plays he’ll use in the regular season. The Ravens did, however, give up a touchdown pass to the Eagles’ starting offense early in the first quarter. Vick found Eagles tight end Brent Celek for a 3-yard touchdown, after connecting with receiver Riley Cooper for a 42-yard pass that moved Philly deep into the red zone. Vick finished the game 4-for-6 for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Ravens’ Youth Movement

Analysts kept an eye on the Ravens’ younger players, including rookie receiver Torrey Smith, rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith and rookie tackle Jah Reid. All three players may take on starting roles come regular season, and getting into game shape now is their primary focus.

The most impressive of the three is Reid, who played most of the first quarter before sitting out the rest of the game. He didn’t give up a sack during his time in the game, a big plus in the eyes of his coaches. Torrey Smith, who may replace departed veteran Derrick Mason at receiver, played through the entire first half, but failed to make a catch. Jimmy Smith was sidelined most of the game, still nursing a recent minor injury.

Rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who may have to serve as the team’s primary backup behind Flacco, had a rough experience in his NFL debut. He made a handful of solid plays, but finished with only 179 yards and two interceptions.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor