Make Total Destroy: Ravens-Jaguars Preseason Week 3 Review
As mentioned in the previous Ravens blog, preseason games generally mean jack squat.
As long as no one gets hurt, preseason games are basically glorified scrimmages, the wins and losses determined mostly by guys who will be bagging groceries once the real games start.
That being said, the third preseason game is truly the last dress rehearsal before the games start to count. Starters play into the 3rd quarter and the majority of the4th quarter reps will go to bubble guys with a chance to make the team.
It was about as good a final dress rehearsal as you can ask for as a Ravens fan, as the club destroyed the Jacksonville Jaguars 48-17, and it wasn’t that close. It was almost a question of: are the Ravens really that good or are the Jags really that bad? Or did the Ravens just make the Jags look really bad?
Either way, it was good to see the team look good heading into Week 1.
Let’s go to the bullet points
---Joe Flacco was really in control in this game. It looked like the Flacco from last year’s AFC Championship Game: quick, strong, decisive and accurate. If this version of Flacco can show up every week, there’s no reason this offense can’t be very, very good.
--- Torrey Smith looks much more well-rounded this year, which could be an absolute nightmare for corners.
You could see the improvement in Smith’s game here. Many of his eight catches for 103 yards came from short passes that got Smith the ball in space and allowed him to use his tremendous speed to run away from defenders.
The Ravens have never had a weapon like Smith: a guy that can burn it deep and turn 10-yard slant passes into 70-yard touchdowns. He also looks like he’s really developed chemistry with Flacco, something he had to do on the fly because of the abbreviated training camp last year.
--- The secondary looked much better this week, albeit against inferior competition. Let’s just say Blaine Gabbert isn’t Matt Ryan or Matthew Stafford. That said, they did what they had to do in beating a bad team. Lardarius Webb and Bernard Pollard in particular were standouts with their tackling. The pass rush and run defense were also good. It was refreshing to see Courtney Upshaw make some impact.
--- I think it’s safe to say running back Bobby Rainey has a spot on this team. He’s like Ray Rice Jr. with his short stature and bowling bowl running style. Combined with Rice himself and rookie Bernard Pierce, the Ravens could have the makings of a nice running back group.
--- I said it last week, and I’ll say it this week: Cam Cameron needs to stick with this no-huddle stuff with Flacco. He’s so much more confident running this style of offense, particularly in the shotgun. The trick for Cameron will be to figure out ways to get Rice significant touches. I think you could mix up the personnel to play power football and still run the no-huddle. Cameron cannot ignore Rice – he’s still the team’s best offensive player –and go obscenely pass-happy like he did at times last year. I'm still skeptical Cameron can do it, but regardless, the offense looks so much more in control in the no huddle. They made it look really easy against Jacksonville.
---The Billy Cundiff Era is over in Baltimore. Everyone, including Cundiff, could see the writing on the wall judging by the way rookie Justin Tucker was allowed to handle all the kicking duties this game.
The Ravens have liked what they have seen from the strong-legged Tucker this preseason, and he has looked impressive from 50-plus yards.
Cundiff, as you might expect, was not thrilled with his role of benchwarmer. But it might be best for Billy and the Ravens to part ways. There’s just too much baggage there from the 32-yard miss in the AFC Championship Game last year. Every time Cundiff lines up to kick here, everyone is going to remember that miss. And despite what they say about still having faith in Cundiff, don’t think John Harbaugh and the team don’t think the same way. You don’t forget about a short miss like that.
The only downside is that the last time the Ravens cut a veteran to go with a rookie it gave us Steve Hauschka, who got run out of town on a rail not long after missing a game-winning kick against Minnesota in 2009. How do you put your trust into a guy that’s never had to line up with the game on the line? As Johnny Utah told Bodhi, “You gotta earn trust.”
--- Speaking of last year’s AFC title game, as my man Kris “Goob” Jones pointed out, Lee Evans was cut from that awful Jacksonville team. How bad is that? It’s probably better Evans didn’t make it back to Baltimore anyway, he would have got a special kind of Baltimore booing that I like to call “The Elway Treatment.”
--- In January, Evans and Cundiff's lack of execution kept the Ravens out of the Super Bowl. Now, they're both unemployed. The NFL is definitely a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.
--- Just having watched these two preseason games, if I were choosing between Deonte Thompson and Tommy Streeter for the last wide receiver spot, I’m going with Thompson. He looks like a guy that could really help in the return game. Streeter is an intriguing prospect, but hasn’t done enough to impress, even with his touchdown against Jacksonville.
--- Harbaugh instructed Tucker to kick his kickoffs short to give the return coverage team some work. They were so bad, I hope Harbs’ next instruction to Tucker is, “Boom every kickoff through the end zone.” The return coverage was so bad they made Jalen Parmalee look like Devin Hester.
--- Was good to see Tandon Doss make a bit of an impact this game. I’ve been disappointed in Doss’ brief career with the Ravens – last preseason I thought he had T.J. Houshmandzadeh-like potential – because he can’t stay healthy and hasn’t done much when given a chance. It looks like the Ravens will keep him, so he’ll get another chance to claim the possession receiver role.
--- Want to know why Ravens fans love fullback Vonta Leach? In this game, he caught a pass from Flacco in the flat and had a wide open path to the endzone. Instead of veering away from the approaching linebacker and taking the easy path to the pylon, Leach veered back inside and tried to run over the ‘backer on his way into the endzone. Love that guy.
So next Thursday is the last preseason game against St. Louis before we start for real Sept. 10 against Cincinnati. More than likely we’ll see plenty of Tyrod Taylor and Curtis Painter in that one. And that’s fine, given that the starters gave us plenty of reason for optimism with this performance.