First off, it is just great to have football back. To actually see our boys go up against another team without having to hold back anything like we do in Training Camp was great. Last night's game was a perfect way to start off what is becoming one of the most impostant off-seasons in Ravens history because of all the potential moves within our roster.
The Ravens played their typical style of dominating defense, holding Washington to only 196 total yard of offense while forcing 2 turnovers. On the other side, many people felt that this Ravens offense was going to struggle all season long because of whatever BS reason the "experts" and average football fans think of our current group of players. Even though it is only pre-season, was it not exciting to see the offense put up 500 total yards, particularly excelling in the passing game? Last night was an all around great team victory and the game showed many of us the answers to some of the questions we have had since the 2008 season ended. Here are some game notes.
- The passing game was very efficient last night, with all 3 Quarterbacks putting up over 100 yards throwing the football. Flacco started the game off, made ome nice completions to Mason, Williams and Washington. Troy Smith however was the obvious star of the game. Completing nearly 50% of his passes for 200 yards and a Touchdown. His throwing motion and footwork is as good as anyone in this league and I actually saw a strong resemblence to McNabb last night in the way he rolled out of the pocket, escaped tacklers that Flacco and Beck most likely would have not gotten away with, and made some big time plays. He had a great drive at the end of the 1st half, leading us to our first touchdown. Good for Troy.
- The WR situation was still a little shakey last night. Even with what was said to be a disloacted finger, Derrick Mason still suited up and was in there for quite a few plays. What most of us wanted to see however was the performance of the unproven guys. Most of us wanted to see what 2nd year player, Justin Harper would do. Well he started off his performance with some serious T-Rex arms and dropped some passes that should have definitely been caught. However, Harper came back strong by making 4 catches for 57 yards, including a 19 yard score with 10 seconds left in the 1st half. The play of the night however goes to the little guy, 5'7" WR Jason Foster, who turned a 15 yard pass on the sidline, into a 65 yard gain down to around the 10 yard line. I was impressed by the man. Second year player, Marcus Smith, hobbled off the field I believe in the 3rd quarter, faovring his right leg. Coach Harbaugh said after the game that it looks to be a serious ACL problem. This is too bad for a guy who was showing some signs of great improvement.
- Running game was solid as well. Rice started off strong and definitely showed that he is the most athletic RB on this team. He caught some nice screen passes and turned them into some very good chunks of yards. McGahee came out strong, getting a crucial 16 yard gain on our first touchdown scoring drive. Is it just me, or was anyone else impressed by Matt Lawrence? He made the most of the reps he got, gaining 74 total yard while having a run and a catch both go for 14 yard longs. Peerman also had a nice touchdown towards the end of the game.
- On offense, the group that I think impressed us the most was the Offensive Line. Man did those guys do a great job last night. Allowed on 1 sack all game and consistently gave the QB's enough time to move the ball. One guy we are all aware about now is first round pick Michael Oher. He was playing as if it was January and we were fighting to be in the superbowl. On multiple plays, Oher's helmet came flying off, but he still succeeded in dominating his man. On the foruth and 1 play in the first quarter, Oher gave the hardest pancake I have ever seen to the Redskins D-Lineman. He came up with a huge cut on his forehead and blood running down his face. When I finally saw that play and image of him, I knew we have someone special playing right tackle for us. Great job by the line last night
- For defense, I think is is pretty easy to see that this group is going to be just fine. We were fast, exotic and got to the ball carrier quickly. Started off the game slow with Cambell completing a few nice passes, but the running game was shut down and so was their offense.
- The Linebackers had a very good game against Washington. Rookie second round pick, Paul Kruger, started the game at ROLB and end the game at ROLB. It is great to see that he is making huge strides for someone who switched over to a pass rushing role only 3 years ago.
- Gooden was fast, always being around theball carrier and looked fired up after most plays. We will not be missing Bart Scott.
- Jameel McClaine however was not as impressive as I thought he would. There were a few times where he was going to fast and was not able to bring down the QB when the sack was right here in front of him. Onthe other hand, it was good to see him get through the line as fast as he did. With some good coaching, we could see a beast next year.
- Perhaps the most reamped group of the team, the DB's, excelled against the Washington passing attack. They look fast and very aggresive for a group that most see as not playing an in your face type style. Derrick Martin has a nice interception late in the game.
- Another important battle this season is the returners. We saw Chriss Carr, Lardarius Webb, Jason Foster and Yamon Figurs all take kicks back last night. Carr looks to be the front runner on most, but do not be surprised if Webb is in there on some punts.
- The kicking battle was in full effect with Hauschka and Gano seeing equal time. Hauschka looked great on kickoffs and was 2/2 on his field goal attempts with a long of 37. Gano as well looked cery good on kick offs, but was only 1/2 on his field goal attempts. However, the last attempt with 2 seconds left in the 4th quarter was sort of a bad snap, but Gano is going to have to learn how to deal with those and make that very short field goal. Great job by the 2 last night though.
- One thing I was not happy with were the penalties throughout the game, particularly all the holding that occurred. Oneil Cousins looked horrendous last night, as he was beat multiple times by Redskins first round pick, Brian Orakpo, and had to resort to holding him. There were holds on many special teams play and the coaches MUST get on these players to fix this problem.
- For coaching, I think we should all be satisfied with the balance of plays out there last night. On offense Cam Cameron did a very good job of spreading the ball around and kept the Skins guessing. I like that he attacked long as well. We did however try to force that little dink and dunk screen pass to Rice just a little too much early in the game. It worked, bu the Skins figured it out on some play. No of the trickery that we saw last season, but we still got 3 more games to try it out.
- New defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison, couldn't have done a better job. For anyone who thinks that the loss of Rex Ryan is going to hurt us because of his exotic style, you need to go back and watch last night's game. We had CB's blitzing on so many plays, and I can recall seeing Lardarius Webb blitz on 2 plays which should have resulted in a pick 6 for Antwan Barnes and one that did cause a pick for Derrick Martin. His play calling is simple, yet aggressive. If we can keep everyone in their right position and not leave any holes wide open, we should be just fine.
Great win for the Ravens and great way to start off the season. It is amazing how fast the off-season goes and great to have some sort of football back in Baltimore. It may have only been pre-season, but these games are important for the unproven guys. I don't care if we were playing against a third string offense at times, because they were playing against our third string defense and vice versa. A 23-0 victory in a live game in this league is hard to come by, even if the game does not really matter. Excellent job all around, lets minimize the mistakes and take advantage of the very talented group we have.