The scoreboard showed a Ravens 37-30 victory over the Cowboys, but as it is for any preseason game, the only win you care about is being injury free.
Against the Cowboys on Saturday evening, the injury bug did bit the Ravens with two of their star players, but it was more of a nibble than anything.
On the first series of the game, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith jumped to deflect a pass intended for Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. Smith landed flat his back, smacking his head against the turf. Initially it appeared that Smith may have suffered a concussion, then he rolled over and began to spit blood onto the field.
Strangely enough, the team announced Smith had a bruised chest and sent him to the locker room for x-ray's, which thankfully came out negative.
Another star player visiting the x-ray room was Ray Rice. It was already notable that Rice didn't start the game, having to watch Bernard Pierce play with the starters during the first series. In the second series, Rice carried twice, totaling 21 yards and left the field with a shoulder injury. While walking to the locker room, Rice told CSN's Brent Harris that the injury wasn't serious.
Like Smith, Rice's x-ray's were negative and after the game Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called Rice's injury a shoulder bruise.
Both players failed to return to action after leaving the field.
Now, here's what happened on the field:
In one of those odd football scenarios, the Ravens offense didn't even see their first snap until the scoreboard showed a 14-7 Ravens lead. In fact, the Cowboys offense had ran 21 plays and quarterback Tony Romo's night was over before the Ravens offense and Joe Flacco even took the field.
The Ravens found the end zone in a hurry, benefiting from a blunder from Romo and running back DeMarco Murray. As Murray was unable to secure the ball to his stomach, Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw scooped up the ball and ran 25 yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys would respond with a touchdown by Bryant, who took full advantage of mismatch with Dominique Franks, whom was filling in for the injured Smith.
On the ensuing kickoff, WR/KR Deonte Thompson displayed his University of Florida track speed with a 108-yard return touchdown. Even though Thompson did exactly what he needs to do to make receiver-rich team, I still don't think this kick return was enough to spring him ahead of others in the group. Thompson's sole value to the team is in the kick returning game, and the team already re-signed Jacoby Jones, ensuring he'll be the top option in the return game for the foreseeable future.
Maybe it was the fact that most of the first quarter had already passed them by, but the Ravens offense struggled mightily to start the game. After two quarterback pressures and a deflected pass along the line of scrimmage, the Ravens found themselves punting. Eventually they'd heat up as Flacco found Torrey Smith for a 19-yard touchdown.
Instead of running through everything that happened in a meaningless game, here are a few things that stood out to me.
Kyle Jusczcyk's role continues to expand
Most NFL offenses have eliminated the fullback position entirely. That's not the case with the Ravens under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Second-year fullback Kyle Juszczyk is going to be a valuable weapon for Kubiak in this offense and it was fun to watch how he was utilized earlier in the game.
Aside from blocking out of standard positions in the backfield, Juszczyk was motioned throughout the offense, even lining up in the slot. Juszczyk has a unique combination of size, speed and hands for a fullback. Kubiak sent Juszczyk all over the field, even on deep routes a few times.
Opposing defenses will have to start accounting for Juszczyk or Kubiak will make them sorry they didn't. It was interesting to see how "Juice" was utilized and I'm certain his role will expand as the season moves along.
Brynden Trawick comes up big
Free safety has been a spot up for grabs, but Brynden Trawick's name isn't seriously involved in the discussion. Trawick is a decent special teams player, but showed what he can do "center-fielding" tonight as he picked off Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden down field.
Trawick also had an opportunity for his second interception on the night but dropped what should have been a catchable ball.
Just as it is with most unproven players during the preseason, Trawick did have other moments that'll lead to criticism. As a whole, the team struggled with tackling and Trawick chose to hit instead of wrap up James Hanna on an eventual 24-yard touchdown pass.
The Ravens need help at cornerback
Smith's injury doesn't seem too serious, but that doesn't mean the Ravens need some additional help at safety. I wrote a story about what I feel the Ravens will do with their corner situation, you can find it HERE.
Even if most of the issues are related to the overall health of the unit, I'm not fully confident in Brown just yet and Jackson's lack of size probably means he'll keep Webb from the nickel slot and forcing him outside.
Lorenzo Taliaferro leads rushers again
On the heels of a 71 yard performance during last week's preseason opener, rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro once again had a good showing in limited playing time (16 carries, 59 yards, TD). After a fantastic block by LT James Hurst, Taliaferro found the end zone. The only negative thing to say about Taliaferro is that he needs to hold onto the ball better.
Taliaferro fumbled, though it was recovered by center Gino Gradkowski. Taliaferro is a big and bruising back but he seems to run without hunching over at all. Not only do I believe he'll get more power with a slight change to his style, he'll certainly protect the ball better.