Jaguars vs. Ravens: 10 Things We Learned from Baltimore's 48-17 Win
Preseason football rarely matters, at least to most fans. If there was a game that mattered, or one worth paying attention to, it would be the third game of the preseason.
The third preseason game is also known as a dress rehearsal. More starters play and they play longer. It is easier to assess just how good or bad a team might be.
Ray Rice Is Good
Obviously the title of this slide is just a little sarcastic but true nonetheless. If this game was a movie, Rice's appearance would have been considered a cameo. It was still enough to make an impression and create a reminder of just how good Rice is and how important he is to the Ravens offense and the team as a whole.
On the Ravens' first scoring drive, Rice was the true catalyst. It was his big run that put the Ravens on the path to being the first on the scoreboard. This may be a passing league and much is made about the Ravens and their new fast-paced offensive scheme, but Rice is still the engine that drives this offense. Perhaps the Jaguars should be paying attention.
Torrey Smith Looks Ready for a Breakout Season
Last season Torrey Smith missed a lot of practice time due to the NFL lockout. During the preseason and early in the regular season he seemed to lack confidence and had several drops. In short, Smith was raw. That now seems like ancient history.
Smith ended the season with impressive numbers and he looks like he may easily surpass them based on his play in camp and in the preseason.
Last season Smith's speed was used to open up the field and take pressure off of Anquan Boldin and back defenders off of the run game.
The University of Maryland product appears more seasoned. His route-running has improved and during the Jaguars game, he made catch after catch after catch. Smith's speed makes defenders back off, so when he runs crisp routes underneath, he is that much more dangerous.
Smith finished the night with eight catches and 103 yards. With more experience and improved confidence, hands and route running, Smith could end up being Flacco's favorite receiver this year and for years to come. Look for big numbers from this young receiver.
Bobby Rainey Could Make This Team
There is a lot of competition at the backup running back position. That does not seem to stop Bobby Rainey from impressing.
The undrafted rookie out of Western Kentucky has made noise all preseason and as somewhat of a surprise, Rainey was the first running back in after Rice was done for the night. Was that a sign?
It is doubtful that Rainey will be the No. 2 running back behind Rice. They have too much invested in Bernard Pierce, but Rainey seems to make things happen when he gets his hands on the ball. He runs well and is also a threat catching the ball out of the backfield as evident by his 48-yard touchdown reception in the second half. Rainey contributes on special teams and even his pass blocking seems adequate.
Bobby Rainey is making it tough on Ravens coaches in a good way.
The Starting Tight Ends Are Being Missed
Losing your starting tight end can hurt your team. Losing both of your starting tight ends can REALLY hurt your team. So consider the Ravens really hurt.
Although the Ravens moved the ball well for the most part it did not start off that way. They began the game 0-3 on third down and stalled out in the red zone.
Some of that could be due to the absence of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, who are both out because of injuries. The tight end is the quarterback's best friend in the end zone and on third down. It appears Flacco has an exceptional rapport with Pitta in these particular situations.
Both tight ends are expected to be back in time for the season opener, but if they are slow to shake off the rust, it could cause problems for the Ravens passing attack.
Ravens' Fast Pace Offense Is Here to Stay
One of the pleasant surprises of the Ravens preseason play has been the new offensive philosophy and scheme of the Ravens offense. They're running a lot of no huddle and/or sugar huddle, where they basically huddle at the line.
It is a fast-paced offense that keeps defenses on their heels and makes it difficult for them to make substitutions and adjustments. The new philosophy seems to play into Joe Flacco's strengths as he is having an excellent preseason overall.
In addition to the change in pace there appears to be more creativity in the routes called. More crossing routes and slants are being called. It all adds up to mismatches and more difficulties for opposing defenses.
Bernard Pollard Is Underated
When fans think of the safety position and the Baltimore Ravens, most likely the first name to come up is future Hall-of-Famer Ed Reed. Maybe some more attention should be paid to Bernard Pollard.
Pollard was one of the defenders who was all over the field. He made tackles, big hits and pass deflections the entire first half. The knock on Pollard when the Ravens first acquired him was that his pass coverage left much to be desired. That seems to be a mere rumor.
Maybe Reed taught him a thing or two, but Pollard is a key player on this defense.
The Defense May Be Ok After All
Much has been made about the play of the Baltimore Ravens' normally stout defense. The Ravens responded with an impressive performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jags are not exactly an offensive juggernaut, but anytime a defense limits an offense to three points in the first half it is worth noting. Key starters such as Ed Reed and Ray Lewis played longer and it showed.
There are still some concerns in the secondary, particularly the No. 2 cornerback position. But Reed, Pollard and recently extended Lardarius Webb played well. Webb was another Raven who was all over the field. He could be seen playing in Hawaii after the regular season concludes.
Albert McClellan the Likely Starter at Outside Linebacker
Albert McClellan is looking to follow in the footsteps of the many undrafted linebackers who have made an impact in a Baltimore Ravens uniform.
With the departure of Jarret Johnson and the Achilles tendon injury to Terrell Suggs, the outside linebacker position remains a bit of a question mark for the Ravens.
Many thought that second-round pick Courtney Upshaw would step into the starter's role but injuries to him and fellow linebacker Sergio Kindle have opened up the door for McClellan.
McClellan has had a solid camp and played well against the Jaguars. As Upshaw recovers fully from his injuries and becomes more comfortable in an NFL defense things could change. For now it is McClellan's job to lose.
Flacco Just Seems Different
Joe Flacco has looked good all preseason long and the Jacksonville game was no different. Flacco finished the night 27 of 36 for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers would be good if he played the whole game. He was done playing early in the third quarter.
Flacco's play goes beyond the numbers. The intangibles just seem to be more evident. Flacco's pocket presence and awareness seem to be improved. His last touchdown pass would be a good example. Almost all of his throws were accurate and and he seems to be in total control of the offense. Things just seem different for No. 5.
Justin Tucker Will Push Billy Cundiff to the Edge
The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson reported that the kicking job is Billy Cundiff's job to lose. That may be true but Justin Tucker is doing everything possible to be the Baltimore Ravens' placekicker this season.
Tucker went 2-2 on field goal tries which included a 53-yard field goal which perfectly split the uprights. He was also perfect in PATs.
The University of Texas product appears to have a strong and accurate leg and some Ravens fans would like nothing more than to see a new kicker donning purple and black after the now infamous Billy Cundiff missed field goal in last year's AFC Championship game.