Baltimore vs. Washington: Report Card Grades for Each Ravens Unit
The Baltimore Ravens hosted the Washington Redskins in Week 3 of the preseason on Saturday night. Regarded as the final dress rehearsal for starters, the third preseason game is typically a good indicator of how ready each team is for the start of the NFL regular season.
For Baltimore and Washington, both teams are looking to rebound from a porous 2013 season, as both clubs failed to make the playoffs after getting there in 2012.
For much of the first half of this game, neither team looked capable of making the playoffs. To be fair, heavy rains hit Baltimore prior to the start of the game. While the game was played with little rainfall, the field was still soaked, and that made for an ugly first half.
Through its first two drives, Baltimore gained just 22 yards on eight plays and allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be hit multiple times, including a sack that ended a drive.
On the other side, Washington's offense looked sloppy as well, although the Ravens defense had a part to play in that. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III played for only the first half, and he completed just five of eight passes for 20 yards and threw one interception while being sacked three times.
Once the offense began clicking, the Ravens took control of the game. After their first two drives yielded little offense, they gained 188 yards of offense on their final 30 plays of the first half. There was little Washington seemed it could do to stop Baltimore's aerial assault.
Flacco picked apart Washington's secondary to the tune of 16-of-23 passing for 180 yards and one touchdown. He also led Baltimore on a drive that ended in a field goal to help Baltimore take a 10-3 lead into halftime.
From there, both teams began pulling their starters to let the backups finish the game, which Baltimore won, 23-17.
The third preseason game is where starting quarterbacks typically get their most work. That held true for Flacco, as he played for the entire first half before giving way to backup Tyrod Taylor. That's because Flacco got plenty of work in the first half.
Prior to this game, Flacco had attempted 22 combined passes in the previous two preseason contests. Against Washington, he attempted 23, completing 16 of them for 180 yards and one score. He was the main reason Baltimore took a 10-3 lead into halftime.
Because Flacco played for so long, the only other QB to get meaningful reps was Taylor. Playing in a contract year, Taylor needed to have a good showing this preseason, and he had to this point.
Taylor entered this game having completed 19 of 29 passes for 175 yards to go with seven carries for 65 yards this preseason.
Against Washington, Taylor completed six of nine passes for 65 yards and one score.
This was a game to forget for Baltimore's ground game. The offensive line simply could not open holes for the running backs, and it didn't help that Ray Rice didn't play. After suffering a chest injury last week, Rice was suited up for this game but was never put in.
Making matters worse was Bernard Pierce exiting the game early with a concussion. As a team, Baltimore rushed for just 18 yards on 13 attempts in the first half. Pierce gained minus-three yards on four carries.
He's going to be the opening-week starter, while Ray Rice serves his two-game suspension. However, Pierce didn't play like he wants to keep that starting role when Rice returns.
The ground game did better in the second half when both teams played their second- and third-stringers.
Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and seldom-used veteran Justin Forsett got the bulk of the carries in the second half. They did just enough to help Baltimore run out the clock and escape with the 23-17 win.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
The Ravens pass-catchers made their presence felt early and often Saturday night. On Baltimore's first offensive drive, Joe Flacco hit H-back Kyle Juszczyk for 23 yards.
The game's biggest performer was wide receiver Steve Smith. He finished with six catches for 80 yards, both game highs, and also added a touchdown.
Smith's biggest catch came toward the end of the first half. With less than a minute left in the second quarter, he hauled in a 30-yard score to break a 3-3 tie and give Baltimore a 10-3 lead at the half.
Baltimore's offensive line was arguably its biggest weakness in 2013. The team made a conscious effort to upgrade it this offseason, and the best move came in trading for Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeremy Zuttah.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Zuttah's 2.0 grade through the first two preseason games was the third-best of any Ravens offensive player.
Zuttah helped coordinate an offensive line that didn't allow Joe Flacco to be sacked in Baltimore's first two preseason games.
That wasn't the case this game. Baltimore's line allowed Flacco to be sacked twice and hit several other times. Flacco was constantly under fire in the first half, but he and his receivers managed to overcome that to earn the win.
On the ground, the offensive line was even worse. At halftime, Baltimore had 13 rushes for just 18 yards. The line wasn't getting any push up front and was unable to open running lanes for the backs.
This was easily the O-line's worst game this preseason.
Washington's offense was out of rhythm for much of this game, and Baltimore's defensive line was a big reason why. The Ravens pass-rushers were constantly in the face of Redskins quarterbacks.
Rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan got his first sack of the preseason to go with two QB hits. He's expected to contribute along the defensive line this season, and this was arguably his best game yet.
On the ground, Baltimore gave up a few big plays but was overall solid there as well. Washington was held to just 81 yards rushing on 24 attempts (3.4 yards per carry).
Nose tackle Brandon Williams was a force in the middle. He finished with a team-high two tackles for loss to go with five overall tackles.
The linebackers are arguably the biggest strength of the Ravens. That was the case against the Redskins.
Elvis Dumervil got the action started with a sack of Robert Griffin III to force a Washington punt early in the game. Arthur Brown registered five tackles and one tackle for loss.
Rookie C.J. Mosley made one of the game's biggest plays with the help of one of his fellow linebackers. On the first play of the third quarter, linebacker Darryl Smith tipped a pass that Mosley intercepted to set up a Baltimore field goal.
That stretched the lead out to 13-3. The rest of the Ravens linebackers consistently filled their gaps and kept Washington running backs from ripping off too many good gains.
The Ravens secondary has been the biggest weakness this preseason because of injuries and a lack of depth. Against Dallas, Baltimore was without starting cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith, as well as the projected third corner in Asa Jackson.
The absences did, however, provide a golden opportunity for two players to boost their stock. Cornerback Chykie Brown had a chance to pass Jackson on the depth chart if he played well in this game.
As for undrafted free-agent corner Tramain Jacobs, he had a great chance to increase his odds of making the final 53-man roster. Jacobs had a solid night in coverage while adding two tackles.
As for Brown, he had a good game as well in coverage. He was rarely targeted, and the Baltimore front seven helped keep him and most of the secondary from getting exposed.
The star of the night was rookie safety Terrence Brooks. With so many defensive backs out, Brooks received extended playing time and made the most of it.
Brooks finished with one sack, one tackle for loss, one QB hit and three overall tackles. He was all over the field, and he had a key sack on Robert Griffin III in the end zone to hold Washington to a field goal.
Baltimore prides itself on good special teams play, and the team played well against Washington. The coverage units were solid, holding the Redskins to 71 yards on three kickoff returns (23.7 yards per return).
Sam Koch had a good game punting the ball. He punted three times for 130 yards (43.3 yards per punt) and had one downed inside the 20-yard line.
Kicker Justin Tucker had a perfect night. He converted both of his extra points to go with three field goals, two of which were 36 yards or longer.