Another solid performance from the Baltimore Ravens last Monday night against the New York Jets. The first team units looked great on both sides of the ball. The Ravens harassed the Jets offense and didn’t get flustered by the Jets blitzing defense. The offense looked crisp behind a solid offensive line and the offensive playcalling by Baltimore coordinator Cam Cameron was unexpected and effective. Good playcalling, a strong armed quarterback and a top run game should elevate Baltimore to elite status once again this season. Here are three things I took away from the Monday night clash.
Joe Flacco looks like the real deal. Yes it was preseason and the Jets defense wasn’t trying to tip their hand but you have to admire Flacco’s poise and arm strength. The Ravens signal caller looked cooler than Joe Camel standing in the pocking rifling darts all across the field. Flacco doesn’t take many sacks and when he does feel the heat, he doesn’t make foolish throws that can cost his team field position and ball games. He looks nothing like a small school kid trying to adjust to the big leagues of the NFL. Considering the Ravens have never had a quarterback of Flacco’s caliber since their 1996 inauguration, it’s easy to see why fans are hanging all over this guy. If Baltimore would’ve gone out and nabbed a big time receiver this offseason, Baltimore’s Super Bowl chances wouldn’t even be a question.
Ray Rice is nice. Not in the generous, careful and giving kind of way. But the slashing, juking and shifty kind of way. I had my doubts on Rice as a starter but after some brief cameos last year and a killer training camp this summer, Rice could be poise to become the star back in Baltimore. His competition is pretty impressive with the popular Willis McGahee and the bruising LeRon McCain, but Rice offers the quickness and receiving skills that the other backs don’t. The former Rutgers star had a legendary career during his time as a Scarlet Knight and his second round draft selection was based more on his size than skill. Nabbing Flacco and Rice in the same draft has the potential to give Baltimore a very dangerous backfield for years to come.
I could spend this last down ranting about the Ravens defense but it’s no secret that Baltimore annually fields a ferocious unit. One of the most impressive things to me Monday night was the play of Baltimore’s offensive line. Although I wasn’t a fan of the team losing Jason Brown, the Ravens did add Michael Oher, one of the top tackles in the draft. Former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk, rounds out an athletic and imposing unit. Against the blitz packages of Jets coach Rex Ryan, the Baltimore offensive line held up just fine. Ryan blitzed defensive backs and linebackers to no avail Monday. Just as they showed against the Redskins a couple of weeks ago, the Baltimore line is no slouch. The Ravens easily have the best unit in the AFC North from left to right and the fact that they start four young linemen up front is an encouraging compliment to a young backfield. You have to like the direction Baltimore is going in. Although some of their defensive stars are getting a little long in the tooth, you should never expect the Ravens to field a mediocre unit. Budding stars like Flacco, Rice, left tackle Jared Gaithers, and left guard Ben Grubbs on the offense should make Baltimore a contender for years to come.