Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw an early pick-six that was returned for a touchdown by Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and a sluggish start from running back Ray Rice had Ravens fans eliciting more than a few groans.
But things quickly changed.
The Ravens' offensive line quickly improved as the game progressed, providing ample time for Flacco to throw and sufficient space for Rice to slither through gaps and work his way toward the second level. This time, of course, bought Flacco the time to hook up deep with newly-acquired wide receiver Lee Evans, marking the first Baltimore touchdown for the former Bills target.
Baltimore fans will surely want to see more of that in 2011.
The in-game improvement by the offensive line made a big difference. You have to knock them a bit for a sluggish start, but acknowledge their ability to influence both the run and pass game with a more concentrated effort. For this, the collective offensive line earns a B.
Similarly, Flacco has to be penalized for a poor pass on a route Hall read presumably before Flacco even dropped back to throw, but also praised for his ability to comeback and put together some strong, efficient and effective drives afterward. The fluidity of his ensuing drives earns him a B+.
When given room to run, Rice looked fantastic—bursting through the line with his usual high motor and barreling into defenders at the second level. Again, he looks to be a top fantasy option for the regular season, with a perfect combination of size and shake. Tonight's performance gets him a solid A.
In the receiving corps, Evans stood out by showcasing his deep speed and ability to get behind the defense. Torrey Smith, meanwhile, struggled at times, though at least one failed reverse was the result of poor blocking by the Ravens and great pursuit by Reed Doughty and the Redskins defense—not exactly a punch-less unit. Give the receivers a B+.
Baltimore's defense, meanwhile, was all over the place. Defensive backs struggled in coverage, specifically rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith, who absolutely blew coverage on a Santana Moss touchdown and promptly proceeded—at least, in the apparent broadcast view—to blame safety Ed Reed for the mix-up; surely, one of the stupider things a rookie could do. Pass rush was impressive, however, and even elicited an eye-rolling nickname out of Jon Gruden, who referred to Jarrett Johnson as "The Anchor."
Defensive backs score a C, and we'll give the front seven a B- for a solid job pressuring the Redskins tandem of Rex Grossman and John Beck, but still losing contain and allowing too many gashing Tim Hightower runs.
Overall, a solid night for the Ravens starters, though Baltimore will surely hope to shore up its defensive shortcomings before the season begins.
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