In a 23-17 win against the Washington Redskins, the Baltimore Ravens’ passing game was the star. Shockingly, that was true on both sides of the ball, as the Ravens threw the ball well offensively while shutting down the pass defensively.
As for the ground game, the Ravens struggled offensively but excelled defensively.
With that in mind, here is a look at the guys who stood out in the win and the guys who struggled.
Stud: Joe Flacco
Everything in the first half started with Joe Flacco, who played his best ball since the 2013 playoffs.
In the face of heavy pressure from a motivated Washington front-seven, Flacco coolly went through his reads and made great decisions all night. His 16-of-23 clip would have been his second best completion percentage in 2013, and he did it in the face of a fierce pass rush.
Best of all, Flacco was accurate. Last season saw Flacco’s accuracy and decision-making crumble in the face of heavy pressure, but Flacco remained sharp both mentally and physically in this one, with several sharp throws on the run.
Give Gary Kubiak a little credit for Flacco’s strong performance as well. He clearly has a system that Flacco feels comfortable in, which should pay big dividends this year.
Dud: Starting Offensive Line
With no coaches film available for the preseason, pointing out individual duds along the offensive line is difficult. So let’s just say the whole line stunk.
There were no holes in the ground game, and Flacco was pressured regularly. True, Flacco occasionally held the ball too long, but the line was definitely to blame for most of the pressures.
Is this something to worry about? My guess is no. Washington does have a legitimately strong pass rush, and the line still needs time to gel. Also, with two solid performances leading up to this stinker, there is a chance the line’s struggles were a fluke.
Stud: The Smiths
As broadcaster Qadry Ismail spoke about the need for Torrey Smith to learn to contribute on shorter routes, Smith put on a clinic in route-running. On the two-minute drill touchdown drive, Smith gained consistent separation and was a major contributor. He finished with four catches for 41 yards.
But it was Steve Smith Sr. that stole the show in this one, with six catches for 80 yards. His sliding touchdown was the highlight of the night for the Ravens.
Neither Smith had made much noise in the preseason, so seeing the starting duo combine for 121 yards is a positive development.
Dud: Jacoby Jones
Look, I really had to reach here. Jacoby Jones did not have a particularly bad game, but he did look a little rusty in the return game.
There are times that Jones will look for the big play at the expense of a ten-yard gain, which is what happened on a negative punt return. Sometimes those risks pay off. This time, it didn’t.
Also, he looked just a little indecisive on his kick returns.
These are nitpicks, but in a game where so much went right, any struggles stand out.
For Jones, this is nothing to worry about. He is still one of the best returners in the game, and one dull performance doesn’t change that.
Stud: The Pass Rush
Guys like Williams and Haloti Ngata helped push the pocket, making sure Robert Griffin III had no where to step up. Williams in particular looked unblockable.
Suggs, Doom and McPhee, meanwhile, chased RGIII all over the field, having a clear effect on him even when they didn’t get there. The three sacks were really just bonus for a pass rush that harassed RGIII so effectively.
The pass rush is the main reason I hesitate to call the Ravens’ corners studs in this game. Sure, Washington did not pass effectively, but the reason for that was the pass rush, not the secondary.
Stud: Anthony Levine and Terrence Brooks
Two guys in the secondary did stand out enough to garner mention. Terrence Brooks was tremendously active, making a nice interception that was called back by a penalty and picking up a sack to boot.
Brooks looks pretty natural in man coverage, and he seems in line to get plenty of reps as a nickel or dime back this year.
Levine, meanwhile, is known more for his special teams prowess. Yet, Levine was used in a similar role as Brooks against Washington, and he excelled in it. Playing a lot of man coverage, Levine largely maintained excellent position and made several nice plays.
For a guy fighting for his roster spot, Levine’s versatility and athleticism are valuable attributes to have. He did a lot to earn a roster spot.