Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 44-16 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel looks back at the Ravens' dominant victory in the first preseason game.
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The Ravens should at least be a little concerned about the receivers behind Torrey Smith.
Of all the difficult personnel decisions the Ravens made in the offseason, the one that was scrutinized most was the trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers. No, it wasn't letting a future Hall-of-Famer in Ed Reed walk to a fellow AFC contender in Houston or not shelling out big bucks for potential one-hit wonders in Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger. Those goodbyes were understandable. But how could the Ravens trade away this playoff hero because he refused to take a pay cut? Well, at the time it made sense, as I wrote on my blog. Boldin's production simply didn't match his cap hit and teams pay players not for what they have done for them in the past, but for what they will do in the future. Plus, the Ravens had a valuable weapon in tight end Dennis Pitta, who could take over for Boldin in the slot. Well, we know how all this turned out. Pitta is out for the season with a dislocated hip and the Ravens can't just press the reset button and get Boldin back on the roster. They will have to get by with what they have, which means that a couple off the team's young wide receivers will have to step up in 2013.
The most pressure will be on Torrey Smith, the third-year speedster out of Maryland. The expectation is that he will become quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite target and the hope is that Smith will prove that he is capable of being more than just a very dangerous deep threat. After a sluggish start to training camp -- maybe he was a little emotionally drained after his recent wedding? -- Smith has picked up his play. He had two catches for 16 yards in about a quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night, but Smith isn't the concern. The Ravens strongly believe that he is ready to break out.
No, the worry is the other guys on the depth chart. And despite flashes of potential from Jacoby Jones, pictured, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson during training camp, Thursday's game did nothing to alleviate the concerns about the quality of the depth at wide receiver and quiet the grumbling about the Boldin deal. Those three players combined to catch just one of the five passes thrown their way -- a five-yard reception by Thompson, who, by the way, hobbled out of the stadium after the game with a soft boot on his foot. Jones was particularly disappointing, and it wasn't because of the one pass that clanked off of his hands on third down. No, Jones deserves some, if not all, of the blame for Flacco's first-quarter interception. Flacco fired a pass to the right sideline to Jones, who was supposed to be running a comeback route. Jones was jogging a comeback route, though, and didn't come back to the football, which allowed Buccaneers cornerback Danny Gorrer to jump in front of him for a nice interception.
That being said, it isn't time for the Ravens to hit the panic button -- and by that I mean hit the button to speed dial the agent for a free-agent wide receiver like Brandon Lloyd. If the Ravens believe in these young guys, they have to give them another preseason game or two to prove themselves. Besides, there is probably a reason why guys like Lloyd are still on the street. Doss and Thompson have fared pretty well in training camp. Doss always seems to be in position to make plays; he just has to start making them. And Thompson is a quick athlete whose route-running has been praised by the coaching staff without solicitation. They must prove they can do it in games, and they haven't yet, so concern is understandable. But there is no Boldin-type player out there. So, assuming that Thompson hasn't suffered an injury that could sideline him for an extended period of time, the Ravens should remain patient and give them more than a couple of quarters of preseason play to justify their position on the depth chart.