The Baltimore sports scene is blessed with a bunch of talented bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. Each week, I hope to chat with one of them in a regular feature called Blogger on Blogger. This week, I exchanged emails with Andrew Hanes, who blogs about the Ravens for Raven Nation Army.
MV: What was your biggest takeaway from watching the first-team offense in the preseason opener?
AH: Well, since it was the first preseason game, I didn't expect much from the first-team offense. Unfortunately, that's exactly what they delivered. Outside of the delayed blitz up the middle, the offensive line played well. They allowed some room for Ray Rice to run and gave Joe Flacco enough time to go through his progressions. I liked some of the drags and underneath routes they ran, which I believe we will see much more of this year. It was preseason game No. 1, which means vanilla schemes and play-calling. They moved the ball a bit. Would we have liked to see them march down the field on two 80-yard drives like Tom Brady did in his first game? Sure. That would have been a surprise though. My biggest takeaway is they need more time to jell, but let's not panic.
MV: What about the revamped Ravens defense?
AH: There is a lot to like with the revamped defense. Chris Canty was a disruptive playmaker. Haloti Ngata was crashing the interior. Linebackers Darryl Smith, Josh Bynes, and Arthur Brown were active and pursued the ball very well. Bynes got caught peeking in the backfield on the long reception, but mistakes happen. The secondary had a few miscues, particularly Chykie Brown and Jimmy Smith. They play with great position, but they don't look for the ball, which causes receptions and/or penalties. Once the secondary tightens up their technique and communication, this is going to be a fun defense to watch. They have tremendous depth across the board.
MV: We got an extended look at backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. How do you think he fared out there?
AH: Tyrod Taylor was his normal inconsistent self last Thursday night. There are times he is right on the money. The throw to tight end Matt Furstenburg was a beautiful back shoulder throw down the seam, and the touchdown to LaQuan Williams was zipped high right behind the defender's head. But he misses a wide open Visanthe Shiancoe, and he throws behind a couple of others. I loved how offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell installed some read-option plays for Taylor to run. Taylor is not, nor will be, a pocket passer, so the Ravens will need to adapt if Flacco (God forbid) were to miss some time. The option plays will help that transition, and it will also help prepare the defense in practice for what they may see this season (Peyton in the pistol?).
MV: What are your thoughts on the signing of Brandon Stokley and the pending addition of Dallas Clark? And do you think the Ravens gave up on their young receivers too quickly?
AH: Well, my first reaction to the Stokley signing was that it was a complete knee-jerk reaction to the first preseason game, which is very un-Ozzie like. Now Stokley coupled with Dallas Clark, that makes a bit more sense. This may indicate that Ed Dickson and Deonte Thompson are more injured than believed. It also means Shiancoe is not a lock to make the team. The three biggest reasons I don't love these moves is that it shows very little patience with the younger receivers' development (it was one preseason game), the signings eat into available roster spots, and it muddies the salary cap waters if another, better player comes available. Good players are going to now be on the bubble. The upside? The Ravens now have two proven veterans who, if they remain healthy (a big, fat if), can provide leadership and production. If Stokley and Clark can muster a combined 60 to 75 receptions and provide guidance to the younger receivers, it will be a good move.
MV: Give me one established, bigger-named veteran who could be cut by the Ravens after the preseason.
AH: Terrence Cody is the obvious name. The Ravens have many intriguing young players that are worth developing and roster spots are up for grabs. Adrian Hamilton (may have officially played himself on the roster), Omar Brown, Anthony Levine, Jack Cornell, Moe Lee are making a push. With the newly-signed free agents, what do you do with the glut of tight ends and receivers? But a dark-horse, long shot, bigger-named veteran who may be not worth his salary is Jacoby Jones. His play at receiver has been subpar (he did not make an effort to come back to the ball on the interception Thursday night) and he cannot be counted on as an every-down receiver. I love what he can do in spurts, a la last postseason. But are possible (not guaranteed) big plays and his return skills worth the money? He most likely sticks, but stranger things have happened.
If you are a blogger who is interested in participating in this feature, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.