The Ravens defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 44-16, in Thursday night’s preseason opener. While many of the starters played only a quarter, they were in there long enough for me to make a few observations about when and how certain players were being used and what formations the Ravens were lining them up in.
** The big thing I was looking for early in the game was how the Ravens were using their personnel after the injuries to tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Before training camp, I thought the Ravens would use a lot of 12 personnel -- two tight end, two receivers and a back -- but those injuries might force the Ravens to scale back that section of the playbook. By my count, the Ravens used 12 personnel with Visanthe Shiancoe and Billy Bajema just three times while the starters were in. They used their 11 personnel -- three wide receivers, a tight end and a back -- on seven plays and their 21 personnel with Vonta Leach in at fullback on seven plays. Those two personnel groups were the ones they used most last season, according to Football Outsiders, and that will probably be the case again this season, especially if Dickson’s injury stretches into the regular season.
** Defensively, the Ravens pretty much trotted out the same guys that we have seen with the first team during camp. Haloti Ngata was at nose tackle, which is a great fit for him and the team, in my opinion. He was between defensive end Chris Canty and defensive tackle Arthur Jones, which we have seen. With cornerback Lardarius Webb sitting out, the Ravens started Corey Graham and Jimmy Smith at corner and Chykie Brown was the nickelback. Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo started at safety. The only question marks I had coming into the game were at linebacker. As suspected, Courtney Upshaw was on the field on first downs as the strongside linebacker. Elvis Dumervil spelled him on later downs and rushed the passer. Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes started at inside linebacker, but in obvious passing situations, Smith stayed on the field and rookie Arthur Brown subbed in for Bynes in the nickel package. They used five defensive backs often when the starters were still in.
** After an offseason of change, the Ravens have the defensive personnel to be multiple this season. I need to go back and watch the tape of the game once the All-22 is available on NFL.com, but I noticed the Ravens busted out some 4-3 looks while the starters were in, with Dumervil and Suggs rushing the passer from three-point stances. That is the look the Ravens gave the Buccaneers when Canty sacked quarterback Josh Freeman on one third down play. Dumervil and Suggs are adept at rushing from either stance, so that is a bonus.
** Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson both got first-team reps, but it looked like Tandon Doss was the third wide receiver in third-down situations. The two of them ran with the second team before Thompson got hurt. Behind them were LaQuan Williams, Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown. Tommy Streeter entered the game after all of those receivers got snaps.
** The first-team offense used at least a couple of bunch formations with two wide receivers and a tight end bunched together on one side of the formation and a third receiver alone on the other side. This is one of the wrinkles that offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has added to the offense, because we didn’t see these types of formations often under Cam Cameron, who preferred to spread the field and attack the sidelines, not the middle of the field as much.
** After Tyrod Taylor replaced Joe Flacco early in the second quarter, the Ravens ran the ball at least six times on option plays. You can read my expanded thoughts on that here.
That’s all I got for you right now. What did you observe?