By Matt Vensel
11:00 PM EDT, August 11, 2011
Here is what is on my mind after the Ravens opened the preseason with a sloppy 13-6 loss to the Eagles:
1. I know this one was ugly to watch, but don’t fret. Not only was it the first preseason game, it was the first preseason game after a lengthy lockout. (Side note: I guess it wouldn't have been such a bad thing had the lockout ended a week or two later and we missed preseason games.) The Eagles, who like the Ravens experienced a significant roster turnover, were slightly sharper, but it’s not like they were a well-oiled machine out there. The Ravens have some real concerns -- particularly on offense -- but don’t panic yet.
2. Here’s a silver lining: How about former second-rounders Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle? Both have been labeled as busts by some fans, but on Thursday night, they penetrated the Philadelphia backfield and put some pressure on the quarterback. They combined for seven tackles and a sack, and if they can team up to provide that kind of production opposite of Terrell Suggs each week, the Ravens will be in good shape.
3. I think it’s safe to say the Ravens need to bring in a veteran quarterback to, at the very least, compete with Tyrod Taylor for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. I like Taylor’s potential -- and he already has NFL-caliber elusiveness -- but he was overmatched as a passer in this one, throwing two interceptions and nearly tossing two more. Go ahead and blame it on the lost time during the lockout, but he’s not ready.
4. For those of you who thought Greg Mattison was too vanilla, you probably enjoyed your first taste of the Chuck Pagano era. It was a preseason game, but that didn’t keep Pagano from blitzing, especially from the secondary. The blitzes weren’t too exotic, but just wait for the regular season when Pagano won’t be holding anything back. The question is: Will the secondary be able to hold up if the pass rush doesn't get to the QB quickly?
5. This new kickoff rule sure takes the fun out of kickoff returns, doesn’t it? It was one of the most exciting plays in football when players such as Devin Hester returned kicks. Now it’s a good time for a beer run or a quick trip to the bathroom.
6. The Ravens’ young wide receivers weren’t on the same page as Joe Flacco and Taylor often, but second-year tight end Dennis Pitta was pretty impressive in the first half. He had four catches for 47 yards, including a crazy catch where he reached over the back of an Eagles defender and ripped a would-be interception out of his hands. You can be sure Flacco, who loved having that big target in Todd Heap, took notice of that play.
7. Three rookies stood out in a good way: Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams and Pernell McPhee, particularly McPhee, who was knifing into the backfield and had a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown by Lardarius Webb, only to be overturned by the officials. Each took a step toward securing one of 53 roster spots.
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