9:50 PM EDT, August 9, 2013
Before the start of training camp, the Ravens were looking for a No.2 wide receiver.
And after the preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night, they are still in search of that player.
The Ravens were quite conservative in their offensive approach against the Buccaneers, and quarterback Joe Flacco seemed more content staying with the short passing game than going vertical. The strategy cut down on the number of chances for receivers.
But when there were opportunities, the receivers didn't make the best of them as there were several drops, including one by veteran Jacoby Jones, who started opposite of Torrey Smith. None of the top candidates for the No. 2 spot — Jones, Deonte Thompson and Tandon Doss — gained any separation from the others, and David Reed didn't play because of a groin injury.
Two receivers — LaQuan Williams and Aaron Mellette — stood out in the game and neither is considered a serious candidate to be the Ravens' No. 2. But Williams might have changed a few minds by catching four passes for 32 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He also made two big plays on special teams.
Thompson left the locker room after the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury, and that might force the Ravens to explore free agents or the waiver wire for another receiver in the next couple of weeks.
The lack of a No. 2 receiver might not have been a big deal if the Ravens hadn't already lost tight end Dennis Pitta for the season early in training camp with a dislocated hip. At this point — and it's very early in the season — the loss of star receiver Anquan Boldin might be bigger than the Ravens expected.
Offensive line needs time
The offensive line was solid against Tampa Bay, but there might not be a true evaluation until several games into the season.
The Ravens gave Flacco and Taylor ample time to throw against the Buccaneers, but left tackle Bryant McKinnie isn't in game shape yet. The Ravens were also without starting right guard Marshal Yanda, one of their best lineman, even though left guard Kelechi Osemele is just as good.
The key for any line, though, is chemistry and timing, and Yanda probably won't play until the season opener. That wouldn't have made a difference last year with Matt Birk as the starting center, but the Ravens have replaced the retired Birk with second-year player Gino Gradkowski.
He has had very little time working with Yanda and Osemele.
Scary hit on Pierce
Ravens officials held their breath when running back Bernard Pierce took a shot in the knee after scoring on a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
It was borderline cheap and totally unnecessary because Pierce had already crossed the goal line. More importantly, it was just a preseason game. There was no need for that hit.
Oh, by the way: Great block by guard Ramon Harewood on Buccaneers linebacker Najee Goode to spring Pierce for the touchdown.
Nice style with Taylor
I like what offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell does with Taylor.
Instead of trying to pretend he is a drop-back quarterback, Caldwell puts him in different packages, including the option formation and more sprint-out passes than Flacco.
It makes so much sense.
If Flacco gets injured, the Ravens can't win with the 6-foot-1 Taylor throwing from the pocket. It's better to get him the repetitions in the offense where he is the most comfortable and effective.
Suggs' new role?
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs apparently has become a part-time assistant coach. He was up and down the sideline Thursday night, coaching and talking to his teammates.
I don't know who has been more animated this preseason — Flacco or Suggs.
I do have one question, though.
After cornerback Moe Lee intercepted Tampa Bay quarterback Adam Weber in the fourth quarter, he tried to lateral the ball as if Ed Reed was back at safety.
It appeared that Suggs went out on the field to tell Lee that was a no-no. Why didn't he ever do that to Reed?
Cody working hard
There were times Thursday night when defensive tackle Terrence Cody got penetration and interrupted plays.
Cody knows he is being pushed for playing time, especially by young linemen like Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson and Bryan Hall. This is big year for Cody, a fourth-year player out of Alabama.
He had two tackles, and maybe this is a sign of things to come. Williams, though, finished with four tackles.
Another young player who stood out was second-year outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton, who had a sack and a tackle for loss. He is still adjusting to the Ravens' scheme, but the Ravens might have to make it simple for him.
Just line him up on the outside, point him in the direction of the quarterback and tell him to go fetch.
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