With most of their projected starters not even suiting up for the game, the Ravens were beaten, 31-17, by the St. Louis Rams in their preseason finale last night. Below are five players who impressed and five who disappointed.
FIVE WHO IMPRESSED
1. Deonte Thompson, WR: If there was any question about whether the undrafted free agent had earned a spot on the 53-man roster, Thompson answered it with another dynamic performance to cap a strong preseason. Thompson caught six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, and returned three kickoffs for 94 yards. He finished the preseason with 10 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Not only does Thompson belong on the team, but the Ravens should figure out ways to get his speed and athleticism in the game plan for the Sept. 10 opener.
2. Bryan Hall, DT: Since he was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent, Hall has been impossible to ignore, mostly because he constantly is joking around and you’ll hear him most of the time before you even see him. However, he elevated his play in a big way this preseason and he probably played his best game last night. Hall had four tackles, he hit Sam Bradford a couple of times and he also forced a fumble that he wasn’t given credit for on the stat sheet. And he did all that while shifting between defensive tackle, defensive end and even middle linebacker. There should be a spot for him on this team.
3. DeAngelo Tyson, DT: The Ravens’ seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia could be in competition with Hall for one of the final roster spots, and he certainly forced the Ravens to make a tough decision. Quiet early in camp, Tyson became more and more noticeable as it wore on. Last night, he got penetration throughout and it resulted in two tackles, including one for a loss, one quarterback hit and a fumble recovery. He played his best preseason game at the right time.
4. Kelechi Osemele, RT: Perhaps, this is more of a preseason achievement award because the rookie was one of the most impressive Ravens all training camp long. Facing one of the league’s better pass rushers in Chris Long last night, Osemele held his own for a half. I still think it’s going to be very hard for Ravens coach John Harbaugh not to start Osemele in the regular season because he’s shown thus far that he’s one of the team’s five best offensive linemen.
5. Bernard Pierce, RB: It wasn’t a flawless game by any means for the rookie running back, who fumbled a kickoff and was lucky that the Ravens got the ball back. But he ran hard and took some hits, finishing with eight carries for 27 yards, while working behind the second and third-team offensive line. Ray Rice will continue to carry the load for the Ravens, but Pierce looks more than capable of contributing.
Honorable mention: Billy Bajema, TE; Bobby Rainey, RB; Logan Payne, WR; Omar Brown, S; Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, DT.
FIVE WHO DISAPPOINTED
1. Paul Kruger, LB: For the second straight week, Kruger didn’t generate much of a pass rush and he was beaten a couple of times out of the backfield. That he played for a while, unlike almost every other Ravens’ starter, shows how much team officials feel that he needs the repetitions. Kruger wasn’t in on a single tackle last night, and he didn’t have a sack in the preseason. He deserves to be treated with some patience because he is essentially learning a new position, but he’d be the first person to say that he needs to play better.
2. Brendon Ayanbadejo, LB: Following the game, Ayanbadejo took accountability for his performance on his Twitter account, calling it “terrible” and “unacceptable.” Asked if he did enough to make the team, he expressed hope that his resume would speak louder than one game. I never even considered that Ayanbadejo’s spot could be in jeopardy because of his reputation on special teams. However, the thought did cross my mind tonight after Ayanbadejo was beaten on one touchdown pass, took a poor angle on a long Steven Jackson run, and whiffed on several tackles. Harbaugh was clearly miffed by the veteran’s play.
3. Tyrod Taylor/Curtis Painter: With Joe Flacco on the sideline, Taylor did little to ease any concern about the team’s backup quarterback situation, and Painter may have not done enough to convince team officials to carry three quarterbacks. Taylor got nothing going, connecting on 8-of-12 pass attempts for 58 yards, and completing a shaky preseason for the second-year signal caller. Painter moved the ball against the Rams’ backups and threw two touchdown passes. He also was picked off three times and had a woeful 61.0 quarterback rating.
4. Sergio Kindle, LB: In certain situations, a penalty can be excused, but Kindle’s roughing-the-passer penalty on Sam Bradford was so late and so egregious that it simply can’t be ignored. The penalty, which came on 3rd-and-22, prolonged an eventual touchdown drive and you have to wonder if it may have cost the third-year linebacker a roster spot. He wanted to make a statement in the game and instead he finished with zero tackles despite playing a lot. Kindle’s saving grace could be the Ravens’ lack of outside linebacker depth.
5. Courtney Upshaw, LB: The rookie is clearly frustrated that his right shoulder continues to plague him, and it wouldn’t be fair to have him on this list because of his injury alone. However, the former Alabama standout has been one of the Ravens’ biggest disappointments during the preseason, and now the team is unsure if he’ll be ready for the Sept. 10 opener. Upshaw, who has had some weight issues and has also played tentatively when he’s been out there, will have an MRI today and Harbaugh, for the first time, has acknowledged that he is concerned about the rookie.