Five Things We Learned From The Ravens 23-3 Victory

Well, a victory, even one that lackluster, should always begin with something positive, so let's start with this:

1. Terrell Suggs looked as good as he has looked in two years.


Now, let's be fair and point out that Suggs was going up against a rookie tackle in Trent Williams, and so he should have taken him to school early and often. But after last year's miserable, injury-riddled season, he needs a good start to this one, and this game, he was exactly the kind of player the Ravens need him to be: A force off the edge, and a run-stuffer who can hold his edge as well as anyone in the league.

I've written this before, but it bears repeating -- part of the problem with Suggs is perception. He's not Dwight Freeney, even if he's paid like him. He's not strictly a pass rusher. He's not a sack specialist. He's not a quarterback hunter. He's a guy who can chase down running backs, drop into coverage on zone blitzes, and put heat on the quarterback. That total package is (I presume) the reason the Ravens paid him as handsomely as they did, and so if you're expecting him to have 16 sacks, you might as well get your disappointment out of the way right now. He's just never going to be that kind of player with eye-popping stats in one category.


But it does seem like he's poised to have a big all-around season this year, and this was a good start. He got after Donovan McNabb several times, sacked him once and stuffed a Larry Johnson run in the backfield on the first series. I've always believed he's the kind of player who needs one good play to get him going, and suddenly he starts feeding off his own hyper energy, trash talking and waving his arms, convincing himself he's invincible.

But "attitude" I think tends to get a little overrated in analysis of players. Suggs is healthy this year, and that's the biggest difference in his game. A performance like this can only help him get back to showing Ravens fans he's going to be an impact player this year.

2. Everyone is worried about the secondary, and whether or not the Ravens can defend the pass. Maybe they should start worrying about the linebackers' inability to cover anyone.

When Domonique Foxworth went down prior to camp with an ACL tear, it seemed like a shaky secondary -- the biggest question mark coming into the season -- just got worse. But after watching two games this year, I'm actually convinced the linebackers might be a bigger liability against the pass. The corners, as least so far, are doing fine. Cary Williams may even turn out to be a decent player. Fabian Washington didn't look half bad in his first action since surgery. And the secondary will probably get better if Lardarius Webb can get healthy by mid-season. (I know John Harbaugh said Webb is close to coming off the PUP, but I still think he needs to take it slow and make sure he's 100 percent before the Ravens throw him into action. They need him playing corner for the next 10 years, not 10 games.)

But right now, the linebackers aren't helping matters. There is a real chance tight ends could eat the Ravens up this year. In a full game, I'm pretty sure Chris Cooley could have caught 10 passes against the Ravens last night. Jameel McClain looked decent on some plays, and totally lost on others (Fred Davis burned him, then dropped a TD on the 'Skins first drive), but he still looked a lot better that Tavares Gooden. Ray Lewis is trying his best (he made a nice play on Fred Davis early in the game), but there is a lot of mileage on those legs. I'm not sure what the Ravens can do to fix the problem either, other than maybe play more nickel coverage on obvious passing downs when Ed Reed gets healthy.

I still the think Dannell Ellerbe remains the Ravens' best option, but he has issues in pass coverage too. At least he makes big plays in other aspects of the game.

3.The Ravens clearly want to improve their special teams, which is a good thing.

You know, though he'd be reluctant to admit it, that Harbaugh did not like having to answer questions and hear snarky comments last year about how often the Ravens' special teams were screwing up simple things. So it's obvious there is a concerted effort to improve this year.

But it also comes with a few caveats. I know Tom Zbikowski was an excellent punt returner in college, and there is a good chance he could be effective back there for the Ravens this year. But after what happened to Webb on special teams last year just as he was emerging as the Ravens' best cornerback, I'm a little wary of seeing starters back there returning punts, especially in the preseason. I think it's obvious Reed isn't going to play 16 games this year, and Zbikowski has so clearly outplayed Ken Hamlin this preseason, it seems a little silly to put him at risk returning punts.

While we're on the subject of safeties and special teams, I'm not sure I understand the point of Haruki Nakamura's fake punt. Sure, it was a big play in the context of the game, but isn't it also kind of a silly card to play in the preseason? Wouldn't Jerry Rosberg and Harbaugh rather save that element of surprise for Rex Ryan and the Jets in the season opener? I suppose they could counter with the argument that calling that fake punt in the preseason is just a bluff, since secretly the Ravens have a fake punt they REALLY like that they're working on for the regular season (to someone other than Nakamura), and now no one will be looking for it, but that also implies a level of strategic cunning and planning that I'm not sure the Ravens' special teams deserves after last season.

4. In five series last night, Joe Flacco made only one impressive throw: The post pattern to Anquan Boldin.

Now, in fairness to Flacco, it was a great throw. It was right in traffic, right where only Boldin could catch it, and it was in the middle of the field, an area the Ravens quarterback completely avoided last year in the second half of the season. But one great throw in five series? After a good game last week, you were kind of hoping he'd take another step forward. Alas, it didn't happen. The rest of his passes were check downs and comebacks. Nothing fancy, but nothing that suggests the Ravens offense was on the verge of breaking out. He did throw a nice stop route to Demitrius Williams on his fifth series (it had some zip on it) but the rest of his throws can be summed up as such: Meh. In fact, the whole offense was meh. We're entering the third year of the Flacco Adventure and I still don't have a clue what to expect week in and week out. He still looks uncomfortable and awkward in the pocket more often that not. He still seems to lack zip on his deep throws. After playing well in the Ravens' first preseason game, you'd kind of hope he'd build off of that and take another tiny step forward. Instead, it was more treading water.


Yeah, the offensive line is still missing Jared Gaither, but expecting anything to change when he returns is probably wishful thinking. His head and his body have major questions.

Marc Bulger looked really good, but again, most of that came against the Redskins' second string. I still think Bulger is going to have a say in the Ravens' season before it's over and done with (mostly because I'm not convinced Flacco can stay healthy with issues at right tackle), but we'll have plenty of time to get into this in the future.


5. I still feel like David Reed has the potential to be a good receiver. It's fair to say, and he admitted as much, that Reed did not have a great training camp. He dropped a lot of passes, so who knows what his chances are of making the team, but after last night when he showed he can make plays when the lights come one, I'd give him every shot to beat out veterans if I were Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh. Reed feels like a gamer -- someone who is able to focus and find clarity when it matters most. Plus, there seems like there is potential there, whereas I already know what guys like Demitrius Williams can do (drop passes and get hurt). Reed also made a tackle on special teams, which can't hurt. He seems like a tough kid who isn't afraid to catch the ball in traffic. Here is hoping he turned some heads on the coaching staff tonight.


6. The Gaterade Shower for Jim Zorn was ridiculous. Yes, I'm sure the Ravens players like Zorn, and wanted to essentially tease him about what a big "revenge" win this was, but it still came across as laughable. And it was probably a little embarrassing for Zorn. They needed to wait to the locker room for that prank, even if a flat screen did get destroyed in Dan Snyder's suite as a result of it.*

*This is speculation, of course.

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