Here's what's on my mind after the Baltimore Ravens' 17-12 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers:
1. The Ravens played their offensive starters for a little more than a quarter, which gave us a pretty solid look at the first-teamers. (Well, except for Ray Rice, but it's probably a good idea they limited him to just a few plays.) I liked what I saw from the Ravens' passing attack -- and so did a packed house at M&T Bank Stadium. Joe Flacco was 8-for-12 for 120 yards and a touchdown. Willis McGahee had four catches for 37 yards on four straight screen plays. And Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton each got their looks. Clayton had two catches for 48 yards and a score. I'll say it again: Clayton is a pretty strong third or fourth option.
2. It was impossible to miss free safety Tom Zbikowski, filling in for the injured Ed Reed, during the first half. Zbikowski had four tackles, a strip-sack and a 28-yard punt return. Honestly, the only people who missed Zibby out there were the Panthers, who didn't see him coming on a safety blitz on the game's opening drive. Zbikowski sprinted unblocked around the left side of the Panthers' offensive line, hammering quarterback Matt Moore in the back and forcing a fumble. You've got to like the tenacity the third-year safety brings to the table.
3. Late in the first quarter, we got a glimpse of why the Ravens drafted nose tackle Terrence Cody -- conditioning concerns and all -- in the second round of April's draft. On a running play, Cody was engaged with a Carolina lineman when running back DeAngelo Williams came rumbling his way. The man mountain they call "Cheeseburger" held off the blocker with his left arm and reached out and pulled Williams down to the ground with his right. Now that's one strong dude.
4. It would be one thing if the left side of the Ravens offensive line -- Michael Oher and Ben Grubbs -- gave up two sacks to former Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers. It's another to let Tyler Brayton hammer Joe Flacco twice in one quarter, as we saw in the opening stanza. I'm not saying that we should be concerned about Oher and Grubbs; they're both future Pro Bowlers. I'm just saying it was kind of surprising. That's all.
5. Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes was frenetic on the edge of the Ravens defense, creating pressure when lining up on both the left and the right sides. Barnes, who made five tackles and recovered a fumble, didn't record any sacks. But he beat Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross, a Pro Bowler last season, twice in the first quarter. Gross pulled Barnes down both times, drawing yellow flags from the zebras. Can Barnes be the guy who steps up and gives the Ravens another pass-rush threat?
6. Undrafted rookie Prince Miller has been handed a golden opportunity to make the team, mainly because he's a cornerback with two healthy knees and a pulse. He was pretty brutal early in training camp, but his play has improved. Tonight, in the third quarter, Miller turned heads as a returner, breaking at least five or six tackles -- and getting a bunch of oohs and aahs in the press box -- on a 57-yard punt return. If he can keep that up, he might just squeak onto the 53-man roster.
7. Speaking of the Ravens secondary, the healthy cornerbacks on the roster weren't too shabby tonight. The four Carolina quarterbacks completed just 18 of 40 passes for 180 yards and one interception. Sure, none of those QBs are all that good, the Panthers' wide receivers are trash and their offensive line was under siege all night, but it was still nice to see. Cary Williams stood out most. He blanketed Dexter Jackson while picking off Jimmy Clausen in the third-quarter and put a lick on Armanti Edwards to break up another pass. I doubt you're too excited, though. You and I both know that far greater challenges lie ahead for the Ravens secondary.