Mike Preston's report card from the Ravens' 26-24 win over the Browns

Quarterback: Every week it’s easy to say rookie Lamar Jackson needs to improve as a passer, but he is the player who stirs this offense. His running ability adds a dimension either as a scrambler when the pass protection breaks down or on designed runs anywhere on the field. If he is to become a top quarterback in the league, he has to perform better from the pocket. His arm strength is questionable when he has to throw anywhere but to the middle of the field. Grade: C+

Running backs: The Ravens had 179 rushing yards in the first half. Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon showed the ability to bounce outside. They had runs that started off guard and then showed the speed to get outside. It was another strong running game by both backs who were relentless in pounding away at the Browns. Grade: A


Offensive line: The Ravens were able to run anywhere they wanted on the field. Guards Marshal Yanda and James Hurst were dominant at the point of attack, and tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. were successful in washing down defensive linemen in allowing the running backs to get outside. Hurst and Stanley both did nice jobs of pulling and getting running backs around the corner. Grade: A-

Receivers: Tight ends are becoming more of a factor in the passing game, especially with Jackson being limited in throwing the ball in the middle of the field. Rookie Mark Andrews is becoming one of Jackson’s favorite targets, and Jackson does occasionally get receivers John Brown and Willie Snead IV involved in the offense. One key component that gets overlooked is the blocking of the tight ends. Grade: C


Defensive line: It was surprising that the Browns had success running against the Ravens early in the game. But in the second half tackles Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce started getting more penetration and slowing Cleveland runs, especially on misdirection plays. When outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith plays down inside on passing situations he is a mismatch for most guards because of sheer speed. Grade: B

Linebackers: A week ago Smith and fellow outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Terrell Suggs dominated the Los Angeles Chargers, but they didn’t have spectacular performances against Cleveland. Judon and Suggs made adjustments in helping to stop the Browns running game. Instead of crashing down inside, they stayed outside and started to hold the edge. If teams can block Williams and Pierce on the inside, they can get yards because the Ravens linebackers aren’t physical inside. Grade: C

Secondary: This group had been the most dominant unit on the NFL’s top-rated defense for the past couple of weeks, but the Ravens got fried by Cleveland’s passing game Sunday night. Receivers were wide open quite often and the Ravens lost several contested receptions that they won a week ago. But this wasn’t just about being physical. The Ravens looked lost at times as far as communication. They will need a lot of time in the meeting room this week to iron out some things. Grade: D

Special teams: Justin Tucker was reliable and is the team’s top offensive weapon after Jackson. He converted on several field goals Sunday night. But the Ravens gave up too much yardage on kickoff returns, which gave the Browns good field position. Grade: C+

Coaching: Cleveland offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens was unknown before this season, but he has done an outstanding job for the Browns and did a good job dialing up plays against the Ravens defense. Offensively, the Ravens had some nice designed runs for Jackson and Edwards, but the passing game lacks a good, solid scheme and a decent passer. Overall, the main objective was achieved and coach John Harbaugh got his team into the postseason. Grade: C+