Mike Preston

Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 49-13 win over Bengals


Lamar Jackson did whatever he wanted against the Bengals right from the opening whistle, completing a 49-yard pass to Marquise Brown on the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage. Jackson threw long and with touch and completed 15 of 17 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns to finish with a perfect passer rating of 158.3. He showed toughness on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brown in the third quarter, and his 47-yard touchdown run earlier in the quarter is stuff from another planet. Jackson seems to have mastered his ball-handling skills on option plays. He threw two bad passes Sunday, one while rolling to his right and another throwing back across the field. That’s a no-no. He once threw behind tight end Mark Andrews as well. Each Sunday, he becomes more of a complete quarterback. Grade: A

Running backs

Even when the Bengals packed the line of scrimmage, they couldn’t stop halfback Mark Ingram II inside or outside. The Ravens have done a good job of having Jackson run inside, which creates running lanes off the perimeter for Ingram, who doesn’t have outstanding speed. Ingram had a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and the Ravens continued to go after Cincinnati in the second half with both Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill. The Bengals found out quickly that it’s difficult to tackle Ingram up high. The Bengals came out and stacked the line of scrimmage to shut down the Ravens’ rushing attack. The Ravens didn’t dominate, but they were efficient in helping to open up the passing game. The Ravens averaged more than 4.0 yards a carry without Jackson and 5.9 with him. Grade: C+


Offensive line

In the first half, the Bengals hit Jackson once while passing, and that was late in the second quarter. The Ravens were successful in everything they did offensively because they dominated at the line of scrimmage and were very good at making blocks into the second level and cutting off pursuit angles. Coming into the game, the Bengals had struggled against the run and the Ravens had trouble pass blocking, especially up the middle, but that wasn’t a concern Sunday. The Ravens finished with 379 yards of total offense. Grade: A


The outside receivers are contributing very little, and that might need to change later in the season, but right now the Ravens are counting on their tight ends for big plays and to move the sticks. Opposing linebackers and safeties find it hard to match up with Mark Andrews (six catches for 53 yards), Hayden Hurst (two for 20) and Nick Boyle (four for 78). Just as importantly, those three guys have developed into good blockers to help the running game. Brown had four catches for 80 yards. Grade: B


Defensive line

Tackle Michael Pierce hurt his ankle early in the game and was limited the rest of the game. When the Ravens are without Pierce or nose tackle Brandon Williams, this group struggles. The line doesn’t generate much of a pass rush, and they can’t stop the run without Pierce or Williams. The Bengals rushed for 157 yards on 40 carries. The Ravens lack quality depth on the line, and it continues to show up. Williams finished with seven tackles. Grade: C


It wasn’t an impressive game for this group. The Ravens linebackers rely on speed and also on Williams and Pierce to keep opposing linemen off them. When that doesn’t happen, they don’t get off blocks well, especially inside. Middle linebacker Josh Bynes and weak-side backer Patrick Onwuasor struggled shedding blocks and Onwuasor looked sluggish at times. Bynes finished with nine tackles, but Onwuasor had only three. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon turned in another strong game with two quarterback hurries and six tackles, but the Ravens had problems slowing Cincinnati’s running game. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser recovered a fumble and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Grade: C+


Maybe the Ravens’ dominance caused some disinterest in this game. The Ravens struggled covering underneath routes and they weren’t as physical in press coverage as they had been in the two previous games. Cornerback Marcus Peters intercepted a pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens could have easily had one or two more if they didn’t drop passes. The Ravens were fortunate that free safety Earl Thomas III had a strong game in run support because the Bengals gashed them for a lot of yards. The Ravens need to be careful. They’ve had success creating turnovers but got a little careless with the fundamentals Sunday. Grade: B

Special teams

The Ravens were hoping to put some life into their return game with the addition of De’Anthony Thomas, but there was no magic there. Thomas returned one punt for 8 yards and one kickoff for 18. The Ravens didn’t need much from the kicking game as they didn’t attempt a field goal and punted only once. Grade: B-


The Ravens came into town and quickly reminded the Bengals that they were winless right from the start. That’s what good teams do. The Ravens came out throwing and were aggressive offensively. Defensively, the Ravens scored touchdowns off turnovers, but they didn’t dominate. The Bengals out-schooled them in the running game but gave away some gifts with three turnovers. But when you beat a team by 36 points, there is nothing to complain about. Grade: B+