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Mike Preston's Report Card

Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 27-13 win over Saints | COMMENTARY

NEW ORLEANS — Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after a 27-13 win over the New Orleans Saints in Monday night’s Week 9 matchup at the Caesars Superdome.

Quarterback

Lamar Jackson was superb as a runner, especially on some of his option plays on the perimeter as he gained 82 yards on 11 carries. He showed good arm strength early in the game and had a lot of zip on the ball, but he also missed a lot of wide-open receivers. He lacked touch and failed to get enough air under the ball when it was required. As for getting the plays off in time, is it Jackson or the coaching? He completed 12 of 22 passes for 133 yards while finishing with a passer rating of 87.9. Grade: B

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Running back

Kenyan Drake isn’t flashy, but he is steady and a grinder. He has enough speed to break long run, but his strength and ability to wear down opponents, especially in the second half, is surprising. Drake finished with 93 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and had several strong second-effort runs in the final two quarters, often leaving Saints defenders tackling air. Fullback Patrick Ricard was excellent hooking defenders, turning his hips and allowing Jackson to get outside and around the corner. Grade: B

Offensive line

The Ravens had problems in pass protection with one-on-one matchups early in the game, but they mauled the Saints into submission in the second half. To open the third quarter, the Ravens kept leading with Ricard and pulling the backside tackles, either Ronnie Stanley or Morgan Moses, and New Orleans had no answer. Kevin Zeitler is one of the most underrated right guards in the NFL. Rookie center Tyler Linderbaum played well but he needs to improve on those snaps in the shotgun formation after a couple went high. Grade: B+

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Receivers

This group, without their top two players in wide receiver Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews, started out strong but faded as the game went on. Regardless, the Ravens had some receivers open, especially on crossing patterns, which Jackson missed. Tight end Isaiah Likely played well against Tampa Bay but dropped two passes Monday night, though the rookie did have a 24-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Jackson is trying to get in sync with newcomer DeSean Jackson but needs to stop forcing the ball. Ten players caught a pass and only two had two receptions — Drake for 16 yards and James Proche II for 22 yards. Grade: C-

Defensive line

The big question was whether the Ravens could stop New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara, and they didn’t have any problem as he had only 30 yards on nine carries. The starting group of ends Justin Madubuike and Calais Campbell and nose tackle Travis Jones not only dominated the run, but the Ravens also knocked down three of quarterback Andy Dalton’s passes as he constantly went to his first option and stared down receivers. Campbell also finished with two tackles, including half a sack. Backup tackle Broderick Washington also had three tackles. Grade: A

Linebackers

A one-time weakness has the potential to become a strength as the unit played its best game of the season. Outside linebacker Justin Houston had 2 1/2 sacks, knocked down a pass and all but sealed the win with a fourth-quarter interception. For a 33-year-old, he plays with good lower body power and understands how to use his leverage. Newly acquired inside linebacker Roquan Smith allows the Ravens to control the running game in the middle while also freeing up Patrick Queen to freelance and use his speed. Smith and Queen both finished with five tackles. The timing of outside linebacker Tyus Bowser’s return from a torn Achilles tendon for this game was perfect because the Ravens could use him on a limited basis and allow him to gradually get back into playing shape. Grade: A

Secondary

Regardless of the improved play in the front seven, there are still doubts about this group. New Orleans doesn’t have a receiver other teams have to game plan for, but the Ravens’ cornerbacks are vulnerable. Marcus Peters has become a liability, and the Ravens sometimes get too cute trying to disguise coverages instead of just playing straight up. Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton keeps getting better as a tackler and fellow safety Chuck Clark is dependable. The No. 3 cornerback position can be shaky as well, especially when Brandon Stephens is on the field. Humphrey led the Ravens in tackles with seven. Grade: C+

Ravens coach John Harbaugh takes a selfie with fans after a 27-13 victory over the Saints in New Orleans on Monday.

Special teams

Justin Tucker converted on field goal attempts of 32 and 41 yards while Jordan Stout had four punts for an average of 48.3 yards, including a long of 67, with two inside the 20-yard line. New Orleans was smart to keep the ball away from Ravens return specialist Devin Duvernay, who didn’t have a kickoff or punt return. Grade: A

Coaching

Despite being without running back Gus Edwards and Andrews because of injuries, the Ravens played with confidence against an inferior Saints team. They should have put more points on the board, but offensive coordinator Greg Roman had New Orleans off-balance with inside and outside runs. He didn’t try to be pretty, either, sometimes just running the same play to the other side of the field. The big question, though, is why are the Ravens getting these plays called in so late? It’s been going on for years, even back to the days when Joe Flacco was the starting quarterback. With Smith on the roster, it allows defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to tinker and come up with a few more schemes. To be honest, the Saints were never a serious threat to win this game after halftime. Grade: A-


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