As if a fourth preseason game that featured few Ravens starters couldn't get less compelling, any intrigue for this one was sent to the locker room midway through the first quarter when rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor injured his shoulder. That denied Taylor one last opportunity to try to secure the backup spot behind Joe Flacco, who did not play Thursday. It also made it tough for us to evaluate the Ravens' young receivers.
I somehow managed to stay awake for the rest of the game. Here are my thoughts on the Ravens' 21-7 win.
1. Paul Kruger delivered another impressive preseason performance, which was highlighted by his forced fumble in the first quarter. He made a nice inside move to get to Falcons quarterback Chris Redman, and when he got there, he finished the play with a strip-sack (safety Bernard Pollard scooped up the fumble). I'm eager to see what Kruger can do playing against first-stringers in his third season in Baltimore.
2. Though his night was cut short by injury, Taylor managed to make one bad mistake in the first quarter. Instead of throwing the ball away on one third-down play or using his legs to pick up positive yardage for the kicking team, he threw a pass over the middle that was intercepted by Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes. Otherwise, it was an eye-opening preseason for Taylor, and it's a shame it ended the way it did.
3. It's not a huge deal, but I disagree with the decision to not give the starting offensive line some work against the Falcons. I know the Ravens would be risking an injury by trotting an out-of-shape Bryant McKinnie and a gimpy Matt Birk out there for a series or two. But chemistry is key for the line heading into the Steelers game. You have to think playing together against someone new would have helped.
4. Three guys who didn't help their chances against the Falcons: Ramon Harewood, Jason Phillips and Jalen Parmele. Harewood did not do a good job of protecting Taylor's blind side in the first quarter. Phillips made a couple of plays, but he also plugged the wrong hole on Antone Smith's 46-yard touchdown run in the second half. And Parmele averaged 2.1 yards per carry against a bunch of no-name defenders.
5. Meanwhile, I think preseason hero and fan favorite LaQuan Williams secured his spot on the 53-man roster with his 33-yard punt return. He has shown promise as a receiver ever since he set foot on the practice field in Owings Mills, and if he proved that he could contribute on special teams, too, he had a good shot to become the team's sixth receiver. Sorry, Marcus Smith, but Williams has done just that.
6. It was nice to see cornerback Chykie Brown finally make a play, stepping in front of a John Parker Wilson pass and taking it to the house. The fifth-round pick is a longshot to make the team -- maybe if the Ravens cut Domonique Foxworth, which is possible but pretty unlikely -- but if the Ravens can sneak him onto the practice squad, the chippy corner might be able to make contributions down the road.
7. If you want to convince the NFL to shorten the preseason, just send the league office some tape of Hunter Cantwell. His performance in this one -- he had a 42.4 passer rating -- was like a televised root canal, but with Gerry Sandusky, Stan White and Qadry Ismail telling you that each instance of drilling was a life-or-death situation. For the love of the football gods, please eliminate an exhibition or two.