The Ravens have been generally pleased with the progress of their draft class, but a few of their rookies who could be counted on in reserve roles had forgettable games in the team's 31-13 loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday.
While the team's top two picks — wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams — were sidelined with injuries, all three of the Ravens' fourth-round selections struggled.
Running back Buck Allen fumbled late in the second quarter just before getting into the end zone. Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith committed another penalty and didn't make much of an impact in his 45 defensive snaps. Cornerback Tray Walker had a really difficult night, getting beat for a touchdown by Rashad Ross, looking vulnerable in coverage throughout and missing several tackles.
"I think he'll learn from it naturally," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You want to tackle people, you have to see what you hit, and you have to wrap them up. You're not going to knock anybody down by throwing a shoulder in there. You're not going to tackle anybody by dropping your head. It doesn't happen. Plus, it's not safe. As far as coverage, I'd like to see a little more confidence. Get out there and challenge people and cover them. You have skills. Don't back off and play like you think you can't cover that guy. Get up there and cover him."
Walker, who played his college ball at Texas Southern, is competing for the Ravens' fifth corner spot behind Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Kyle Arrington and Rashaan Melvin.
Za'Darius Smith, meanwhile, has been working primarily at outside linebacker, but he's moved around a bit and been utilized in a similar way to how the Ravens used to use Pernell McPhee.
Smith had three total tackles against the Redskins, but Harbaugh wasn't pleased with his illegal use of hands penalty about midway through the second quarter. It's the second straight game in which Smith has been flagged for that infraction and Harbaugh said that it's happened in practice, too.
"He has a lot to learn about playing," Harbaugh said. "He has had way too many times where he has a one-hand-stab pass rush that slides up into the face or chin, or whatever. He has done it in practice and he has done it in games. That has to stop. I told him that. You have to be good enough or come up with another couple of pass-rush moves so that doesn't happen. That's a foolish penalty. There's no reason for that. That's bad technique."
Elevated into the No. 2 running back role with Lorenzo Taliaferro dealing with a knee injury, Allen had a game-high 12 carries for just 24 yards and caught one pass for five yards. His biggest gaffe came when he was stripped by Redskins nose tackle Chris Baker just outside the end zone as Allen tried to score on a fourth-and-1 from the Washington 1-yard line just before halftime.
Marlon Brown recovered the fumble in the end zone but because it was fourth down, the Redskins were awarded possession.
"It's my job to hold onto the rock and get into the end zone," Allen said. "Put two hands on the ball and hold on tight. So I can't blame [anybody] but myself."
Harbaugh noncommittal on Jackson
It appeared that Asa Jackson may have secured the Ravens' return job when he took a kickoff late in the second quarter and ran 103 yards, getting tripped up at the Redskins' 2-yard line. Unfortunately for Jackson, he followed it up later in the game with an extremely poor decision, fielding a Tress Way punt in traffic rather than calling for a fair catch. The Redskins recovered the ball on the Ravens' 32 and kicked a field goal four plays later.
After the game, Harbaugh said a decision still hasn't been made on whether Jackson, who has been the team's primary return man throughout the preseason, will keep that role heading into the regular season.
"I can't really handicap it," Harbaugh said when asked if Jackson is the favorite right now. "But, it was a nice play. He looked good on that one."
Asked about the fumble, Jackson chalked it up to trying to make a play late in the game. He acknowledged that it was an inexcusable mistake and promised that it wouldn't' happen again.
Undrafted rookie running back Terrence Magee played 15 snaps and had four carries against the Redskins, while Fitzgerald Toussaint didn't play on offense at all. Both players are battling for the No.3 running back role with Taliaferro sidelined. … Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore, who was involved in a couple of post-whistle scrums, had an interesting comment when asked about Redskins' defenders trash talking. "I don't pay any attention to that," Gillmore said. "It's like a mosquito, they just keep flying around and you just keep smacking them, so whatever." … The Ravens will have to get their roster from 90 to 75 by Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Sun staff writer Jon Meoli contributed to this article.