Baltimore Ravens

Five things we learned from the Ravens' 31-7 win over the Miami Dolphins

1) Ryan Mallett made a few more standout plays, but it's still impossible to judge the offense with him at the helm.

Mallett finally showed the best version of himself on two straight third-down conversions in the second quarter, side-stepping pressure to hit Benjamin Watson over the middle and then rolling out of the pocket to find Mike Wallace downfield.


He made another fine play later in the quarter when he bought time after his first option was covered and threw across his body for a 1-yard touchdown to tight end Larry Donnell.

Mallett did throw his first two interceptions of the preseason. But the fault lay more with rookie receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who allowed Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard to seize inside position on a deep route and later let cornerback Cordrea Tankersley rip the ball out of his hands.


So all in all, Mallett wasn't as bad as his 50 passer rating might indicate.

That said, the offense still did not find anything resembling a consistent flow, and we still didn't see much from the team's front-line receivers. Jeremy Maclin, for example, was targeted just once for a five-yard gain.

Mallett isn't accurate enough possession to possession for the team's skill players to flourish.

Significant evolution is unlikely as long as he's starting, which makes these games frustrating to watch. But with Joe Flacco out until the season opener, we're on hold trying to judge this offense.

2) The middle of the Ravens defense continues to look awesome.

The best Ravens defenses have featured a wall of beef up front. Just ask Ray Lewis how much Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa meant to him during the team's first Super Bowl season.

Well, with 340-pound Brandon Williams now regularly lining up beside 340-pound Michael Pierce, the 2017 defense has that vintage look.

The Dolphins managed just 13 rushing yards on seven attempts before most of the Ravens' starting defenders exited the game. And they looked particularly helpless whenever they tried to go up the gut.


Williams and Pierce made a pair of tackles each, and they facilitated others with the space they cleared.

We still don't know if the Ravens will consistently menace opposing quarterbacks. They'll need to do that to become a memorable defensive team. But they have the bedrock.

3) For Ryan Jensen, not standing out has been good news.

The Ravens played without their two best offensive linemen, Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley, so it wasn't surprising to watch them struggle up front at times.

On a positive note, Jensen appears to be a viable starter at center. It's always hard to grade blockers without studying the game film, but whenever I zeroed in on Jensen, he came off the snap with a decisive burst. And he hasn't struggled getting the ball cleanly into Mallett's hands.

Such competence is reassuring from a player who's started just nine career games, none of them at center.


After last season, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome said they wanted the line to get bigger and stronger. So Jensen got off on the right foot by reporting to summer practices heavier and fitter than he'd been in 2016. Even before John Urschel retired, he seemed the favorite to win the center job.

Given the season-ending injury to left guard Alex Lewis and the team's reported interest in bringing back veteran center Jeremy Zuttah, it's conceivable Jensen could end up at guard rather than center. Regardless, he's risen significantly in the team's pecking order.

4) The jury is still out on the Ravens' young pass rushers.

With Terrell Suggs entering his 15th season and Elvis Dumervil gone, the Ravens invested heavily in their future pass rush in the 2017 draft.

Between rookie linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams and second-year projected started Matthew Judon, they believe they finally have the right young players to complement Suggs.

But we didn't see much production from the trio in Miami, at least not until Williams came off the end for a sack in the waning moments of the game.


Williams, perhaps the purest pass rusher of the group, was disappointed in his performance the previous week. Perhaps the sack will get him back on track after a few weeks of inconsistent play in practice.

He'll need to do more to earn playing time during the regular season.

That's not the case for Judon. And Bowser also seems in line to play regularly because of his versatility. But the youth brigade at outside linebacker will bear watching all season, because they could be the difference between a very good defense and a great one.

The Ravens have gone a whole generation without drafting and developing a star pass rusher. They need one of these guys to flip that narrative.

5) Josh Woodrum is preseason football.

Baltimore Ravens Insider

Baltimore Ravens Insider


Want the inside scoop on the Ravens? Become a Ravens Insider and you'll have access to news, notes and analysis from The Sun.

Get ready for a week of fans calling for Woodrum to shove aside Mallett as the team's primary backup quarterback.


That's not happening for the former Liberty star, despite two near-flawless performances against third- and fourth-stringers

But if there's anything I like about watching exhibition football (and there isn't much), it's the mini-sensations who emerge in junk time.

Woodrum was cut before he ever got to play in the preseason last summer. But he's giving it another go, and there he was Thursday night, running for touchdowns and connecting with tight end Maxx Williams on a 40-yard pass.

Maybe a few quarters worth of well-timed scampers and accurate passes will earn Woodrum a spot on the Baltimore practice squad or with a different organization. We see it happen for a few guys every year, and that justifies the existence of these games.