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Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins

"I'm happy with the way our guys played," said Harbaugh. "We played winning football. We played field-position football - mostly penalty-free football." (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

1) This was about what we expected to see from the 2017 Ravens, and that's not entirely reassuring.

In the most reductive terms, the Ravens enter their new season with an iffy offense and a potentially stifling defense.

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That was the equation last season, and the Ravens essentially doubled down on it with their defense-heavy draft.

Sure enough, they absolutely smothered the Redskins in their season debut, especially in the middle of the field. And they could not find a hint of rhythm on offense when both teams' starters were on the field.

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If that pattern holds, it's fair to wonder whether this team will remain stuck in the same middle-of-the-pack rut.

Let's be clear: We can't judge the offense based on what we saw Thursday. Not without starting quarterback Joe Flacco, the top three receivers and three-fifths of the projected offensive line.

Terrance West scores a touchdown in the Ravens' first game of the preseason, but the de-facto starting offense does little else to impress.

We probably won't know much more until the Ravens travel to Cincinnati for their real season opener.

Meanwhile, the defense appeared faster and deeper, just as promised.

It certainly wasn't a bad curtain raiser overall. It just did little to change the superficial sense of what this team might be.

2) Ryan Mallett didn't do anything to change our perception of him.

With Flacco injured to start training camp and the simmering debate about whether to sign Colin Kaepernick, Mallett has faced an unusual amount of scrutiny over the past few weeks. Every practice interception seemed to spur a new round of calls for him to be replaced.

Mallett wasn't disastrous in the preseason opener, but he was off target enough that the doubts about him aren't going anywhere.

His uneven performance began on the first possession, when he badly underthrew Michael Campanaro on what could have been a big play. It was the first in a string of clear under- and over-throws. He finished his one half of action averaging a scant 3.2 yards per attempt.

Mallett wasn't throwing to front-line receivers, and he did guide the Ravens to a 13-0 lead. He remains what he was last season — an adequate backup whose strengths mimic Flacco's. But it's no secret that the Ravens need their starter back sooner rather than later.

3) Brent Urban showed why the Ravens maintain such high hopes for him.

Ravens coaches have long said the 6-foot-7 Urban needs to embrace what an overpowering specimen he is. Well, he did just that as a starter in the first preseason game, enveloping blockers at the point of attack.

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The fourth-year defensive end's four tackles and one sack were impressive but did not convey how good he was. He seemed to be near the ball on almost every stop as the Ravens held the Redskins to 47 yards before halftime.

Urban had a sack, nearly got another, forced two fumbles, and contributed to a tackle for loss in Thursday night’s preseason opener

Depth along the front seven is an obvious strength of this roster. But if Urban, who made just 10 tackles last season, can remain productive game in and game out, that group will be even more overpowering than expected.

4) The Ravens' young defenders impressed with their speed.

The Ravens went all in on drafting swift defensive playmakers in April, recognizing that they needed an injection of youth.

Even though first-round pick Marlon Humphrey didn't play Thursday, several other young players stood out immediately.

On his first series, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser sprinted out to the flat to tackle a Redskins receiver on third down. He made two more tackles before halftime and pressured Washington backup quarterback Colt McCoy. The rookie out of Houston appears to bring a rare blend of rush and coverage skills.

Second-year outside linebacker Matthew Judon was also all over the field during first-half action. He's been one of the team's best players in training camp and appears primed to take a major step forward.

In the secondary, undrafted rookie free agent Jaylen Smith continued his superb preseason with three tackles and an interception.

We know the Ravens defense is stocked with good, veteran players. But it hasn't consistently delivered game-turning sacks and turnovers in recent years. Though it's too early to say the youth movement will change that in 2017, so far, so good.

5) Tim White is making himself hard to ignore.

From the moment he lined up during offseason workouts, White's sheer speed was hard to miss. He competed in the triple jump at the Olympic Trials last year, so his athletic ability isn't in doubt.

More recently, he's demonstrated that he's not just a straight-line burner. Though small, the rookie receiver adjusts well to balls in the air. White did just that Thursday on a 33-yard touchdown catch from third-string quarterback Josh Woodrum.

That score reinforced White's excellent work from the first few weeks of training camp. The undrafted free agent now feels like a genuine threat to make the roster, especially if he can break a few plays as a returner.

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