Mike Preston's report card after the Ravens' 24-21 win over the Bengals

Quarterback: There were no surprises to rookie Lamar Jackson’s game. He had problems reading the entire field and showed little pocket presence, except for the ability to just run. The good dual-threat quarterbacks run with a purpose, not just to take off. The Ravens catered to his talents and allowed him to throw a lot of short passes. He rushed 27 times for 117 yards. That will work against the Cincinnati Bengals and a few other teams in the NFL, but not against the good ones. Grade: C+

Running backs: Let’s preface this by saying the Ravens were playing the Bengals, who entered the game allowing 141.2 rushing yards per contest. On Sunday, the Ravens rushed for 265 yards on 54 carries. The Ravens found a north-and-south runner in rookie Gus Edwards, who had 115 yards on 17 carries, but the best rusher was Jackson. The Ravens have specialty running backs in Edwards, Alex Collins and Buck Allen, but not a multi-purpose performer. If only the Ravens played the Bengals every week. Grade: A

Offensive line: The Ravens had 403 yards of total offense, including 265 on the ground. The Ravens were relentless in knocking the Bengals off the ball, and guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis and center Matt Skura did well working into the second level and cutting off the linebackers. Both guards were more active in pulling than in previous games. Pass protection, though, was a problem at times, and the Ravens gave up two sacks. But with a new quarterback and a scrambler like Jackson, it’s hard to know where he is all the time in the pocket. Grade: B

Receivers: Did they play? Really. The Ravens had 13 completions for 150 yards. The receivers made some nice catches, like the one-hander by Chris Moore and several of those receptions over the middle by Willie Snead IV. What will probably be overlooked was the blocking downfield, especially by Michael Crabtree. Coach John Harbaugh will downplay the noise about the lack of catches, but that won’t last long. Receivers are prima donnas, and they want to have the ball. It is how they prove their existence. Grade: C

Defensive line: Regardless of ranking, the Bengals have two good running backs in Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, and they were held to 19 yards on 14 attempts. That’s a pretty good day. Nose guards Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce got a lot of penetration on running plays and forced the Bengals out of their running lanes. As the game wore on, Pierce and end Brent Urban started getting more pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton when he was forced to pass. Off the snap of the ball, the Ravens seemed as quick as any time this season. Grade: B+

Linebackers: Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon were consistent with pressure on Dalton, but they were also tough on the perimeter against the run. For years, the Bengals have often caught Suggs out of position when he cheats down the line of scrimmage, but not Sunday. Inside linebackers were tough against the run, as middle linebacker C.J. Mosley had five tackles and weak-side linebackers Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor each had four. The Ravens still have problems covering running backs and tight ends one-on-one, but they were decent Sunday. Grade: B+

Secondary: The biggest difference between this game and the loss in Week 4 against the Bengals was that the Ravens were more aggressive and physical. Maybe that’s because star receiver A.J. Green wasn’t in the game, but the Ravens put their hands on Cincinnati’s receivers and cut off those timing routes, which hurt them earlier in the year. The Ravens took away the long pass along the sideline, but they gave up some yardage in the middle of the field. Ravens safeties have problems covering one-on-one, and nickel cornerback Tavon Young is at a size disadvantage when covering tight ends. Grade: C+

Special teams: Justin Tucker converted on field-goal attempts of 28, 56 and 24 yards, and that’s good enough against teams like the Bengals. But Moore was indecisive on one kickoff return and the blocking was poor on both punt returns. Sam Koch averaged 39.3 yards on four punts but hit two inside the 20-yard line. Grade: C

Coaching: The Ravens did what they had to do to win. They put an offense around Jackson and catered to his running and short-passing abilities. The scheme is good enough to beat the Bengals, but it won’t be successful for long. Defensively, the Ravens were both more aggressive and fundamentally sound. They didn’t try to be as cute as they were in previous games. They just came out and went after the Bengals while playing sound football, for the most part. Grade: B

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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