After Studying The Pre-Season Game and Taking In A Practice, Babes Gives His Ravens First Impressions

Sports and Bets — August 17, 2015 at 8:33 pm by

There was a lot to like Thursday night in the Ravens first preseason test of the season. A 16 play opening drive that results in a touchdown by the first team offense is enough to give any Ravens fan that oh-so special feeling. The first defense was just as dominate, forcing back-to-back three and outs. It’s fair to say there’s an optimistic vibe cascading through the streets of Baltimore right now.

After reviewing the game, and observing the Ravens practice that I attended last week, here are a few notes and observations.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk will make the Pro Bowl this year. His versatility and pass catching ability will be showcased under Marc Trestman. Coach Kubiak scratched the surface with Juice last year, but Trestman will expand on that exponentially.

On the first two drives, Juice lined up in the backfield, split out wide, and in the slot. This ability to move Juice around gave the Ravens some versatility in their looks while keeping the Saints base defense on the field. In the huddle, the defense sees “21” personnel (which is two backs with one tight-end and two receivers), but when Juice lines up in the slot, all of a sudden it’s now a three wide look, where mismatches can now be exploited. Marc Trestman has a bevy of players that he will utilize in this fashion.

Anyone who plays fantasy football knows that Bears running back Matt Forte caught 102 balls last year on Trestman’s watch. It’s safe to say that Trestman loves to throw to his backs, but here it doesn’t have to be all to Justin Forsett. Juice’s pass catching prowess means all those receptions can be divvied up amongst all the backs, which makes the offense that much harder to defend. Going back a few years, Trestman was the architect of the Cardinals offense that produced eye popping numbers out of fullback Larry Centers. So my bold pro bowl prediction maybe isn’t quite so bold after all.

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The first third down conversion of the game displayed a nice little wrinkle. It was a third and short that Joe completed to Steve Smith on a man beating drag route for a four yard gain. What was cool about the play was the Ravens had “12” personnel on the field (one back, two tight ends, and two receivers). Forsett was the lone back with Steve Smith flanked left and tight end Crockett Gilmore lined up on the left wing. In the slot to the right was the other receiver Kamar Aiken, with the second tight end, rookie Maxx Williams, lined up flanked out to the right. This is another perfect example of Trestman using the versatility of his skill positions players to create favorable situations. A personnel grouping of “12” puts the defense in a dilemma of having to play the run and the pass. The defense expects a balanced look with two inline tight ends, and two receivers to account for. Instead they get basically a four wide set with only two corners on the field to defend it. If you can’t already, tell I’m in love with Trestman’s offense. Not to beat a dead horse, but one more awesome example of this is when bruising tight end Nick Boyle lined up flanked wide on a run play to the outside. He proceeded to escort the corner, who he had 70 pounds on, thirty yards down the field, mauling him the entire way. I’m just saying it’s awesome.

Going back to Maxx Williams for a second, I think he’s in the perfect situation to succeed this year, where so many rookie tight ends have not been able to. He is not being asked to step right in and be the main inline tight end. He’s going to be utilized in a secondary role where his talents will be maximized. I watched him block Thursday night, and he gives great effort, but he’s far away in that aspect of his game. I fully expect the Ravens to develop his blocking abilities, but it’s gonna take time. Where he will make his impact is in the passing game, and more specifically the play action passing game. We saw a glimpse Thursday night, and it’s only gonna get better.

Another guy I want to discuss is rookie receiver Darren Waller. I was awe struck by this guy’s sheer size at practice. At 6’6″ and 240, Waller looks more like a power forward in football pads. He needs a lot of work on every aspect of his game, but he can play. He made a nice grab on a slant pass in the game last night, but his inexperience showed as he made his run after the catch. You can tell he was timid and afraid of the impending contact from the safety, as he seemed to ball up and concede that the hit meant the end of the play. But that will improve with time and experience, as he probably didn’t catch many balls over the middle at Georgia Tech. His size in the red zone alone should be enough to keep him on the roster. He needs to make this team, and he needs to be developed into the weapon that he will become. I see Jimmy Graham like potential in the red zone for this guy. I really wish Schaub hadn’t whiffed on that wide receiver screen they had set up to Waller, because he had a ton of daylight in front of him.

Defensively, it’s so hard to tell where the defense really is when it’s facing Luke McCown at quarterback. But I really liked what I saw out of Lawrence Guy on the defensive line. On the third and one play on the second drive, Guy got huge penetration, which blew up the play, and allowed the linebackers and pursuing defensive lineman to clean up the trash. Guy didn’t get credit for the play on the broadcast, but he made it happen.

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I wonder if Za’Darius Smith has to give likeness rights to Pernell McPhee? He doesn’t play like him yet, but he looks exactly like him out there. The Ravens can only hope the resemblance goes all the way through to his play, because they already have him playing that role. The defensive tackle in the four man rush package is his job to capture and hold onto. Hopefully, they can develop Smith into another McPhee.

Lastly, I hope Justin Tucker doesn’t forget that he has to kickoff as well as kick field goals. That ball needs to be through the end zone ninety percent of the time. He was short a couple times last night, which once led to a great return. Get it together Tucker!

 

cover pic: zimbio

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