Setting aside the penalties, the first 2 drives of Thursday night’s game were near optimal. Let’s review:
· Mark Ingram ran effectively and with power
· The Ravens rotated through all 4 primary running backs (Ingram, Dixon, Edwards, Hill)
· The Ravens showed a new high-leverage wrinkle, converting a 3rd and 1 by a 2-yard run by Patrick Ricard
· Jermaine Eluemunor dominated at LG, including 5 for 5 on pulls
· The Ravens ran 20 offensive snaps and held the ball for 10:25
· Lamar Jackson discarded his preseason training wheels for an electrifying 18-yard TD run reversed by a blindside block by Willie Snead
· They scored 6 points, which could easily have been 10
· They did it all without Marquise Brown or a significant contribution from their TE group
For all the little things that went wrong, it’s important to notice the big trend of things that went right.
Notes on the OL rotation:
· Marshal Yanda again sat out. He may play with the starters in game 3, but I’m expecting no more than a half of action.
· Otherwise, this was a game with scheme and snaps devoted to evaluating 4 players, Eluemunor, Mekari, Bozeman, and Powers. Those 4 all had a positional shift which allowed each to play some guard as the Ravens fielded a solid OL until the game’s final 5:29.
· Jermaine Eluemunor started at LG and had a schematic workout in 20 snaps designed to test his mobility. He then moved to LT where he anchored the pass blocking effort for most of the remainder of the game. Both trials were a significant step forward from a poor game 1 against Jacksonville. With Greg Senat sidelined, the Ravens need to identify their emergency LT and Eluemunor may have clarified the team’s plans at 2 positions.
· Ben Powers saw significant action at both guard spots and played well excluding the holding penalty. He continued to lean on defenders when blocking straight ahead and did not fail a pull per my high-level notes. The holding penalty did not involve a hook or jersey grab that I can see and seemed more like a push in the back on a play where he was beaten by a spin move by Montravius Adams (Q3, 10:02).
· Bradley Bozeman was effective both at C and RG. I particularly liked the way he stepped over the submarining defender on Ricard’s 2nd conversion to engage ILB Ty Summers in L2 (Q2, 6:50).
· Patrick Mekari had the least effective outing of the 4 “evaluation” players. He had trouble keeping his feet and was shed by DT Kingsley Keke who took down Dixon for a loss of 1 (Q2, 5:33).
· I will provide block-by-block scoring for Eluemunor, Mekari, Bozeman, and Powers in a separate piece this week.
· Orlando Brown played the entire first half of the game, staying 4 more drives after the other starters had departed.
· As a team, the Ravens generated ample time and space (ATS) on 12 of 27 plays (44%) up from 33% versus the Jaguars.
Individual Grades and Notes
As in past years, I have given each Ravens player a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much my expectation of their impact on this year’s team changed based on their performance (game grade before the front slash, cumulative grade after). I don’t rate starters, players who have no place on the team, or anyone for whom I don’t think I have any data for a judgment. The players here are new to the team, rookies, on the cusp of making the team, have new responsibilities this season, in positional battles, or have otherwise have something to prove.
Applefield (0/0): He played the last series at LT and allowed a half sack (Q4, 7:01) shared with RT Prince. The very next play he failed to slow down his opponent on a screen pass which ended with him not releasing, but chasing backwards in the pocket (Q4, 6:21).
Boykin (-1/+1): It wasn’t all on Miles, but he didn’t catch a ball in 3 targets, which included an interception for the 2nd consecutive game. By target:
· (Q1, 10:46): Billick called him out for failing to curl back to the LoS on Jackson’s rollout (Q1, 10:46).
· (Q2, 11:46): McSorley led him too much on a slant pass on 3rd and 3 and only Boykin’s outstretched tip prevented an interception by CB Ka’dar Holman.
· (Q2, 1:30): He and McSorley were not on the same page as Trace threw left and behind Miles. The ball was tipped by CB Tony Brown and intercepted by LB Curtis Bolton.
Bozeman (+1/+1): See notes above. Bradley’s spot as a backup is safe, but he appears further removed from a starting role than he was in 2018.
Brown, Marquise (0/0): DNP. I expect he’ll get a little playing time in game 3.
Callahan (0/0): He made a fine throw to Antoine Wesley for a gain of 38 (Q4, 7:32), but that drive stalled when he took an 8-yard sack and then a hard QH, both by LB Reggie Gilbert. On the QH, he had ATS, but held the ball far too long. On the next drive he fumbled the snap twice.
Dixon (-1/-1): He absorbed 2 hard hits, 1 to his knee and the second by neck tackle in a 7-touch outing. The good news is that he got time with the starters and slipped a tackle from S Will Redmond at the LoS (Q2, 6:11). He was the only RB other than Ricard who did not register 4+ YPC on a night the Ravens dominated the LoS.
Eluemunor (+3/+2): See notes above. He was effective at 2 positions and unless he regresses badly is not in any danger of losing his roster spot. Despite a solid start at LG, it remains unclear who will start there in week 1.
Ervin (0/0): He ran through contact on both a reception (Q4, 12:04) and a carry (Q4, 3:24) to record 24 total yards on 4 touches. He also returned 2 kickoffs for 43 yards and 2 punts for 21. He demonstrated prudence not to field a punt (Q4, 7:42) when traffic might have jeopardized ball security. He’s doing what he can to be the first option as a backup returner/RB should the need arise.
Ezeala (0/0): After throwing an initial block that stalled S Mike Tyson, Ezeala helped to drag Justice hill into the end zone (Q3, 13:33). He also had one of the lead blocks to spring De’Lance Turner’s 22-yard run (Q4, 13:15).
Floyd (-1/-1): He played entirely in the first half, which was an upgrade in terms of the “when”, but was not targeted. His time is running short and without option value, he needs to outplay other younger players like Jaleel Scott and Antoine Wesley.
Herdman (0/0): He and Scarff split all of the 2nd half snaps at TE, but Cole was not targeted.
Hill (+1/+3): He’s been everything the Ravens could have hoped for. Several more plays stood out in this game:
· (Q2, 1:52): His abrupt cutback beat LB Kyler Fackrell and he pushed forward for 4 yards after contact on a RM7.
· (Q2, 0:20): He followed the hole opened by Powers and Brown for 10-yard run on the last play of the half.
· (Q3, 14:06): He slipped a tackle by S Natrell Jamerson at the LoS to run for 5 yards.
· (Q3, 13:33): He evaded 2 DBs and twisted into the end zone for a 1-yard TD.
· (Q3, 10:33): Finding nothing on a designed run middle, he bounced left and ran powerfully through CB Nydair Rouse for a gain of 6.
· (Q3, 4:44): Hill made Fackrell miss in the backfield, beat S Tray Matthews outside, and dragged S Will Redmond approximately 5 yards on RR14.
· (Q3, 4:13): He exploited a small gap at the LoS and followed Bozeman’s block in L2 for RM5
A recurring theme of Hill’s play is turning plays that are schemed one way into individual evasion/tackle breaking exercises away from the point of attack. That ability is far more suited to receiving than running, but it’s exactly that creativity which makes the Ravens offense dangerous and can punish defensive gambling at any level.
Horn (0/0): He was not targeted in a short outing which began late in the 3rd quarter. He did take a lateral from McSorley (Q3, 1:10) 6 yards behind the LoS and ran for 10 yards from there. Seeing that play ran off motion made me think how effective it might have been with Hill’s power/elusiveness or Marquise Brown’s speed.
Hurst, Hayden (-1/-1): By all reports, he had a great week of practice, but that didn’t turn into game results with 1 catch for -1 yards on 3 targets. At the game, it appeared Hurst slowed down while tracking Jackson’s uncatchable throw down the left sideline (Q1, 11:29). I could not confirm from the TV angles, but since S Redmond was moving much faster as the ball approached Hurst, it makes sense that Hurst reduced speed.
Hurst, James (0/0): He started at RG and played the first 2 series, including at least 1 pressure allowed. I’m having difficulty interpreting what this may mean for Hurst in terms of the starting LG role. It may be a case where the Ravens think they know what they have with Hurst and he’s a good fallback assuming none of Eluemunor, Bozeman, Mekari, or Powers step up to claim the role.
McSorley (-1/+1): Most folks will remember the TD pass threaded to Moore between the hashes. However, Trace took a step back with 3 interceptable passes in just 13 throws. He was intercepted once, Boykin bailed him out on another (see above), and LB James Crawford dropped a room-service pick-6 by the right sideline (Q4, 9:57) which could have been a 10-point turnaround.
Unlike the game against the Jags, McSorley had 8 of 13 ATS opportunities for which better results are expected both in terms of yardage and interceptions.
The 17-yard, play-action boot left (Q3, 2:27) was one of the most well-sold fakes I’ve ever seen and a credit to Roman’s scheme even more than McSorley’s slight of hand. Turner sold the fake, the pull right by Powers sold the fake, and the down and distance helped as well. OLB Rashan Gary initially had proper position relative to Eluemunor to contain McSorley, but he gave it up to chase the ghost run right.
Mekari (-1/-1): See notes above. He earned a long evaluation with his play in game 1 and practice, but it did not go particularly well. He’s squarely on the bubble.
Modster (0/0): He entered midway through the 3rd quarter and was targeted once without a catch. I expect him to make the practice squad where he will be an option as a return specialist and slot receiver if needed.
Moore (+2/+3): I’ll remove Chris from these grades next week, because he’s eliminated any doubt his roster spot is in jeopardy due to his pending UFA status.
Powers (+1/+2): See notes above. I did not note Ben for any pass blocking failures other than the questionable hold. When he engaged at the LoS, he generally maintained blocks well. He’s a tad ponderous on pulls but in each case he was able to at least pick up a run blitz in the backfield.
Prince (-1/-2): He played the entire 2nd half, but had trouble with the rush of OLB Reggie Gilbert. Some of the reason for a reduced rating is that the Ravens have at least 3 players that could fill in at tackle who are ahead of him, which I’d currently rank as Eluemunor, Hurst, Senat. The Ravens apparent surplus talent at tackle makes it less likely he’ll get a practice squad spot.
Ricard (+2/+4): He’s clearly made the team based on variation of usage, but he displayed a valuable talent with the pair of short-yardage conversions while making block after block out of the I or as an in-line TE. If posed with the simple choice keep either Dixon or Ricard, I don’t see how or why the Ravens would not choose Patrick.
Roberts (-1/-1): He missed game 2 and availability could cost him his roster spot.
Scarff (0/0): Charles was in and out the entire 2nd half, but was targeted just once with no catches. He threw a nice block to seal the edge on Turner’s 22-yard run. Scarff is probably the better practice squad TE option than Herdman.
Scott (+1/+2): He entered at the end of the first half and caught 2 passes among 3 targets. His highlight was beating CB Chandon Sullivan on a skinny post (Q3, 11:01) for 17 yards (13 + 4 YAC). He also had good coverage on special teams with 1 punt tackle and 1 kickoff tackle. The WR position has 4 locks if they remain healthy, Boykin, Brown, Moore, and Snead. Beyond that are 4 guys fighting for what I believe will be 2 spots, Floyd, Roberts, Scott, and Wesley.
Senat (-1/0): This was a bad game for Senat to miss. He had a solid evaluation game versus the Jags where he performed well excepting the hold. However, Eluemunor’s fine play at LT in his absence is a threat to his roster spot.
Smith, Jaylen (0/0): He entered on the next-to-last drive and was not targeted.
Turner (0/0): People will remember DeLance’s 22-yard run behind Ezeala and Scarff (Q4, 13:15), but he also helped sell the fake that sprung McSorley’s 17-yard boot. He appeared to turn down a big outside hole behind Powers and Prince (Q4, 11:13) when he was tackled inside for a loss of 1.
Vahe (0/0): He played the last 2 series at C and did not make my notes.
Wesley (0/0): He entered at the start of the 2nd half and caught both targets for 43 total yards. He is part of the 4-man race for 2 WR roster spots (see Scott above).
Williams, Darrell (0/0): He played the last 2 drives at RG, but did not make my notes.
Williams, Isiah (0/0): He played the last 2 drives at LG, but did not make my notes.
1. Jermaine Eluemunor
2. Chris Moore
3. Justice Hill