What a Difference a Week Makes
The offensive line went from a complete mess against the Saints to the strength of the offense against the Panthers. To summarize:
- Ben Powers started at LG and played very well in 34 snaps
- Bradley Bozeman did not have an errant snap and helped fuel the run game
- Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva played 18 snaps together and looked as if they had been together for years
- Michael Schofield looked good enough to win the swing tackle role in an extended trial
- The rest of the offensive line avoided serious errors and was penalized only once (false start)
- The OL stood out in bold relief as the Ravens outsnapped a tired Panthers team 43-15 in the second half
Carolina Worn Down
The Ravens had few big chunks of yardage, but they ran 40 plays for 202 yards on their final 4 drives. That made for an unimpressive 5.1 yards per play, but the Ravens got a first down on 6 of 7 occasions they reached 3rd down (including a 4th down conversion and ignoring a 3rd down kneel). Over the course of those 4 drives the Ravens scored the final 17 points of the game to win 20-3.
The Ravens have run a standard play-action boot for years. On such a play, the RB and offensive line fake a zone run to one direction while the quarterback rolls out with the football away from the blockers. Typically, the play is schemed for 3 options, a vertical route on the side of the boot, a crossing pattern from the opposite side between levels 2 and 3, and a checkdown route in the form of a TE or FB who blocks, then releases to the boot side at or near the LoS.
The defender in charge of recognizing the boot is the edge defender on the boot side who typically charges after the booting QB. When that edge is not fooled, the QB must typically dump off to the receiver near the LoS, but if afforded time, he should make his reads from deepest route to shortest to maximize the opportunity.
A disadvantage of having a mobile QB is that the edge defender is always wary of the boot and less likely to be fooled, which means more passes go to the receiver at the LoS. Such was the case on Saturday night. Tyler Huntley ran a seemingly endless string of boots and dumped the ball off to Josh Oliver at the LoS with regularity.
Keeping Huntley on the run may have been a QB preservation tactic by Roman, but it also may be a case of not wanting to show a substantive portion of the offensive playbook. In any case, the Ravens provided Huntley excellent pocket time when there and Tyler took relatively few shots down the field.
OL Usage by Series
The most significant indication of roster decisions during the preseason is the order of entry.
Here are the offensive linemen by series, something that often tells a story about the team’s plans:
|Drive||Plays||Net Yards||Result||Q||Beg Time||LT||LG||C||RG||RT|
Notes on the OL rotation:
- The Ravens presumptive week-1 starters at C, RG, and RT played together for the first 3 series and were all good despite the fact the Ravens scored no points while they were in.
- Bozeman was solid but did not have any plays with great push or that could be considered a highlight. All of his shotgun snaps were on target.
- Zeitler was physical and anchored well as a pass blocker. I recorded 3 positive run notes among just 9 designed runs. He worked effectively to use leverage from Villanueva to maintain positional advantage on his opponents and had solid individual push.
- One of the questions about Villanueva has been whether he’d be able to complete combination blocks in space. On the first play from scrimmage (Q1, 15:00) he blocked down to assist Zeitler then moved to level 2 and blocked both LB Jermaine Carter and LB Shaq Thompson. He looked good in individual assignments, both as a pass blocker (no pressures) and in standing up DE Morgan Fox (Q1, 13:51) on Edwards’ RR14.
- Powers was one of 2 players I scored individually (see below), since he had 34 scored plays and those came against the first Panthers rotations. He was extremely physical from the outset (when the Panthers players were rested) and didn’t have any serious mistakes, although he did miss 2 pulls. Ben needs to clean that up, since the Ravens offense depends heavily on LG pulls (Bozeman had more pulls than anyone in team history last season). At a minimum, he projected himself back into the discussion for the starting LG spot while the absence of Cleveland and Phillips did not help their respective causes.
- Phillips’ absence, coupled with poor play in the game against the Saints, probably leaves him 3rd on the LG depth chart.
- Cleveland remained out with a concussion. I expect the LG decision will be a closely guarded secret we won’t learn until warmups prior to the MNF game in Las Vegas.
- Mekari started at LT and played the same 3 series there without any time at other positions. He’s a fighter and makes a flurry of reactive movements to make up for an extreme lack of length for the position. I don’t believe he should see any time at LT during the season although he may play there next week if Stanley is not ready to go.
- Colon had an extended trial at C and looked solid and on-target with his snaps.
- Bredeson was tied with Schofield for the most snaps by a Ravens lineman (59). He shared a pressure allowed to DT Derrick Brown (Q2, 3:45) with Colon. He allowed another solo pressure to DT Phil Hoskins by bull rush (Q2, 1:16). One way to evaluate the Ravens plans for Bredeson is to see if he’s still playing at the end of the game vs Washington.
- Andre Smith was again ineffective and was cut as I write this.
- Adrian Ealy played only the last 11 snaps. It’s important to temper optimism with the understanding his opponents had been out there for a long time and were obviously tired by the 43-15 snap disadvantage the Panthers had in the 2nd half. Nonetheless, Ealy looked like a man among boys (see highlights below). It’s conceivable the Ravens are attempting to stash Ealy on the practice squad and want to minimize film, but I can’t see any other reason why he would not receive an extended trial in the finale vs Washington, particularly with Smith cut.
- Schofield received a 59-snap audition at LT which I scored by block (see below). I think he showed enough that he’s the best choice for the backup tackle role. He has the 34” arm length the Ravens covet and showed an impressive ability to mirror vs Carolina. He’ll be 31 in November, so he’s a stopgap solution at tackle, but he could allow the Ravens to bridge to another developmental tackle or the return of Ja’Wuan James.
- Mancz was last to enter at C. He didn’t play poorly, but I don’t see a path to the roster for him.
- Sarell played LG only and was there for the entire second half. He didn’t allow a sack or QH, but I had 5 negative notes on him, including both pass blocking and run failures.
On the surface, the Ravens played 6 different OL combinations in the first preseason game and 5 in the second. That doesn’t seem like a big difference. However, last week, the Ravens played 8 different offensive linemen at 2 or more positions (Mekari played 3). The lack of both quality individual play and continuity contributed to a lackluster offensive performance. In stark contrast, the Ravens asked no player play more than 1 position against the Panthers.
I assume that deployment was an extension of practice vs the Panthers and the Ravens made it a point of emphasis to have each lineman focus on a single set of positional responsibilities. This is consistent with the Ravens practice of making 1-for-1 positional substitutions when in-season injuries occur.
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.
Bateman (0/0): DNP.
Boykin (0/0): DNP. The loss of practice time With the results at X receiver to date, should the Ravens be eager to discard an excellent run blocker?
Bozeman (+1/0): See notes above.
Bredeson (0/0): See notes above.
Cain (0/0): DNP. I can’t see how he makes the team after missing this much time, even with all the injuries.
Cleveland (-1/-1): Unlike last week, he lost ground to Powers by missing his second straight game. The Ravens now have more options at LG, but when healthy, I believe Cleveland will be the guy.
Colon (+1/+1): See notes above. He played all of his snaps at C vs the Panthers and there hasn’t been anyone else who will make the team who has taken many snaps at center other than Bozeman. He allowed a pressure to Derrick Brown (Q2, 3:45, shared with Bredeson) and slipped to allow a run play to be blown up (Q2, 1:54). He was otherwise solid and his roster spot appears secure.
Dereus (0/0): He entered late and played just 7 snaps, the fewest of any WR. He was cut on Monday.
Ealy (+1/+1): He played only the final drive, which consisted of 11 plays, 2 of which were kneels. Despite that:
- (Q4, 7:41): He bullied LB Christian Miller wide of play on McCrary’s RR7.
- (Q4, 6:59): He sealed DE Frank Herron physically to lead McCrary RR7.
- (Q4, 6:16): He pancaked DE Herron to lead McCrary RR5.
I have to dial back my excitement due to the set of tired Carolina defenders he faced.
Gray (0): He caught 2 passes for 19 including a ball he went down nicely to get (Q2, 3:45).
Hill (-1/-3): DNP. He lost more ground to Ty’Son Williams, who played well. Hill’s chance to make the team is largely based on special teams at this point and reflects a broader dilemma. In the last 48 hours, the Ravens lost LJ Fort to a season-sending injury and cut Jordan Richards. Other core ST players in roster jeopardy include Levine, Mason, and Hill. Can the Ravens afford to rebuild their ST unit with on the fly primarily from a large set of young DBs?
Huntley (+2/+3): The backup job is his and that should result in some mop-up time during 2021 at a minimum. If he is forced into service for more than “the rest of the game”, the music for the 1965 Colts highlight film is already playing in my head. If you’re under 60 or don’t take my meaning, watch this great old video:
Mancz (0/0): See notes above.
Mariner (0/0): He played 11 snaps, second fewest in a thin WR corps.
Mason (+1/+1): He had a generally positive set of blocking notes:
- (Q3, 11:22): He blocked LB Julian Stanford to help lead McCrary RR9.
- (Q3, 9:48): He failed to maintain his block on LB Stanford in L2 on McCrary’s RR2.
- (Q3, 4:39): He blocked LB Paddy Fisher as Williams ran RR10.
- (Q3, 1:56): On 4th/1, he blocked LB Jonathan Celestin to lead Williams RL4.
- (Q4, 6:59): He blocked LB Fisher to lead McCrary RR7.
McCrary (0/0): He had solid results as a carrier when the Panthers were selling out to stop the run. His shiftiness and speed may well land him on the practice squad.
McSorley (-1/-2): He is lost until at least the start of the regular season. I assume he’ll make it through waivers and be offered a job on the practice squad.
Mekari (0/-1): See notes above. He played only LT and that’s not a position he’ll play in anything but an emergency. Perhaps the Ravens have decided he already has a backup IOL job secure, but if that is not the case, it’s not helping him to miss opportunities to play there.
Moore, Jaylon (0/0): He was on the field from the first series until the next-to-last. He caught all 3 targets for 15 yards total. He bobbled a catchable ball before securing it (Q2, 10:28), which appeared to cost the Ravens a first down (4-yard gain on 3rd and 5).
Oliver (0/0): I see the athletic potential, but he has not impressed with a catch anywhere downfield or demonstrated the ability to find space on play action. His 10 catches averaged 4 yards from the LoS and he fumbled a ball he should have secured. He also was unable to collect a catchable ball (Q3, 14:24). We’ll see what he can do with Lamar Jackson.
Phillips (-1/-2): DNP. See above notes.
Poljan (0/0): He entered for the last 2 series and was not targeted in 12 snaps. However, he made my notes twice for good run blocks (Q4, 9:15; Q4, 2:00). He’s a valuable guy for the practice squad, but blocking TEs are often in short supply as the season rolls on and it’s reasonable to assume he’ll be signed by another team eventually.
Powers (+3/+1): Ben played 34 snaps and was both physical and effective. He was charged with a half share of the PD at the LoS by DT Derrick Brown (Q1, 13:11, which became Reddick’s interception) when he allowed the 2020 1st-round pick to get his hands up for the PD. That was his only negative event. He missed 2 blocks, both pulls. He was tentative and failed to find a block on Huntley’s RR-2 that ended the Ravens 2nd drive (Q1, 8:58). He was a step too slow to connect on LB Clay Johnston (Q2, 3:10), which blew up McCrary’s RR1. Notably, he did not lose a block at the LoS. He made 1 block in level 2, delivered 2 pancakes, and connected on 3 of 5 pulls. He had 3 highlights, an outstanding total for 34 plays, the best of which was a pull to pancake Josh Bynes in L2 (Q1, 1:52).
Scoring: 34 plays, 31 blocks, 2 missed, 1/2 pressure, 30 points (.88 per play). That’s an A with adjustment. It’s worth noting that Powers logged his outstanding game primarily against the Carolina starters.
Proche (0/0): At some point it is appropriate to be concerned about his productivity and not blame it entirely on the scheme and absence of Lamar Jackson. In 2 games, he’s caught 3 passes on 4 targets for 14 yards (3.5 YPT, 0.3 Yards per Route).
Sarell (0/0): See notes above.
Schofield (+2/+3): He entered at the beginning of the 2nd quarter and played the remainder of the game at LT. He was bulled by DE Christian Miller for a pressure (Q2, 4:19) which was his only pass-blocking charge. He also had a false start in the 4th quarter which kept him from grading an A. Each of his 4 missed blocks was a loss at the LoS. He did not make a block in level 2 and did not have a pancake. He was successful on his only pull. He also had 4 highlight blocks, the best of which was a cave in of DE Miller (who he pushed across the formation) to open the hole for McCrary’s RM2 TD.
Scoring: 56 plays, 51 blocks, 4 missed, 1 pressure, 1 false start, 46 points (.82 per play). That’s a B+ after adjustment. I was impressed with Schofield’s ability to mirror. He has good feet and natural ability to pass off and re-acquire an assignment. Ronnie Stanley may start in the preseason finale, I suspect Schofield will be next to enter and he should get another long look.
Smith, Andre (-1/-2): See notes above. Cut.
Tomlinson (+1/+1): He recovered from a modest run-blocking game against the Saints to be one of the Ravens stars.
- (Q3, 11:22): He blocked LB Fisher in L2 to help lead McCrary RR9
- (Q3, 7:51): He blocked LB Fisher in L2 to lead McCrary RM2 TD
- (Q3, 1:56): On 4th/1, he drove DE Frank Herron 5 yards and pancaked him to lead Williams RL4
- (Q4, 3:27): He caught PR6 (4 + 2) on 2nd/11 
- (Q4, 2:41): On 3rd/6, he caught PR7 (4 + 3)  to convert for Ravens final first down
The last 2 receptions were his only 2 targets in the preseason. During the regular season, he was only targeted once each in 2019 and 2020 in a total of 15 games/5 starts. That makes him one of the NFL’s most extreme blocking TEs. With it looking more and more like Boyle will be out to start the season, Tomlinson will be an important part of the Ravens offense and anything he brings as a receiver is a bonus.
Verity (+1/+2): He added another 44-yard FG plus 2 extra points to his resume. This may or may not be a year where DeCosta can wrangle a draft pick for a kicker, but it’s important Verity has success wherever he goes to keep the legend of the kicker whisperer alive.
Victor (0/0): He played 19 snaps and caught 1 of 3 balls for 9 yards. He was one of the few Ravens to have a shot at a long pass when Huntley overthrew him 45 yards down the left seam.
Wallace (+1/+1): He led all WRs with 39 snaps and was targeted 4 times, all down the right sideline (remember his college target location heat map). The endzone drop was a shame, but his 25-yard catch and run (Q3, 9:16) included a broken tackle and set up the Ravens for the TD that gave them the lead.
Williams, Ty’Son (+1/+2): Williams broke 3 tackles on his 20-yard touchdown run (Q4, 9:15), which was the play of the game. With tape like the last 2 games, I expect the Ravens will be at risk of losing him if they try to slip him through to the practice squad. Aside from the impact on special teams from cutting Hill, I can’t see a reason why Williams won’t be part of the Ravens 3-headed monster.
- Ben Powers
- Michael Schofield
- Tyler Huntley