ReFo: BAL @ TB, Preseason Wk 1
The defending champs opened their 2013 campaign with a successful trip to Tampa Bay. A one-sided affair in the end, but hey, it’s preseason and the score isn’t what matters, right?
As is the case with each year’s initial preseason contests, expected starters only saw shake-the-rust-off action and the night was owned by those battling for rank on the depth chart. A few stood out, many made good use of new opportunity, and some just blended into the background. So to help sift through it all, here are a few of the noteworthy showings from each side.
Baltimore – Three Performances of Note
As Baltimore’s first team filtered out of the game, Tyrod Taylor (+1.8) stepped in at quarterback and gave us a 48-snap look at a Ravens offense of a completely different flavor. Contrasted with the stand-tall style of the reigning Super Bowl MVP ahead of him on the depth chart, Taylor’s darting presence threatened everything from options at the edge of the line to thoughtful touch passes dropped in downfield. Not to be too flowery about the showing — it wasn’t perfect by any stretch — but there were moments he’ll be proud of. With positive grades as a passer and as a runner (if marginally so), Taylor moved the chains. His three deep-ball completions aside, the ability he showed to stick the ball past the markers on in routes and stops had to be most encouraging to the Baltimore staff and fans. Get him on the field with a full-strength O-line and a dangerous back and the read option becomes a real option. If there’s such a thing as a change-of-pace QB, this may be it.
Edge Depth on Display
On a defense already featuring edge talents like Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw, Adrian Hamilton (+2.3) would be forgiven for being lost in the wash. A practice squad call-up late last season, he saw just a handful of snaps and had nothing of note to show for them. In this game, though, he made the most of his audition. In his 22 snaps — 18 of which he spent on the right side — he produced a run stop and three QB disruptions (a sack, a hit, and a hurry). With the defense redefining itself and fully believing they’re in line for another run, quality depth will provide even more confidence. Hamilton’s got a ladder to climb before he’s making an impact on a regular basis, but with this performance as an indicator, the Ravens may have hit on another gem.
Easing the Transition
Speaking of the defensive remake, recent addition Daryl Smith (+1.6) once again went out and did what Daryl Smith does — put up a solid game in multiple phases. Perennially undersold, Smith is rarely in the conversation of the league’s best linebackers and lingered on the market this offseason for longer than he should have, but he’s found a home in the middle the Ravens’ D and the fit seems right. Against the Bucs he posted four tackles, a pair of stops, and a pair of pressures then got off the field to watch the young guys do their work. He’s not likely to be the big personality to make fans forget Ray Lewis, but his lost season in 2012 shouldn’t limit expectations either — the 26 green-graded games he produced from 2009 to 2011 in Jacksonville are a far better look.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
In our first look at Josh Freeman’s designated motivator, rookie QB Mike Glennon (-2.6 passing) came off less than polished. To be expected for sure, but the giraffe-like passer didn’t do much to avoid cementing early thoughts that had him pegged as a clumsy-footed, inaccurate slinger at this stage in his progression. A couple of big gains — escaping pressure to hit his wide-open tight end on a busted coverage to end the first quarter, and an underthrown deep ball to end the half – couldn’t outweigh the handful of other off-target attempts he put on tape. After showing sophomore promise in 2010 and not much since, Freeman’s desire to right the ship in time for his next contract — and not the rookie breathing down his neck — should still be the driving force behind hope for an improved 2013 campaign.
Ragged Run Blocking
A rough night of run blocking for the Bucs centered on two main culprits — C/G Cody Wallace (-3.9) and TE Tom Crabtree (-3.0). While Wallace found a variety of trouble facing Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody, and Arthur Jones on the interior, Crabtree’s recurring issue was letting edge defenders inside him for frustrating tackles around the line of scrimmage. Crabtree has never been known as a run-blocking force and Tampa surely knew what they were getting, but this performance has to quell any thoughts they may have had about relying on him in that capacity if Luke Stocker remains on the shelf. The good news for Wallace was the clean sheet he posted on 32 snaps as a pass protector. The good news for the Bucs’ run game is Wallace should soon return to his spot as a reserve with Carl Nicks and his damaged toe re-entering the fold — the difference there should be dramatic.
Linebackers Take Opportunity
Things weren’t all bad for the Bucs, as second-year backup linebacker Najee Goode (+3.2) took the opportunity to make a mark as a run defender and Dekoda Watson (+1.7) showed well in his attempt to lock down the starting gig on the strong side. Watson’s competition, Adam Hayward (-1.8) in particular, fell off in comparison. An especially lackluster play that left him in space, not hustling to cover, not forcing the QB who rolled his way (2Q, 0:47), was eye-catching.
— Right tackle Gabe Carimi introduced himself to the Tamp Bay fan base with a solid pass-blocking night, allowing no pressures on 24 pass-blocking snaps.
— Taylor’s average ‘Time to Attempt’ was 2.28 seconds. Last year’s league leader in that category (Matt Hasselbeck) was at 2.35 seconds.
— Tamps Bay running back Mike James gave up a hit and a pair of hurries on four pass-blocking opportunities.
PFF Game Ball
Tyrod Taylor’s versatile showing earns him the game ball in the preseason opener.
Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick