Ravens preseason observations
August, 24, 2009
By James Walker | ESPN.com
|AP Photo/Gail Burton|
|Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata picked off Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.|
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Ravens defeated the New York Jets, 24-23, in the second preseason game for both teams.
Here are some observations on Baltimore from Monday's game:
- Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata looks poised for a Pro Bowl year, and he was a disruptive force all first half against New York. On the second play of the game, Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez threw an interception to Ngata, who dropped back in coverage and returned it for a 24-yard touchdown. He is one of the few 340-plus pound defensive linemen that can pull off that play. Ngata also bullied his way through New York's offensive line to pressure Kellen Clemens into another interception in the second quarter, this time picked off by Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain and returned 16 yards for another score. Baltimore's starters led New York's starters by 14 points at halftime thanks to those two plays.
"Really, without our two big defensive plays, it was a very competitive first half-a 7-7 game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
- Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco hit six different receivers for the second straight week, which is a good sign. Flacco wasn't as accurate as his preseason debut against the Washington Redskins, but spreading the ball around more is one of the things Baltimore's coaching staff is asking of Flacco in his second season. He also made several nice throws in the first half that led to one touchdown drive. Another potential scoring drive ended on a botched field-goal attempt. The best throw of the night was a double-pump to Derrick Mason for 43 yards. Flacco finished 8 of 18 for 120 yards.
- Baltimore's run defense showed some rare holes. A unit that is usually air-tight against the run blew several gap assignments in the first half. Leon Washington gave the Ravens' starters the most trouble with 48 yards in the first half on eight carries, an average of six yards per attempt.
"We gave up too much on the ground in the first half, especially against the draws," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "We have to get off blocks better."
- It looks like the kicking competition between rookie Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka continues to favor Hauschka. Gano got the first shot at kicking duties Monday and sailed a 46-yard attempt wide right in the first half. Hauschka responded by making a 42-yard attempt in the fourth quarter to widen the gap. Hauschka also made a pair of field goals last week against Washington.
- Ravens backup quarterback Troy Smith had a lot of trouble reading New York's defense, which is somewhat surprising since he practiced against the same scheme under Ryan for two years. For instance, Smith threw two interceptions on the same drive with a pair of awful reads. The first was called back due to offsetting penalties. But two attempts later, he tried to squeeze a ball to receiver Demetrius Williams through double coverage and Marquice Cole was waiting to pick it off. Smith finished the night 4 for 9 for 84 yards and an interception.
- Ravens tight end L.J. Smith suffered a hamstring pull in the third quarter that kept him out for the remainder of the game. Although the severity is unknown, Smith has a history of injuries in the league and it is once again showing up in Baltimore.
- Second-year receiver Justin Harper continues to impress in the preseason. He caught a 51-yard yard reception from Smith streaking down the right sideline. Harper had two catches for 62 yards.