Thursday, August 12, 2010
Observation deck: Baltimore-Carolina
By James Walker
After an offseason filled with Super Bowl hype, the Baltimore Ravens made their 2010 debut with a 17-12 preseason victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Here are seven observations on the Ravens:
1. Baltimore's air attack looks improved. Twelve of the first team's 17 plays were passes. The Ravens know they can run. But the coaching staff wants to see where the passing game is after making several key acquisitions at wide receiver and tight end. Led by third-year quarterback Joe Flacco, the passing game looked much improved. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
2. Flacco throwing to Anquan Boldin is still a work in progress. Flacco targeted Boldin three times and two passes were a bit off. Boldin made his first catch at the end of the first quarter on a 12-yard comeback route. Expect the pair to continue working on their timing and ball placement.
3. Don't forget Mark Clayton. The former first-round pick became the forgotten receiver after Baltimore acquired Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals. Clayton is now a backup, but he's still talented and will provide depth. He recorded two catches for 48 yards against Carolina, including a stellar, 30-yard touchdown reception from Flacco.
4. Tom Zbikowski is coming into his own. Star safety Ed Reed (hip) may not be ready for the start of the regular season. Zbikowski's play in relief last year and solid start to training camp makes him the leader in the clubhouse. The former Notre Dame star was physical and recorded a forced fumble and a sack against Carolina's Matt Moore in the first quarter. Zbikowski also had a 28-yard punt return.
5. Questions remain at cornerback. Baltimore's defense shut out Carolina's first-team offense. But I'm still not convinced Thursday's starting cornerbacks -- Chris Carr and Travis Fisher -- are the answer. Moore only threw for 32 yards, but two big passing plays were negated by Jordan Gross' holding penalties in the first quarter.
6. Baltimore's young defensive linemen showed potential. Rookie Terrence Cody and second-year player Paul Kruger are expected to provide depth in the defensive-line rotation, and both were able to penetrate the backfield. Kruger recorded 1.5 sacks, and Cody made some impressive plays behind the line of scrimmage. Cody even lined up at fullback near the goal line. But a missed block and a false start on back-to-back plays may make Baltimore reconsider that experiment.
7. Kicker Shayne Graham had a mixed debut with Baltimore. Graham was successful on his first field goal for 32 yards, but he also was wide right from 50 yards before halftime. Every kick for Graham will be under the microscope during his competition with incumbent Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff.