NFL Nation: 2013 preseason reaction Week 4 ravens-rams

What to watch revisited: Rams-Ravens

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
11:40
PM ET
Looking back on five things to watch in the St. Louis Rams' 24-21 win against Baltimore in Thursday night's preseason finale.

1.Backup quarterback quandary. Starting quarterback Sam Bradford didn’t play a single snap as the Rams protected him in the final preseason game. That meant plenty of work for backups Kellen Clemens and Austin Davis. Clemens got first crack at the job, playing the entire first half. And though Baltimore played none of its starters, Clemens made the strongest case either backup has made in this preseason, finishing 13-of-18 for 188 yards for a rating of 105.8. Davis didn’t have as much success, though he did lead two scoring drives, finishing 6-of-13 for 50 yards with two touchdowns.

2. Sitting starters. Rams coach Jeff Fisher followed through on his statement that he’d make some “adjustments” to the starting lineup for the preseason finale. The majority of his usual starters did not start or even play a snap in the game. In fact, only six presumptive starters – guard Chris Williams, tackle Rodger Saffold, receiver Austin Pettis, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety T.J. McDonald – played. If you include safety Rodney McLeod, who is competing with Darian Stewart for a starting job, it brings the total to seven.

3. Coming out healthy. From all appearances, the Rams made it through the game and the preseason without suffering any serious injuries to a key contributor. Tight end Cory Harkey will miss a bit of time from his injury suffered last week against Denver, but the few starters who did play against the Ravens made it out of the game OK.

4. Last chance. A full evaluation of players who might have earned or cemented roster spots won’t come until the final cuts are made tomorrow or Saturday, but a few players made some good cases. Safety Matt Daniels might have made the best. Aside from a missed tackle on a Baltimore touchdown run, Daniels was all over the field. He finished with two tackles, two passes defended and an interception in unofficial press-box statistics. Daniels was likely in good shape to make the final roster before Thursday night. He seemed only to help himself with his performance.

5. Running in place. Starter Daryl Richardson did not play, a logical move considering the Rams still need to sort out their backup running back situation. Once again, there wasn’t much room to run as the backups on the offensive line couldn’t create many holes. Zac Stacy and Isaiah Pead got the first opportunities. Pead got off to a rocky start, fumbling the opening kickoff before the Rams recovered. He carried seven times for 27 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards. Stacy didn’t have much room to run but finished with 37 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 1-yard run. He could become a factor in short-yardage and goal-line scenarios given his size and style. Benny Cunningham got some limited late reps and was the most effective of the group. He finished with 76 yards on eight carries and one grab for 7 yards as he likely cemented a spot on the roster. Chase Reynolds even got in on the act with a 17-yard catch and run to give the Rams the lead in the fourth quarter.

Observation deck: Ravens-Rams

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
11:26
PM ET
Running back Bobby Rainey made the strongest case for one of the final roster spots in the Baltimore Ravens' 24-21 loss at St. Louis in Thursday's preseason finale.

Rainey showed great determination in two first-half touchdowns, which could give him the edge over Anthony Allen and Delone Carter for the third tailback spot. In a busy night for the undrafted player out of Western Kentucky, he finished with 13 carries for 39 yards, one punt return for 16 yards, two kickoff returns for 25 yards and one special-teams tackle.

Those numbers didn't accurately reflect Rainey's toughness or the countless tackles he broke. On the first touchdown, he was stopped by the pile at the goal line but got the ball across on a second effort. On his second score, Rainey was bottled up at the 5-yard line and bounced to his left to reach the end zone.

Last season, Rainey spent the first six weeks on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster. He was inactive for three games before going on injured reserve with a knee injury.

His scores were magnified when Allen and Carter failed to punch the ball in the end zone with carries inside the 10-yard line; Allen made it worse by fumbling at the 1. Allen and Carter combined for 3 yards on 13 carries. This will be a tough roster decision because Allen does so much on special teams, especially as the lead blocker on kickoffs.

Here are my other thoughts on the final preseason game for the Ravens, who finished 2-2:
  • The Ravens' top two draft picks were impressive. Safety Matt Elam, the first-round pick, made four first-quarter tackles and punched the ball out of Tavon Austin's grasp for a forced fumble. Linebacker Arthur Brown, the second-round pick, hit Kellen Clemens so hard that he made the Rams' backup quarterback's nose bleed and made a nice open-field tackle. The rookies both won't start right away, but these performances provide glimpses of the future.
  • There was a Tandon Doss sighting. For the first time this preseason, Doss did what the Ravens had envisioned, catching passes over the middle and beating defenders straight down the field out of the slot. He had five catches for 75 yards. But Marlon Brown didn't give up any ground in the wide receiver battle. The undrafted rookie scored on a 50-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. I will provide more thoughts on the wide receiver situation on Friday.
  • Omar Brown made the roster last year because he made big plays in the preseason. He came up big Thursday night as he looks to become the team's fourth safety. Brown forced a fumble over the middle of the field in the first quarter and nearly picked off a pass in the third quarter. The Ravens' top three safety spots are set with Elam, Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo.
  • The center battle appears to be over. Gino Gradkowski didn't play in the finale, which suggests that the Ravens didn't need to see any more from him. A.Q. Shipley started, but he hasn't done enough in the preseason to push Gradkowski for the job.
  • Joe Flacco didn't play, and Tyrod Taylor received the night off after suffering a head injury in the last preseason game. Third-stringer Caleb Hanie got to play the entire game, and it wasn't pretty. He was 20-of-39 for 272 yards, and he didn't receive much support. Hanie was pressured repeatedly and was charged with a fumble after Reggie Stephens (who also had a critical false start late in the fourth quarter) delivered a shotgun snap wide right. Hanie's final pass was intercepted in the final minute of the game.

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