Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Minnesota vs. Ravens

On a night when Baltimore’s Michael Phelps made Olympic history in Beijing, the Ravens could only manage to create more questions in a 23-15 loss at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday.

The Ravens struggled from both sides of the ball and failed in coming any closer to finding a starting quarterback against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7. Troy Smith and Kyle Boller were both ineffective in moving the offense while the stout Baltimore defense that dominated New England a week ago struggled to keep the Vikings offense off the field.

Here is a breakdown of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for Preseason Week Two.

The Good

Ray Rice

Once again filling in for the injured Willis McGahee, Rice looked more comfortable in his second professional start. Rice finished with 77 yards on 8 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Rice showed great field vision in recognizing the cutback lanes against the Minnesota defense. His 42-yard run was the highlight of the night for the mostly ineffective offense.

The offensive line deserves credit for opening some nice holes for Rice after failing to establish the run in last week’s game.

Haruki Nakamura

Nakamura continues to impress on special teams, finishing with 2 tackles on the kickoff team.

He also made a key third-down pass deflection in the second half. Nakamura has a keen ability to find the football and make plays.

Jarret Johnson

Johnson continues to show great hustle and improved speed, finishing with 2 tackles. Players like Johnson are critical for the Ravens to maintain their tradition of great defense.

Derrick Martin

Martin compensated for a rough outing against New England with a strong performance. He broke on the ball beautifully for a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown that got the Ravens back in the game in the fourth quarter.

Martin provided strong coverage in the second half, deflecting two other passes.

He strengthened his bid in making the roster as other members of the secondary struggled throughout the night.

Tom Zbikowski

Zbikowski played well in run support, making 3 tackles and registering a sack. Much like Nakamura, he shows an ability to find the football and make plays.

He did provide a scare in the fourth quarter when he failed to call a fair catch on a punt. Fortunately, he held onto the ball after taking a violent hit.

The Bad

Troy Smith

Smith failed to seize control of the quarterback competition by turning in an uneven performance.

While Smith showed good mobility by rushing for 35 yards, he looked uncomfortable throwing throughout the night. Smith only made 5 attempts but double-pumped on several occasions and failed to see a wide-open Derrick Mason on a play in the second quarter.

Smith and the offense were unable to get in a rhythm throughout the first half. His last play of the night was a pass thrown behind Mark Clayton that was intercepted by Darren Sharper.

This was not the standout performance that Smith or the Ravens were envisioning. In Smith's defense, the poor play of the defense didn’t really allow him or the offense to get many opportunities in the first half.

Antwan Barnes

Starting in place of Terrell Suggs, Barnes struggled to seal the outside on several running plays.

Barnes needs to play stronger instead of relying solely on speed, as he was pushed back into the defensive backfield on several plays in the first half.

Chad Slaughter

The left tackle started well but struggled as the game progressed. He completely whiffed on a block of Jared Allen even though Smith escaped for an 18-yard scramble in the second quarter.

Slaughter needs to improve his conditioning and play stronger. For the second game in a row, he was bull-rushed and pushed back into the quarterback, this time by Allen.

Slaughter played deep into the second half as coaches hope he can get into better football shape.

Oniel Cousins

The third-round pick continues to disappoint as he allowed Letroy Guion to clobber Kyle Boller for a sack.

Cousins also allowed a sack of Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter.

Kyle Boller

Boller completed his first 8 passes but for only 40 yards. He settled for short passes to secondary receivers and did not attempt to throw down the field.

Boller missed on his final 4 attempts after being hammered by Guion.

In typical Boller fashion, he threw into double coverage for an interception on his final attempt of the night.

While Boller was not horrible, he did nothing to stand out and take the lead in the quarterback competition after such a mediocre showing by Smith in the first half.

Joe Flacco

Flacco showed more poise in his second professional game, but he still needs to do a better job protecting the football. He fumbled twice on plays where an NFL quarterback should not lose the ball.

He seemed to settle down and get rid of the ball quicker after his first series.

Flacco showed some promise but is still a long way from starting for the Ravens.

The Ugly


Perhaps the only thing more troubling than the play of the quarterbacks was the poor performance by the defense. Still missing six starters, the defense failed to get pressure on the Minnesota quarterbacks throughout the game and defended the pass poorly.

In the first half, Minnesota was 7-10 on third down and accumulated 234 yards of offense, keeping the Ravens defense on the field.

The defense missed too many tackles, including ones by Antwan Barnes, Bart Scott, and Frank Walker.

The defense desperately needs cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle and safety Ed Reed to return to the lineup.

Frank Walker

The veteran cornerback was abused by the Minnesota offense the entire first half. He appeared a step slow in coverage and tackled poorly.

Walker also failed to look back for the ball when defending receivers on the sideline.

He may have played his way onto the bubble with this poor showing.

Miscommunication in the Secondary

Fabian Washington and Dawan Landry allowed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Martin Nance in the first quarter. Washington simply let Nance run by him, expecting deep help from Landry.

When Landry’s help did not come, it led to an easy touchdown for the Vikings on their opening drive.

Regardless of who was at fault, the miscommunication was eerily similar to the types of plays given up by the secondary in 2007.

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