The Baltimore Ravens found their way to 31-7 victory tonight against the Miami Dolphins. The night was highlighted with strong performances from all sides of the ball. Josh Woodrum was named The Baltimore Feather’s player of the game, passing 8/10 for 110 yards and rushing for 2 touchdowns. Undrafted rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill had another impressive night, with great coverage and pass defenses. Also, the legend himself, Justin Tucker, was again perfect on kicks and even recovered a fumble. The 24 point victory is the second straight runaway game for the Ravens this preseason. The game was very fun to watch, and here is my instant reaction to the game.
Josh Woodrum is Making a Case for a Roster Spot
When the Ravens brought in quarterback Josh Woodrum a few weeks ago, the initial thought was that he would be just another camp arm. However, seemingly out of nowhere, Woodrum has exploded to become the preseason MVP for the Ravens. Through his great performance, Woodrum is building a strong case to be included on the final 53 man roster. So far in the preseason, the second year quarterback out of Liberty is 12/16, for 195 yards. This performance is flat out outstanding for a player who was not expected to be on this team for more than a few weeks. However, Woodrum still has an uphill battle to make the final roster. He must either do one of two things. He could either A, make his worth as a third string be as clear as day, or B, beat out Ryan Mallet. The first path is going to be difficult, as the Ravens have been accustomed to keeping just two quarterbacks on the roster over the past few years. The Ravens will need to consider Flacco’s back issue to be a serious issue going forward for this scenario to play out. If they do see Flacco’s back as a potential liability, they will want to have more depth at quarterback. This gives Woodrum a huge opportunity to make the roster, however, it all hinges on Flacco’s recovery. This scenario might be the easier of the two for Woodrum to accomplish.The second scenario would be Woodrum having to steal Ryan Mallet’s job as backup quarterback. For an undrafted quarterback who’s never taken a snap in a regular season game, this may sound impossible. However, all signs seem to be heading in that direction. Mallet has played relatively bad over the past couple of preseason games. His completion percentage on 40 passes is only at 55%, and he’s thrown more picks than touchdowns so far.
Mallet has played relatively bad over the past couple of preseason games. His completion percentage on 40 passes is only at 55%, and he’s thrown more picks than touchdowns so far. Compared to Mallet, Woodrum’s 85.7% completion rate is phenomenal. Mallet has also played two-quarters of football in each game and has played with the starters on offense. Woodrum has neither of these luxuries, yet he has thrown for more yards than Mallet has. Mallet has only thrown for 171 yards total, while Woodrum has thrown for 195 yards. What’s even more impressive, is that Woodrum has done all this while throwing 24 fewer passes. This can be attributed to Mallet’s tendency to throw short, all the time. His longest pass out of the two games played is only 19 yards. When he does throw deep, it’s a 50/50 coin flip on whether it’s caught or intercepted. Mallet showed off his inaccurate arm both last week and tonight, throwing a deep bomb over the head of the receiver, and into the hands of the Dolphins defender. The comparison between Mallet’s long pass statistics to Woodrum’s is laughable. Woodrum’s longest pass last week was a 36-yard pass, and this week it was a 40-yard bomb. In short, Woodrum taking Mallet’s spot may be less unlikely than some would believe. The Ravens will have to let Woodrum take some drives with the first team offense in a preseason game to make the best evaluation between the two as possible. If they do, and Woodrum continues to play as he has, he will have a real shot at knocking Mallet off his throne. Head Coach John Harbaugh still continues to support Ryan Mallet though, saying he is playing “winning football”.
Ravens Special Teams Shine
The Baltimore Ravens should always have a strong special teams unit, just by virtue of the fact that John Harbaugh was a long time special teams coach before receiving the head coaching job in Baltimore. However, the special teams unit performed better than usual against the Dolphins. Of course, Justin Tucker didn’t miss a kick, going 3/3 on field goals and 2/2 on extra points. He rarely misses. In fact, his last miss was a block, so we really shouldn’t even count that as a miss. Sam Koch also had a nice night punting, but when doesn’t he? What really made the Ravens special teams so special was the damage it did to Miami. Wide receiver Chris Matthews was able to block a punt, in the red zone. That is quite rare to see in the NFL, although the Ravens did it twice last year. Baltimore also forced a fumble on a kickoff return by Miami, and Justin Tucker came up with the ball. Overall the Ravens special teams unit was dominant, and I would expect it to continue to be dominant into the regular season. Both John Harbaugh and Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg are the best special teams coaches in the league, and they consistently produce premier groups every year.
Defense Strong, but not Dominant
One of the storylines heading into the game was Baltimore’s defense. The defensive unit as a whole was coming off of an outstanding, and dominating performance against the Redskins last week. The general expectation was that the defense would again play at that high level. The defense, in fact, gave another strong performance but were not quite dominant. The passing attack really hit the secondary hard early in the game. Jay Cutler and Mat Moore found themselves throwing the ball efficiently against the Ravens. However, penalties by the Dolphins set them back some, negating some big plays. The Ravens first string secondary was given a headache by the Dolphins first string offense, but in the end, they were able to quell the situation. I’m not saying that the Ravens first team secondary played bad against the Dolphins, they played well. I’m just saying they were not dominant against them like they were against Washington last week.
What was dominant, however, was the Ravens pass rush. Throughout the entire game, it seemed like the Ravens defense kept finding ways to pressure the quarterback. Za’Darius Smith found himself in the passer’s face often, although he didn’t get a sack. He almost brought David Fales down for a safety, Fales was able to toss the ball to the running back before being brought down. Even good ole’ Ladarius Webb got in on the action, sacking Jay Cutler early in the game. However, Terrell Suggs was called for holding, and the play was recalled. Overall, the Ravens defense held strong against Miami, only allowing 120 yards the entire night. The defense was also exceptionally good in third down situations, only giving up a first down 16.67% of the time.
Penalties are an Issue
Penalties are never an issue anyone wants to have on their football team. However, it seems the Baltimore Ravens players decided to forget the rules tonight. It seemed like every other drive, the Ravens were set back by penalties. Both the offense and the defense are guilty of the sin, but the offensive line seemed to be the most guilty. False start calls on the Ravens offensive line were handed out like candy, to many different linemen. Matt Skura, Ryan Jensen, Jarrod Pughsley, Howard Austin, and others, all found themselves be penalized for stupid mistakes. Even linebacker Terrell Suggs got in on the action and committed a holding. The Ravens need to tone it down with the number of flags drawn on them. This issue is completely mindless, and Baltimore cannot afford to carry the stupidity into the regular season.