Ravens/49ers: Knee-Jerk and Reasonable Observations

Ravens/49ers: Knee-Jerk and Reasonable Observations
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Knee-jerk reactions:

Coordinator Gary Kubiak’s offense is unstoppable. Quarterback Joe Flacco was precise and efficient, going 4 for 5 and throwing for 52 yards and a score. That would put him on pace to amass 347 yards and close to 7 touchdowns a game. Of course, he won’t really reach those numbers in the regular season. Head coach John Harbaugh would most likely pull Joe in the 3rd quarter after 5 TDs and 260 yards. Regardless, he will still shatter Peyton Manning’s touchdown record (although Manning may hit the century mark this year with the new defensive back rules).

The NFL has gone completely overboard in protecting wide receivers. A defense can’t hit them too high, can’t hit them when they aren’t expecting it, and now they can’t lay a hand on them, even if it’s to keep from falling while a wide receiver tries to shove them to the ground. Defensive backs will most likely quit by the end of the season, or will ask to be converted to wide receiver. The NFL may want to consider developing all-time robot defensive backs as replacements.

The 49ers really love to punt. It’s like the offense couldn’t wait to get off the field so they could watch the punt team in action. Sure they only had 5 punts in essentially 9 opportunities, but the offense messed things up by turning the ball over 3 times. Expect the coaching staff to hit the film room today so they can work out the kinks before tomorrow’s scrimmage.

Reasonable observations:

The Ravens offensive line looked solid. Last year, offensive line coach Juan Castillo tried to force a zone blocking scheme that was not compatible with both the offensive philosophy and the personnel on the field. Kubiak’s offense is very fluid and adjusts to the strengths of each player. It’s early, but the starting offensive line is healthy and looked pretty comfortable. Besides a misread between Flacco and wide receiver Torrey Smith, the offense did not have a play of less than 5 yards during their opening drive (10 plays), bulling their way through the 49ers defense.

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are in shape. Last year, whether it was due to injury, Super Bowl hangover, or a combination of both, the Ravens running back duo was at least a step slow. They looked determined to have a bounce-back year, but it is much too early to tell. Last year, the first 2 preseason games were awful for Rice, who ran 11 times for 17 yards. Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro looks to be a solid change of pace back with good size and strength. It will be interesting to see if he is given the chance to perform against an opposing first or second string.

Justin Tucker is a machine. You’d never know that the extra points were 32 yards away. His kicks were high and right down the middle, as were his 3 field goals. The 55-yarder could have been good from 65. Pinpoint accuracy and length is a rare combination.

Defensive backs are the biggest area of concern. The unit has injuries, inexperience, and lacks the skill set lower in the depth chart. Add that into an equation with the potential of tightly-called hand checking, and this could be the biggest hole the Ravens need to address. On the flip side, the defensive line and linebackers may take some pressure off of the group with good pressure on the quarterback

Overall, the first preseason game was extremely positive from on offensive perspective. All phases seemed to be clicking. Considering the team had to learn a new complicated offense, there should be at least some optimism amongst Ravens fans. The defense also looked solid minus a few defensive back hiccups, and a few rookies shined on both sides of the ball.

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