What should we make of the Ravens’ preseason opener?
From the Ravens’ perspective, the positives far outweighed the negatives. They got the victory, 30-27, over the Saints. They got a solid game from all three quarterbacks, including third-stringer Bryn Renner, who scored the game-winning touchdown and led the final drive.
Here are my five takeaways from the 2015 Ravens’ first game:
1. The young tight ends answered the bell.
Crockett Gillmore started and displayed his improvement as a receiver (two catches, 17 yards). Rookie Maxx Williams (two catches, 36 yards) delivered a highlight, barreling over Saints’ defenders to get a key first down. And rookie Nick Boyle (four catches, 25 yards) showed potential to be a reliable backup. The Ravens looked young and deep at tight end. That’s a good combination, and another example of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s ability to draft.
2. The Ravens must find reps for receiver Michael Campanaro if he stays healthy.
Campanaro gets open, he has sure hands, and he’s an elusive runner after the catch. On his 45-yard touchdown reception, Campanaro read the coverage, adjusted the route, and eluded a would-be tackler on his way to the end zone. Campanaro should put up nice numbers if he plays 16 games.
3 .Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman may be at the right place at the right time.
Trestman won’t go deep into his playbook until the regular season. But after a disappointing two-year run as the Bears’ head coach, Trestman seems back in his element. He is an experienced play-caller, and with the Ravens he has a strong offensive line, a championship-caliber quarterback in Joe Flacco, and a 1,000-yard back in Justin Forsett. The potential for a potent offense is there.
“I thought Marc did a really interesting job of the way he called the plays,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “It was all based off the run game and a lot of play passes and things like that. The biggest thing I noticed was execution.”
4. Kyle Arrington showed his potential to play safety if needed.
Signed as a free agent from the Patriots, Arrington’s strength is as a nickel corner. But he took reps at free safety Thursday night, with the starters not seeing much playing time. Kendrick Lewis has looked good in practice as the starter, as has Will Hill as the starter at strong safety. With Arrington providing depth and versatility, the Ravens’ revamped safety rotation could be much improved.
5. The Ravens’ front seven depth could be a question mark.
Once the starters left, the Ravens’ defense suffered up front. Rookie outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith had the Ravens’ only sack. Rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis played most of the game and got into the backfield fairly consistently. However, with Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee gone, and Brent Urban injured, the Ravens’ front seven rotation will need Davis, Smith, and others to make an impact, or the pass rush and run defense could suffer.