I don’t even want to preface what you’re about to read with much exposition, but if you haven’t watched the Lions and Ravens from last night, don’t bother; I’ve watched it twice now, and it didn’t get any better the second time around. It didn’t get less sloppy, Cole Wick’s holding penalty wasn’t less grabby and only one thing is for sure: the Lions are only two weeks away from playing football that will, hopefully, matter from start to finish. And with that, here’s a report card for the Lions performance last night in Baltimore:
The Lions offense didn’t accomplish much of anything on their first drive. The best throw Stafford made was to Golden Tate and it wasn’t even for a reception, it drew a pass interference call. Outside of that, passes were thrown behind receivers and errantly into areas where no one was. Things didn’t get any better for Stafford on subsequent drives and by the end of his night he finished 14 of 23 for 95 yards and an interception.
I’m super excited for another week here in southeast Michigan where people will be calling into the local sports radio station to yammer on about Dan Orlovsky’s shortcomings and how Jake Rudock should be thrusted into the backup quarterback role. Hell, some of those callers will probably be calling for the Rudock era in Detroit to start in Indianapolis after the rather poor performance by Stafford last night. But back to business, Orlovsky had a fumble in his first series, looked a little uneven all night, and speaking of completely out of sorts, Rudock didn’t even complete a pass on his six attempts. So in other words, every person who got under center in Baltimore didn’t have a very good showing.
Running backs: C+
Abdullah dropped a pass he should have caught and didn’t do much with his only run play on the team’s first drive on offense, but he would bounce back on the team’s second series with a nice 11-yard gain that ended with him lowering his shoulder against Raven Jimmy Smith.
Ameer would finish with 16 yards on four carries, but Theo Riddick finally had some good fortune running the ball:
Maybe the most disappointing development out of tonight was the lack of Dwayne Washington, who saw only three carries for two yards, but did have a couple of kick returns. Look for Washington to get a ton of opportunities against the Bills next week.
Wide receivers: B-
Aside from a couple of dropped passes from Golden Tate, the first-string wide receivers put in another solid performance on Saturday night. Marvin Jones, in particular, continues to impress this preseason:
Anquan Boldin made a few of his patented sure-handed grabs to get the Lions into the red zone during the first half as well. As far as the battle at the bottom half of the receiving depth chart, TJ Jones had one big catch and run for 29 yards, Andre Roberts hand a single grab for 14 yards and Jay Lee caught a pass for a yard. A yard. Nothing to see here. I have to also mention that Stafford got in on the receiving duties, catching a single pass — from Stafford — for negative nine yards.
Tight ends: D+
Cole Wick was pretty terrible at blocking for runners again. He had a holding penalty that ended up costing the Lions first-team offense their first touchdown of the preseason. He caught two passes for 20 yards, but we already know that’s what he’s good for. He can be useful in that capacity, but anything outside of that, he has a long ways to go. A player I expected to see more of was Andrew Quarless, but he hardly saw enough snaps late in the game to earn a feeling. Eric Ebron, come back soon, please.
Travis Swanson was one of my five offensive players to watch in Saturday’s game against the Ravens and he ended up playing his best game of the preseason.
For as bad as the interior of the offensive line has looked at times this preseason, things definitely looked better at various points in the night. On the first drive, Laken Tomlinson had a nice pull outside to keep Terrell Suggs at bay, freeing up plenty of time for Stafford to find a receiver that ended up being nearly intercepted. The guard opposite of Tomlinson, Larry Warford, didn’t fare so well last night in run blocking, but looked to be, for the most part, solid in pass protection. This is one of the biggest areas of concern I have heading into Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, so hopefully Cooter’s regular season offense does all it can to accentuate the strengths — using Warford’s strength — and cover up the weaknesses — lack of athleticism — of its interior linemen.
Offensive tackles: C
This was probably Taylor Decker’s best all-around game yet as a Lion. His awareness on pass protection had only one visible lapse where it resulted in a sack, but the rookie has made big strides since Pittsburgh. Riley Reiff earned a couple of penalties, so hopefully the team can get him a working chin strap.
Defensive ends: B-
With Ansah playing a limited amount of snaps, the depth at defensive end was given a ton of reps. Kerry Hyder came in during the second series, as well as Wallace Gilberry and had some nice plays against the run, but didn’t generate much of a pass rush. Devin Taylor and Ansah teamed to lead the rush that led to a sack of Flacco on first-and-10 during the Ravens’ second drive. Some of the depth guys who are trying to make the team showed some flashes as well with Anthony Zettel forcing a fumble late in the fourth quarter.
Defensive tackles: B+
The starting tackle tandem of Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker did a nice job of creating some push and getting their hands on running backs to slow them up, bring them down on their own or even clean up tackles at or near the line of scrimmage. Ngata had a sack on the Ravens’ second drive which was due in part to the Lions good coverage downfield. Another duo that looked good was the team of A’Shawn Robinson and Khyri Thornton, the latter of which had a sack as well.
DeAndre Levy is back! And he looked, well, he looked like a guy who hasn’t played in basically a year. There was surely some rust to knock off early, but once he got into the flow of the game, Levy started to make some of the plays we’re accustom to seeing him make: sniffing out running lanes and plugging them, chasing down runners in coverage and just being around the ball on each play. Kyle Van Noy was another bag of hit and miss, missing a tackle he could have had for a loss that ended up gaining a first down, but also getting in on a sack. Hopefully he can gain some traction with more time on the field and become more consistent in his play-making.
The C-grade is mostly served because once the second-string group of linebackers entered the game, the Lions started getting royally carved up on the ground; almost every Ravens’ running back gained large chunks of yardage with relative ease as linebackers failed to find and close up running lanes. Of all the linebackers who had significant time in the second half, Zaviar Gooden, minus a lapse in coverage, did the best job of finding the ball and making plays.
On the Ravens’ first drive, Flacco and co. picked on the No. 2 corner Nevin Lawson for the first few plays, completing passes to Kamar Aiken and Mike Wallace. However, Lawson bounced back nicely by playing good coverage on Kamar Aiken on a third-and-7 to force a field goal. And on the second drive, he was able to get a hand in on a pass to Wallace to break it up. Darius Slay looked a bit slow on the Ravens’ second drive, giving up the inside of the field to Wallace on a slant route which gave the Ravens a first down. But Slay picked it up, making a couple of key tackles on the same drive: an open field tackle on the fullback Kyle Juszczyk to stop a potential bigger gain and a tackle while guarding a short drag route across the middle on third-and-8 to force a fourth down. Darrin Walls finally found a way to disappoint me as he lost wideout Jeremy Butler for a wide-open touchdown in the second quarter. Surprisingly enough, the corners showed some tackling chops that, while I hope I don’t see it a lot of this Fall, I sure did appreciate their ability to wrap up and bring down ball carriers.
A player who was a lock for the roster but has potentially played himself into a starting role is Tavon Wilson. On the very first play from scrimmage, defensive coordinator let Wilson loose on a blitz where the safety pushed running back Justin Forsett back into Joe Flacco after he overthrew Mike Wallace. On that same drive, Wilson did a good job of sticking with Kamar Aiken in the open field and forcing him out of bounds. Those were just a couple of many plays where Wilson had a positive impact on the defense. Miles Killebrew had his nose in on a couple of plays, making three tackles and playing well in coverage as well. The safeties were easily one of, if not the best looking groups out on the field.
It would be an ‘A’ if it wasn’t for Devon Bell’s kick that resembled a Tim Wakefield knuckleball. Prater’s miss from 53 yards was due in part to a shaky snap from rookie long snapper Jimmy Landes, but his make from 60 yards was an absolute boot.
Sam Martin is one of the best punters in the league and he almost had more yards in two punts than Matthew Stafford had throwing the football.
Long snappers: D
Jimmy Landes first snap was a bit high, but Sam Martin still handled it and put the Ravens inside their own 20-yard line. On his second snap, the rookie long snapper had more trouble with the snap:
The Lions will head back home for one last preseason matchup against the Buffalo Bills, but until then, let me see some of your grades in the comments. Happy grading, folks.