COMMENTARY | After winning their first two preseason games, the Baltimore Ravens failed to impress in the third and most pivotal game, falling to the Carolina Panthers 34-27 on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
The starting offense struggled for a third straight week, and it may be time to have some concern about quarterback Joe Flacco and his supporting cast.
Here are some observations from the game against Carolina:
- Another week, another interception for Joe Flacco. In fact, Flacco threw two interceptions Thursday night. The first one can be chalked up to a miscommunication with wide receiver Tandon Doss, who didn't pick up the blitz, which was supposed to make him alter his route. Flacco threw a pass that was not close to Doss at all, but Doss appeared to be the one at fault. The second interception was Flacco's fault, as he stalled a long Baltimore drive by throwing a soft pass to the middle of the field that Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly easily picked off. Flacco now has four interceptions in about five quarters of preseason play. While it is only the preseason, it's something to follow as the regular season approaches to see if it becomes a trend.
- Rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown had a breakout game, catching four passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. He still faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but his chances have increased with the departure of David Reed. He was on the field for about a full quarter with Flacco, and was on the field for a total of 48 snaps. At the very least, trying to sign him to the practice squad after final cuts should become a priority for Baltimore.
- It was clear that the Ravens wanted to give the young receivers more snaps with Flacco, as Brown, Aaron Mellette and Tandon Doss spent the majority of the second quarter on the field with Flacco. Brown was the only one to have consistent success, as Mellette struggled to get open and Doss had his typical inconsistencies.
-The return of right guard Marshal Yanda gave a much-needed spark to the offensive line, which excelled while Yanda was in. Once Yanda departed after a few series, the offense completely stalled for several drives. Jah Reid, Yanda's replacement, struggled mightily, and center Gino Gradkowski and left guard Kelechi Osemele had their hands full with the fearsome front four of the Panthers. If the offensive line plays that way during the regular season, the Ravens will fail to put many scoring drives together.
- The first-team defense was stout as always, preventing the Carolina offense from scoring a single touchdown. In fact, the Carolina offense did not score a touchdown against any Baltimore defense, as all four of its touchdowns were results of returns. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith excelled again and it looks like his job of replacing Ray Lewis will be a rather facilitated process this year.
- Cornerback Lardarius Webb returned to the field for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last October. He was on the field for just 17 plays and didn't get tested too often in coverage. He did record two tackles, however.
- There is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the tight end position as no player separated himself from the pack Thursday night. Dallas Clark looked out of place in his Baltimore debut, and Visanthe Shiancoe surprisingly was the most impressive of the tight ends, catching two passes -- including one in the middle of the field in traffic. Billy Bajema was on the field for just three snaps, and it is evident that rookie Matt Furstenburg has jumped him on the depth chart.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He contributes to various football sites and is the editor of Cat Crave.
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- Baltimore Ravens
- Joe Flacco
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- Tandon Doss