Shutdown Corner - NFL

Scouting Notebook, Preseason Week 1:  Ravens at Eagles 

A few personnel thoughts from Philadelphia's 13-6 Thursday night win at Lincoln Financial Field.

Baltimore Ravens

Pitta's the next in line
The Ravens were okay with letting Todd Heap(notes) trundle off to Arizona, and BYU tight end Dennis Pitta(notes) seems to be the reason — Baltimore may have a real find here. On Pitta's first of four catches against the Eagles, he went up and over safety Kurt Coleman(notes) to make a ridiculous catch.  Pitta did drop an easy outlet pass halfway through the second quarter, but backup Tyrod Taylor(notes) (more on him in a sec) went right back to him for a completion on the next play.

As a blocker, Pitta reminds me a bit of Pittsburgh's Heath Miller(notes) — like the Steelers, the Ravens like to set up bunch formations to get defenses thinking pass, and then run out of bunch with the tight end as the lead blocker in the bunch. Pitta does a good job of getting to the second level, though he could be a bit more consistent sticking on his target. He is probably best utilized in which chip-release routes, where he can use his physicality to delay a pass rusher before heading out to the flat or seam.

Tyrod's big adventure
I really liked Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor when I was watching tape of college quarterbacks this past spring — understanding and taking his limitations into consideration, I thought that the team taking a flyer on him might reap the benefits of an interesting skill set. Taylor is your typical fast option quarterback, but he also has the right kind of pro-style passing mechanics in fits and starts.

No doubt he's a developmental player, and when the Ravens took him in the sixth round, I liked that fit for him. That said, Taylor had his problems in his NFL debut, and his two interceptions were indicators of the work to be done. On both throws, Taylor telegraphed his intentions to an exaggerated degree. The first pick came on the throw over the middle, and I didn't see Taylor's head move. The second pick came on a roll-out right, and it was obvious that Taylor was looking down receiver LaQuan Williams(notes) — easy enough for safety Jarrad Page(notes) to jump the sideline route. Taylor's one to watch in the preseason, though — I think he could develop into a good hybrid quarterback/option/whatever-they-want-to-call-the-Wildcat player.

Philadelphia Eagles

Scouting Notebook, Preseason Week 1:  Ravens at Eagles

The true value of Nnamdi
By the way, on that first play with the great Pitta catch, Anquan Boldin(notes) went wide left against head-up man coverage by one Nnamdi Asomugha(notes). Joe Flacco(notes) didn't even look that way. Welcome to the first best advantage of having Nnamdi on your team, Eagles. You just cut the field in half. I counted one target on Asomugha — an incompletion to Boldin later in the first series — and that was over the middle after the first option was closed down and Boldin moved inside past the left flat.

When Asomugha came out of the game after that, Flacco immediately started looking to his left, where the game's best shutdown corner had been. It's amazing that in a game this complicated, with so many outstanding athletes to face, a guy can step on the field every week and basically say, "I'm going to play man corner, right side, just about every play, and there's no way in hell you want to throw over here…" and every quarterback in the league (with the possible exception of Philip Rivers(notes)) agrees. Just unreal. The bargain in signing Asomugha is that you're basically getting 1 ½ players — you can stack your safeties in different ways and keep that third linebacker on the field or move your nickel DB around to other places. I also saw the Eagles move Nnamdi into more of a center field look on one play, which should give quarterbacks even more nightmare fuel.

Philly a better fit for Vince Young(notes)
It's too early to start the "Vince Young is back!" coronation, but it was easy to see the player/scheme fit with Young on the Eagles' roster. After Michael Vick(notes) riddled the Baltimore defense with a successful opening scoring drive, Young came in and brought some encouraging things to the game. He isn't gangly when throwing across his body, and he brings the element of the stretch play (with the threat of the cutback) from his days of devastating defenses with that same idea in Tennessee with Chris Johnson.

When the pass play breaks down, Young's an effective runner with an eye for the first-down marker, but he'll also look to extend the play by throwing effectively to either side from a rollout. This is a great situation for him, and a reason I'm thinking more and more about how it may be advantageous to have your starter and backup quarterbacks with similar physical traits. The Eagles' pass-blockers (such as they are) are already used to extending their engagement with defenders because of Vick's mobility, and receivers understand that they're potential targets until Vick is actually sacked — no matter how long that may take.

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