The Ravens came out of their first preseason game with some positives, considering they won the game and had their class of rookies - drafted and undrafted alike - thoroughly outclass those belonging to the Falcons.
The knocks on the Ravens following the opener were subpar performances from their first-team units - an offense that didn’t convert a first down or score a point until the second quarter, and a short-handed defense that had a propensity for surrendering the big play.
So perhaps the focus in Friday’s home debut against the Lions is getting a bit more from the starters on both sides of the ball.
Coach John Harbaugh wasn’t overly detailed when telling the media what he’d judge as progress from the Falcons game.
“Just all the things that we can do better. That’s what I’d like to see; do those things better,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron offered a bit more in regards to his unit’s rough first contest.
He told reporters this week that it wasn’t the worst thing to have a slower start.
“If you scripted it, you almost script it just like that. Now you have to overcome something. Now you just kind of come to the sideline, get a couple of adjustments made,” Cameron said. “I thought Joe (Flacco) had a couple of great thoughts of what he was seeing. We made a couple of adjustments. (We) called two or three things that we thought would work in the one series, I think, 10- or 11-play series for a touchdown. That’s kind of the one we are focusing on.
“But I thought our adjustments were good, and then I think the rest of the guys came in and picked right up where that group left off. And that’s what we are trying to get done. We always want to come out and get a fast start, but there’s nothing better than a great finish. If you have to choose, you are going to want to finish well. I thought our guys finished well. I thought the first group finished well on their last opportunity, and that’s a big thought for us, finishing everything we are doing. (I) came out of there with that perspective.”
Beyond the offense’s performance in general, the biggest thing to watch Friday at M&T Bank Stadium might be literally the largest group on the field: the Ravens’ offensive line.
During an otherwise quiet training camp, the starting line might be the team’s most unsettled area. Will Bobbie Williams start at guard? Will Bryant McKinnie start at tackle after arriving late? Will players with less experience claim those jobs?
Cameron alluded to that uncertainty earlier this week.
“Well, we are just rotating everybody,” Cameron told reporters when asked about the line. “We don’t have a first unit right now, so we’re rotating guys. I think you have seen that. (McKinnie’s) rotated in with the first group. He’s rotated in with the second group. We have played him some at tight end. He has played the left tight end, he’s played the right tight end.
“He’s doing good, and so is the entire offensive line. Guys are getting better. We are going on our second preseason game, and we’re not where we want to be. But we might be in some ways further along than we have been in the last four years.”
Cameron said Michael Oher had perhaps the best performance of all the linemen last week in Atlanta.
This week might be a tad different since the Ravens have Jah Reid back from a calf injury, giving them a fully healthy line for the first time. It should be a good test to see how the unit fares against Ndamukong Suh and the Lions’ defensive front.
“Great test,” Harbaugh told reporters. “This front line is so physical. They are so deep, they are so talented, and really, their whole football team is, when you look at them. They are just a real physical, talented football team. It’s going to be a big challenge for us. I’m pretty sure, knowing that team’s personality, they are going to try to come in here and make a statement, even though it’s a preseason. I’m sure they’ll still be trying to make their statement, and our guys will understand that.”
Even though roles and starting spots remain up for grabs, Cameron has liked what he’s seen from Flacco’s protective detail to date.
“Everybody did something really well (against the Falcons). But at the same time, somebody had, at times, a breakdown, and that’s normal this time of year,” Cameron told reporters. “That’s happening to our offense right now. You will see eight guys doing exactly what you want, seven guys doing exactly what you want. Every now and then you will get all 11 guys, but I can’t remember the last time where all 11 were getting it right on a consistent basis this early.
“But now we are getting - this week - nine guys are getting it right, and we want to build that through this preseason so we are all on the same page. Getting that offensive line, whatever that combination ends up being, you’ll see those guys improve once we decide what that starting unit is going to be. I saw a lot of good things. I saw things that we need to get done get done in that game, probably just not as consistently as we want them done.”