Aside from the rough performances from the players that matter most, there were plenty of reasons to walk away from Thursday night’s win feeling good about the Ravens as they improved to 2-0 in the preseason.
Wide receiver Aaron Mellette might just be a seventh-round pick out of Elon, but he’s making it awfully difficult for the team to cut him loose. Mellette made a 40-yard touchdown catch against the Falcons one week after a 21-yard touchdown catch against the Buccaneers.
Those are his only two receptions of the preseason, and they’re both ones the coaching staff will remember.
“I’m just always telling myself when coach (John) Harbaugh calls my name to go in, I’m just going to go out and make the most of it, and I did that two games in a row,” Mellette said. “When you come in and you’re not a high draft choice, and you’re not really that heralded, that’s how it is - you have to come in and make big plays.”
How about Asa Jackson? The second-year return man was just suspended for the second time in as many seasons for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. This time, he’ll have to sit out the first eight games of the season.
But he’s allowed to participate in the preseason, and on Thursday, he scored the winning touchdown on a 78-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. Maybe his latest misstep has proven to be a wakeup call. On that play, he said the punter outkicked the coverage, setting up a wide side of the field and the blocks opened things up so much that he could’ve walked into the end zone.
Being able to make an impression like that after being suspended meant something to Jackson.
“It’s all a part of football and it’s all a part of life,” he said. “You’re going to go through ups and downs, but it’s how you handle things when things are bad that really define your character - not when they’re good. So I’m just going to try to keep going out there and do what I can to help the team win games and show that I can still be a valuable asset to the team.”
And finally, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The third-year quarterback has never started a game because of Joe Flacco’s durability, so his time to shine each year is now, during the preseason.
And he has just done that. He went 5-for-9 for 83 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Atlanta, leading the Ravens back from a 23-7 deficit to a 27-23 win. Through two preseason games, Taylor has completed 56.3 percent of his passes for 237 yards, four touchdowns and one pick, while also running for 42 yards.
He is showing exactly why the coaching staff has so much faith in him as the No. 2 quarterback.
“I’m definitely more comfortable with the offense,” Taylor said, “more comfortable with the change of protections and getting a good feel of the offense and just getting the guys where they need to be, and correcting guys as well as just trying to conduct the offense with that fast tempo that we use.”
Also of significance Thursday was A.Q. Shipley’s performance in his chance to start at center. Gino Gradkowski started last week and both will play with the first team next week as they vie to become Matt Birk’s successor.
Shipley stood out for negative reasons, as he committed two penalties in the contest. But he gave himself a positive evaluation overall.
“I’ve got to worry about my stuff. I can’t worry about him,” Shipley said. “That’s what it all comes down to. I’ve got to worry about my stuff. If I make mistakes in the game, I’ve got to figure out what I did wrong in that game and figure out how to correct it. I thought I had a solid first game. I thought I had a solid game this game. It was just those two penalties kind of screwed me up a little bit. I’ve just got to get those corrected. But overall, I think we’ve got to get everybody on the right page and that’s half the battle at this point in the game. We have to do a lot of things better.”