Too early to start worrying about the offense

There was plenty of other stuff to like, and, remember, it's the preseason

August 22, 2010|Kevin Cowherd

Try not to overreact to this one, Ravens fans. Take a deep breath. Step away from the ledge.

Sure, if you were looking for offensive fireworks in the Ravens' 23-3 preseason win over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Saturday, you came away disappointed.

All that hype about what Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth would do for the vertical passing game, and what happened?

Not much, is what happened. The vertical passing game never got off the ground.

Joe Flacco (9-for-16 passing for 72 yards) looked harried and out of sync. The Ravens' passing attack reverted to its old form: short passes, comeback routes, not much over the middle. You know the drill.

And their only touchdown of the first half came after a terrific 51-yard run by Haruki Nakamura on a fake punt in the second quarter, with Willis McGahee bulling in from the 1-yard line for the score.

So there will be some who look at this Ravens offense and say: Is that all there is? Are we looking at the same old ho-hum Ravens passing game we saw last season?

But it's way too early for that kind of whiny nonsense.

Instead, keep telling yourself this: It's only the preseason. And the preseason is when NFL teams -- even the elite ones, as the Ravens are purported to be -- work on ironing out the kinks in their offense.

Nothing counts until the Ravens take on the New York Jets in their regular-season opener Sept. 13. If the offense is still stumbling then, fine, have your nervous breakdown. Otherwise, you're getting way too worked up over nothing.

The other reason not to overreact to the way Flacco and Co. looked against the 'Skins is that the Ravens' offensive line has been banged up. No one knows what's going on with tackle Jared Gaither's back -- or his head, for that matter.

So the Ravens were shuffling guys in and out of different positions on the O-line in training camp last week. Heck, I think even Mike Preston got a few reps. No wonder the pass blocking was so shaky.

Finally, there's no question that Flacco is still trying to get his timing down with Boldin and Stallworth. And with the Redskins pressuring him big time, that timing was disrupted from the very beginning.

The good news is that Flacco didn't get smacked around by the Redskins and should be healthy for next week's third preseason game against the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium.

And maybe the Ravens were just being cautious with their passing attack. Maybe they were unwilling to break out any aerial razzle-dazzle in a meaningless preseason game.

Which brings me to my next point: What was the deal with the fake punt?

Why unveil a trick play like that in the preseason?

Sure, it was exciting to see. And the play -- the direct snap to Nakamura instead of punter Sam Koch and Nakamura's ankle-breaking moves past the Redskins linebackers and secondary -- seemed to energize the Ravens.

I haven't seen that many smiles and bad dance moves on the sideline since Adam Sandler's version of "The Longest Yard."

But don't you want to save that tricky stuff for when the games really count?

Running a fake punt in the preseason, isn't that sort of like breaking out a secret tango move at the Elks Club when you have a coming gig on "Dancing with the Stars"?

Apparently not, because the Ravens had no qualms about letting the rest of the NFL get a sneak preview of that play.

Although I'm guessing you won't see the Ravens run that exact fake punt for some time, now that every other team has it on film.

But I wouldn't worry about that, either, Ravens fans, no more than I'd worry about the vanilla passing attack against the Redskins.

Me, I'd look at some of the positives that came out this game.

For openers, it was a win, no matter how ragged the offense looked. And Ravens coach John Harbaugh has stressed that the team is definitely out to win all these preseason games.

There was also the play of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. Looking lean and mean, Suggs was a one-man wrecking crew who beat Redskins rookie offensive tackle Trent Williams so badly that Williams will probably be reliving the nightmare for days.

Cornerback Cary Williams had a nice game, picking off a pass by Donovan McNabb and returning it 37 yards.

Backup quarterback Marc Bulger played well, too, especially when he rainbowed a terrific 25-yard pass to Stallworth late in the second quarter.

All in all, not a bad game for the Ravens. Remember: It's only the preseason. Lots of time ahead to stress about the offense.

But not now.

It's way too early for that.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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