5 Takeaways From Chiefs Preseason Game

Leach sends a message, J. Smith’s baptism by fire and Evans strikes instant chemistry.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Saturday, August 20th, 2011 at 11:36 am | Categories: 2011 Season Gameday, 5 Takeaways, Sarah Ellison

The Ravens showed overall improvement after a rough outing against the Eagles last week. Here are five takeaways from Baltimore’s 31-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Leach sends a message. True to what has been preached, Vonta Leach proved he takes pride in being a pure fullback. He helped open a hole for Ray Rice’s 27-yard touchdown run, but as important as that play was, it isn’t what Leach will be remembered for. The picture etched in viewers’ minds happened one play before, when the eight-year veteran leveled the Chiefs’ Brandon Siler. Leach hit him so hard that the linebacker was pancaked to the ground and Leach’s helmet was knocked off.  It was a great way to introduce Baltimore fans to the new fullback acquisition. And in a single hit, Leach sent the message that the Ravens’ offense plans on being as physical and smashmouth as its defensive counterpart.

In his debut as a Raven, LEEEEEEE (yes that chant needs to start) Evans found instant chemistry with Flacco. Receiver Lee Evans repeatedly said after last night’s game that he still has a long way to go. That is true, as he was traded to Baltimore a week ago, but the man was being humble (making him even more likable). He led the team with three catches for 68 yards. The timing between Evans and quarterback Joe Flacco was so crisp that it looked like the two have been playing with each other for years. Oh, and this just in, Evans can do more than stretch the field. He ran over the middle and even had a Mason-esque out-route. He is a reliable weapon on third down too.

Joe Flacco on How the Offense is Progressing
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Flacco showed good pocket presence, but was inaccurate. Flacco was the first to admit things were off between him and his receivers. He was inaccurate at times and overthrew Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin when big gains could have been made. The off-target tosses are atypical and shouldn’t overshadow Flacco’s impressive pocket presence and downfield awareness.  Little things like a sidestep to avoid a free blitzer, keeping his eyes downfield in the face of pressure and running through progressions inspire confidence. He helped the o-line’s stats by avoiding sacks with his feet or throwing the ball away. Flacco’s always been accurate and that will return. But his improved pocket presence is something new and should help him take the next step.

By the way, if you were wondering why Flacco played in the first series of the third quarter, Head Coach John Harbaugh said it was planned that way. It was a result of a lockout that robbed the offense of precious OTA time. Harbaugh felt the offense needed the work.

Reid earned the “most improved” award. After giving up six sacks last week, the offensive line was under the most scrutiny heading into the preseason home-opener. A few days of practice to work out the kinks and moving Oniel Cousins from tackle to guard seemed to help. Most importantly, Jah Reid took the biggest step forward week to week.  The Ravens kept Reid at right tackle for every snap, giving them the opportunity to determine whether he’ll be ready to start against the Steelers in September.  The third-round draft pick never allowed a sack to come from his side and he was key in Rice’s touchdown gallop.

J. Smith endured a baptism by fire, courtesy of five-year vet Bowe. Every rookie has to endure his “welcome to the NFL” moment, and last night, first-round draft pick Jimmy Smith had his. After limited time against the Eagles with a groin injury, Smith started against the Chiefs and Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe. On the game’s first series, the rookie got a strong jam at the line of scrimmage, continued with sound coverage and tipped the ball when it came his way. But this wasn’t Bowe’s first rodeo. The Chiefs receiver still made an impressive one-handed grab for a first down. Smith certainly would have had the upper-hand had this been a college game, but this is the NFL. On the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, Bowe notched a 26-yard gain with Smith in coverage. Smith was right on his hip, but didn’t get his head around fast enough to knock down the pass. Let’s not get it twisted – Smith didn’t have a bad game.  He was right there with Bowe on each play – a good first step against a Pro Bowler.

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