Observations From the Ravens-23-12 Win Over the Saints
For the sixth time in franchise history, the Baltimore Ravens have finished the preseason undefeated. In a preseason finale mostly filled with backups and players making one last bid for a final roster spot, the Ravens were able to easily handle a New Orleans Saints team that closed the preseason 0-4. Most of the Ravens' scoring came via Justin Tucker field goals with the exception of a forced fumble recovered in the endzone by undrafted rookie nose tackle Michael Pierce and a rushing touchdown by third-string quarterback Josh Johnson.
A 4-0 preseason may mean very little in the grand scheme of things. But for a fanbase that had just five wins the entirety of last season, it feels good to reach just one fewer win over a four week period. It also bodes well with Ravens' history; in each of their three most recent seasons where they went undefeated in the preseason, they've made the playoffs (2000, 2009, 2014).
One of the storylines that proved even bigger than winning was finally getting the chance to see 2015 first round pick Breshad Perriman take the field for a football game. Though he only had two catches for 25 yards, it was quite the sight to see him out there after his summer had been largely derailed by a partially torn ACL that caused him to start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List. Perriman had even been considered a possible candidate for the regular season PUP list as of a few weeks ago, but we now know that he has recovered enough to play and should be good to go for the Ravens' regular season opener on September 11th.
Perriman's NFL debut highlighted an otherwise uneventful night. Here are some of my other observations from the fourth and final Ravens' preseason game in 2016.
Michael Pierce ends the preseason strong.
Undrafted rookies usually find it very difficult to make it on a 53-man final roster during their rookie season. The Ravens have had several undrafted rookies do it in the past and this year, there are a couple who have looked impressive, though none are obvious locks for a final roster spot. Pierce is one of these impressive looking undrafted rookies and last night, he had the play of the game with an endzone sack of Luke McCown that he recovered for a touchdown.
Another development occurred that could help Pierce's aspirations for making the final roster. Defensive tackle Carl Davis left the first defensive series with an ankle injury and did not return. For now, Pierce is looking like he could make the practice squad. But if Davis is seriously hurt, Pierce could actually have a shot at making the final roster.
Victor Ochi makes impact in pass rush.
Keeping it with undrafted rookies, Victor Ochi also put together a nice game on Thursday night. He was able to get a sack and force a fumble during a third quarter play, stopping a promising Saints drive. Ochi was one of the more noteworthy undrafted rookies to sign with the Ravens and he seems like a likely candidate for the practice squad. However, for that to happen, the Ravens would need to release him and hope that no other teams sign him before he clears waivers and that is looking increasingly unlikely.
There's still not a lot of clarity with kick returner.
It still feels like no one really wants the return specialist position. Michael Campanaro, a wide receiver whose best chances of making an impact are as a returner, muffed and fumbled it. Though he ended up recovering the ball, it's hard to trust a specialist who is fumbling kickoffs. Just ask Kaelin Clay.
We also saw rookie receiver Chris Moore get in the mix for the returner job. He had a nice 29-yard return and could be considered an option for the job, given that he is also buried on the receiving depth chart. Keenan Reynolds also had a 26-yard return, however he seems like an active roster longshot and is more likely to be a practice squad candidate this season. Expect the Ravens to try several different players at returner this season, unless someone can stand out in the early weeks of the regular season.
Josh Johnson has strong game, but unlikely to catch Ryan Mallet.
For the seventh straight year, Joe Flacco did not play at all in the preseason finale. This left Ryan Mallet and Johnson as the two quarterbacks to play in the game for the Ravens. Mallet lasted till midway in the second quarter and he had an average night, going 8-of-12 for 65 yards.
Johnson played nearly three full quarters, so he had overall better stats. He went 18-of-24 for 181 passing yards and he showed off his legs with seven carries for 19 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown run. Johnson may not catch Mallet for the Ravens' backup quarterback job, but he has proven that he is a worthy backup quarterback. Some team will take a chance on him if the Ravens drop him, which would give Johnson the opportunity to sign with his 10th NFL team.
Javorius Allen again underwhelms as both Terrance West and Justin Forsett have the night off.
Javorius Allen and undrafted rookie Stephen Houston were the only two running backs to play in the preseason finale. This is telling because it seems to show that the coaching staff want to give Justin Forsett and Terrance West the majority of the carries early on in the regular season, at least until rookie Kenneth Dixon recovers from his sprained MCL.
It's possible Allen would be cut from the roster entirely had Dixon not gotten hurt. Allen had just three carries for eight yards. He did better in the receiving game with four catches for 29 yards. Still, the fact that he played at all tonight shows that he has fallen down on the running back depth chart and though he should make the final roster, he's going to need to step up his game for the coaches to trust him more on the field.
Willie Henry's roughing the passer penalty helps New Orleans score late.
Though the Ravens still got the win, it was troubling to see another late penalty in the game. Again, Willie Henry was the culprit as this time he had a roughing the passer penalty on Saints quarterback Garrett Grayson. This penalty gave the Saints new life after a failed fourth down attempt and they responded by scoring a touchdown on first down.
That's just an unacceptable penalty. Henry had a similar penalty two weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts. Even as a drafted rookie, he seems to be a player that doesn't inspire a lot of trust now. It would be shocking to see him cut entirely, but he's looking more and more like a practice squad candidate or a backup who gets very little playing time his rookie season.
James Reagan is the lead writer for the Baltimore Ravens on Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @james__reagan.