If I had to bet on seeing a certain team the Ravens would be scheduled to face in the preseason, in any given year, I would say the Atlanta Falcons.
The Ravens have faced the Falcons in nearly every preseason since the 2003 season. You can look it up or wait for me to provide a link. It’s an odd trend that still goes unnoticed by almost everyone. The Ravens have a similar trend in playing almost solely NFC teams in the preseason. You’d figure that since the Redskins, Eagles, Giants, and Panthers are closer than the Falcons that we’d face those other teams more often in the preseason.
My firm belief is that this started only because of the 2003 preseason game’s devastating injury. You may recall I mentioned this matchup last year, where former linebacker Adalius Thomas tackled Michael Vick and Vick was then injured for much of the 03 season. I wonder if either NFL schedulers or Atlanta itself wants annual matchups between these two.
The two teams will continue to be compared to each other as both had the 1st two QBs in the ’08 draft. Last year, Matt Ryan appeared to be pulling ahead of Flacco with a better regular season record & stats. However, Flacco retook the lead with his stunning playoff run & Super Bowl win.
You could say, in comparison with active QBs, that Ryan is Peyton and Flacco is Eli (Manning brothers). In that, I’m saying that like Peyton, Ryan is much more lauded and puts up amazing regular season numbers. Also, like Eli, Flacco does not get the same appreciation at all yet shows much more dominance in the postseason where it really matters.
Oh yeah, about that game last Thursday, wasn’t that something? Good for Tyrod Taylor, making a name for himself which could land him a starting opportunity somewhere down the line. The flurry of points sure did make that game long. But I’ll now call your attention to something that’s not being picked up on enough:
Our most forgotten wide receivers made a lot of impact in Thursday game. I’m sure all through training camp you heard about possible WRs who would be vying for the 2nd & 3rd WR slots. Names like Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson popped up a lot in discussion. Almost everyone forgot all about LaQuan Williams.
If you recall in 2011, the Ravens that year drafted Torrey Smith out of nearby College Park. Afterwards, they signed the undrafted LaQuan Williams, who also played for nearby Maryland. Like I’ve mentioned previously, the 3rd year is the big decision making season where a player is expected to either become/have become a contributor on the team or fall into obscurity. The average shelf life of an NFL player is generally around 3 years in the league anyway. This is the time to prove your worth.
During the preseason game against the Buccaneers, Williams looked to have the most reliable hands. Let’s not forget that great blocked punt that Williams recovered in the endzone, which was one of this 2 TDs. Visanthe Shiancoe seemed to have worried the Ravens enough for them to sign Dallas Clark during the weekend. Also, with Torrey Smith having the most starting experience among the wide receivers in his now 3rd season, the Ravens also brought back Brandon Stokely. Of course, Williams was one of the few silver linings in that game (which is difficult to type since the Ravens won 44-16)…
Another surprise you should pay attention to is Aaron Mellette. Following the draft, one of the biggest criticisms was that the Ravens did not address replacing Anquan Boldin at all. I mentioned how odd it was that our receiving core was considered a strength for last year and yet losing one aging possession receiver knocks down that perception. You do remember the Ravens finally drafted a wide receiver in the 7th round (Mellette). That receiver had one catch on Thursday, which was a nice 21 yard TD catch in the end zone. That guy will remain on the team, because the Ravens never have cut their draft picks before the regular season starts. Of course, that may be negative for the team as he won’t have as much pressure to prove himself to the team this season.
The Falcons have a strong offense to contend with. Their running game has improved when they replaced Michael Turner with former Ram Stephen Jackson. Their passing game is extremely potent with WRs Roddy White & Julio Jones along with future HOF Tight End Tony Gonzalez. Their defense has strengths in certain aspects but may not have enough depth in case of injuries (Although, I do like their starting safety and was hoping the Ravens could sign him so I could buy his jersey…).
The starters should show some more progress in comparison to the first game. I would expect a least a touchdown out of Flacco this time around. He was very efficient in the last game, going 7/9 in passes (one of the two misses was an interception on a bad read by Jacoby Jones) This team has now three members related to the old perennial playoff Colts (Jim Caldwell, Stokely, Clark) who were in the 2009 Super Bowl. Their shared offensive experience together can only help our favorite team.
The game’s tomorrow at 7:30 pm and the first home game of the 2013 season. Enjoy it!
P.S. Here’s the link for the Ravens’ schedules past & present. It turns out that the Ravens face the Falcons every year from 2002 to this Thursday’s game. Only in ’02, ’06, and ’10 did the Ravens face the Falcons in the regular season rather than the preseason.