I haven’t woken up with as big a smile on my face as I did yesterday, and do you know why? Football is back! After the Hall of Fame Game fiasco, last night was officially the start of the 2016 NFL season as 12 teams got to finally play a down of competitive football.
The Ravens are looking to bounce back this season following an incredibly disappointing 2015 campaign that saw them slump to a 5-11 record and a number of their biggest stars go down with severe injuries. The Panthers on the other hand are looking to back up their franchises best season, having gone 15-1 in the regular season and making their 2nd franchise Super Bowl.
On this occasion, the Ravens came out on top with a 22-19 win, but in preseason games, the scores really don’t matter much at all, what does matter is individual performances of the guys who played after the starters, and there were plenty of takeaways from last night.
The biggest plus for the Ravens came from their seemingly very good depth at several positions. The running back group, led last night by Javorius Allen, looked very good. Terrance West backed up the whisperings that he has been the Ravens best offensive player in camp as he contributed 2 touchdowns along with several good looking, tough runs. Kenneth Dixon, the NCAA career touchdown leader and 4th round choice, also had a number of good runs. With Forsett and those three players, the Ravens will have to consider keeping four five running backs on the roster (including Kyle Juszczyk).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens are looking for an inside backer to take the second starting spot alongside C.J. Mosely, and Zachary Orr seems to be ahead at this point. He made several plays in the backfield and stood out on several plays. With 2nd round pick Kamalei Correa seemingly holding a backup role there, 2013 2nd round pick Arthur Brown will have to step up in the coming weeks. Matt Judon really stood out for me, too. The 5th round pick had several good effort plays and made stops on the backfield plenty of times. The defensive end could push players like Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore onto the roster bubble.
For the Panthers, they’re biggest weakness last season was their o-line, and their backup o-line could’ve done a better job than they did last night. The Ravens got several sacks, one of which forced a turnover, and they also met the Panthers running back behind or on the line of scrimmage on more occasions than the Panthers would like. They’ll have to hope the starting line does a better job and if it does, they all stay healthy and on the field.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, the secondary is understandably under a lot of pressure to perform following the departure of Josh Norman. Luckily for the Panthers, they didn’t seem too bad in coverage. They allowed just one passing touchdown and it came on a short screen pass, the rest of the time they only allowed short passes from the Ravens offense. They must do a better job of containing the run, though.
The biggest thing that stood out is that both of these teams seem to be deep and talented and most of their positions, so both sets of fans should be happy that both staff groups are seemingly going to have incredibly difficult decisions to make when it comes to roster cuts.
Not that this is related or anything, but how great was it that Michael Phelps’ historic 22nd gold medal was shown on the jumbotron? What’s more, the entire game stopped to let everyone watch.