It may have been the first preseason game of the year, but the Baltimore Ravens looked like they were in mid-season form in a dominating 23-0 victory over the Washington Redskins.
The Ravens easily moved the ball against a Washington defense that was without several key players, including much heralded new acquisition Albert Haynesworth. They also limited the Redskins to only 196 yards of offense while keeping them off the scoreboard.
It is, of course, hard to take too much away from an early season game that doesn’t count in the standings, but the Ravens definitely sent a message that they are not expecting a letdown from their 11-5 season of a year ago.
Though not important in the standings, the performance against Washington was a chance for the Ravens’ defense to send a message. Even with Rex Ryan now in New York and Greg Mattison now coordinating the defense, the unit appears poised for another big year.
The battle to replace one member of the defense who moved on following last season is shaping up to be a good one. Inside linebacker Tavares Gooden had five tackles and has the inside track to replace Bart Scott alongside Ray Lewis. However, Jameel McLain is not going to make it easy for Gooden as he had four tackles in the contest.
The offense piled up 500 yards against the Redskins, including outstanding performances by all three quarterbacks – Joe Flacco, Troy Smith and John Beck.
After a solid rookie season, the question for Flacco this season is whether he can continue developing and eventually emerge as a premier quarterback. If his performance against the Redskins is any indication, 2009 could be a breakout year for the former Delaware standout. He completed nine of 15 passes for 103 yards and led the Ravens to two early field goals.
Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, completed 14 of 30 passes for 200 yards. He hooked up with Justin Harper for a 19-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds of the first half.
Beck, the former second round pick of the Dolphins out of BYU, completed five of nine passes for 105 yards.
The Ravens will look to maintain the early season polish on August 24 when they host Ryan and the New York Jets in a game that will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.