Following Detroit's 27-12 preseason win over Baltimore, here are five items we're now thinking about:
1) Cundiff's confident, Tucker's competing
Billy Cundiff's said it before and he said it again. The kicking job is his to lose.
Cundiff kept his usual confidence about him, after hitting field goals from 33 and 44 yards away.
"If (the coaches) say I kick well in training camp then it's my job," Cundiff said.
Cundiff has had a pretty good camp. He's made most of his kicks, and the majority of the ones he's missed have been from over 50 yards. Early this week, though, he missed consecutive attempts from 24 and 34 yards in the same practice. Following Friday's game, Cundiff elected not to mention those misses when talking about how great his practice had been this week.
"You're really judged by the kicks you're supposed to make," Cundiff said. "If you look at my stats through training camp, I think I'm something like 90-something percent inside 55. If you track that with what I did in training camp in 2010, I'm doing better."
Cundiff has been fairly accurate on his kicks from inside of 50. However, the lone issue here is rookie Justin Tucker is 95 percent on ALL kicks. This includes those from over 50. Tucker's been more consistent with his accuracy and has shown off a better leg. Tucker hit kicks from 45 and 50 yards Friday night and has brought a legitimate competition for Cundiff to deal with.
2) Upshaw didn't stand out
Point blank, coach John Harbaugh was asked if rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw distinguished himself on the field against Detroit.
"Nothing stood out that I saw," Harbaugh said. "I think he played hard. It's good to get him out there, he needs to play."
Upshaw is just now getting in the groove of the defense, seeing that a shoulder injury caused him to miss just over a week's worth of practice time. He's just now getting into team drills, too. Upshaw went without a tackle against Detroit and was blocked handily at times. Albert McClellan earned the start at rush linebacker, and with the way McClellan's performed, Upshaw could be in danger of beginning the season as a backup.
"I just want to be more productive in a series," Upshaw said. "Just the fact I do know the defense is coming along. This first game is out of the way and I'm ready for the next one.
3) Special teams: Thompson, Jackson have big games
The good news for Baltimore is it has options at kick and punt returner. For now, Jacoby Jones still remains the frontrunner, but rookies Asa Jackson and Deonte Thompson showed off their skills against Detroit.
Thompson appeared to run a kickoff to the end zone but he stepped out of bounds about halfway there. Even if he hadn't stepped up, the play was called back due to a penalty. Thompson's speed is unquestioned and dangerous in the open field.
"I saw the crease and I told Coach I was going to hit it with all I've got, and I just took it and went from there," Thompson said.
Jackson returned a punt for a touchdown, but that was also called back because of a penalty. Jackson displayed nifty footwork during his return. He cut back across a lot of Detroit defenders before reaching the end zone.
"I was really happy that I was at least able to get that on film, even though it didn't count," Jackson said. I am definitely someone who can be of value on special teams to this team."
Thompson also helped Baltimore recover an onside kick. Tucker attempted it, and as the ball bounced high in the air, Thompson outjumped those near him and tapped the ball forward. This allowed safety Omar Brown to secure the ball and give Baltimore possession.
Last week, it was Thompson making plays in the receiving game. This week it's on special teams. If he keeps up his level of play, it's going to be real hard to release him when cuts are made.
4) Bernard Pierce vs. Anthony Allen
Even though backup running back Bernard Pierce managed one yard on four carries, he looked every part of the backup running back he needs to be. Pierce did not go down on first contact and always fell forward.
That's something that will be noticed when Harbaugh and his staff analyze the film from Friday's game. Pierce will get more time next week, presumably, to show what he can do. But for the time being, Pierce proved he has good vision and solid strength during his limited time on the field.
"I would say that everybody needs to have that swag, that confidence to show off what they can do under any system," Pierce said. So I would say I'm real confident."
Conversely, Anthony Allen is digging himself deeper into a hole.
On Allen's first play of the game he whiffed on a block and got quarterback Joe Flacco sacked. He carried the ball just one time and lost two yards. He dropped another easy pass, but did haul in one reception for 12 yards.
Allen entered the offseason as the No. 2 back. He could be fighting for a roster spot at this point.
5) McKinnie, the offensive line and the no-huddle
For the second consecutive preseason game, left tackle Bryant McKinnie stayed with the second team offensive line. There are two schools of thought here: 1) The Ravens are still happy with the lineup they have now, with Michael Oher at left tackle. 2) McKinnie's life lesson ends this week and he gets his job back by the third preseason game.
I've been thinking the latter for some time now. Now, I'm not so sure. Baltimore's trending with the rest of the NFL and installing its no-huddle offense. Against Detroit, Baltimore ran it at a high tempo to mixed success. If Baltimore's going to go this route in the regular season, then it needs agile offensive linemen in great shape.
It's well known McKinnie's cardio isn't on par with his peers. Maybe there's a concern McKinnie can't keep up with the rest of the line. McKinnie's pass blocking looked great against Detroit's second teamers. You'd think you'd want your best pass blocker, a 6-8, 360-pound left tackle, working with the first team by now.
Making matters more difficult for McKinnie, Oher performed well against Detroit. He made no mistakes and showed quickness getting in his stance off the snap. In fact, the entire first team offensive line — Oher, Bobbie Williams, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele — was in sync during their time in. McKinnie could still have a long ways to go before he gets his job back.
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