First round pick Ed Reed sat out game one of the preseason after holding out for a week of camp. Second rounder Tony Weaver would sit out as well, but due to a high ankle sprain. Most of the picks however, would show up in a big way.
Gary Zauner and Mike Nolan would make their Ravens coordinator debuts, at Special Teams and Defense respectively. Both would show great improvements over their predecessors. From the opening kickoff, it was easy to see how effective coverage schemes really lasso an offense. Zauner's units were on the ball, with third year veteran TE John Jones stepping up, and making some key stops. Along the same vein, from the opening series, the Ravens' defense was exerting its dominance over the Lions' front. The first eight third down conversion attempts by Detroit all failed, quelling fears about unknown Mike Nolan and his unfamiliar schemes. Pressure was the name of the game, and Nolan passed all of his preliminary tests.
The offensive line, apparently eternally questionable for the Ravens lived up to its billing as Redman lead the attack. Redman was under extensive pressure, most notably by Robert Porcher, continually beating newly converted right tackle Edwin Mulitalo. As the game moved on, the unit began to perform much more admirably, giving Redman and Jeff Blake more time to set up their throws. The confusion at the front did however bring Redman's poise to the forefront, as more then once he created something out of nothing to save the Ravens big losses. On one play, Redman hopped back up to dump the ball to rookie RB Tellis Redmon for a first down, who was getting a chance to impress the coaching staff with injuries to running backs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor. On another, he avoided a sure sack. Redman's poise was a notable of the night, while his execution left something to be desired. He missed TE Todd Heap over the middle early in the game, and threw behind WR Javin Hunter later on, missing a sure touchdown. Jeff Blake performed admirably under duress, throwing numerous long balls that would have been caught with a bit more speed at wideout. A formidable QB battle is looming.
Ron Johnson made the most impressive debut of the receiving corps, racking up over fifty yards through the air, 21 of them on an impressive leaping catch tossed by Chris Redman. That is not to say that no one else was impressive, with Travis Taylor, Lonny Mitchell, John Jones, Todd Heap, Javin Hunter, Randy Hymes, Kenyon Hambrick, and Brandon Stokely all recording catches. Tellis Redmon also impressed on a few dumpoffs, and managed to hit the holes quickly, making the most of his chances.
The defense showed flashes of magnificence, soliciting shades of 2000 for those who were able to witness the dominance of the Ravens on Friday. The defensive line was smothering, creating good pressure on all three quarterbacks in both the 4-3 and surprisingly prevalent 3-4 with notable performances from Kelly Gregg and Nate Bolling. The linebackers were stellar as usual, with Ed Hartwell and Shannon Taylor both turning in impressive nights. The secondary was controlling as well, with Chad Williams and Jason Olford bringing their A games to the forefront, and Will Demps giving the Ravens the win with his interception for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Alvin Porter also added an interception early in the first half. With Gary Baxter resting for Friday's game, the DBs had to step up, and they did as asked.
Lamont Brightful made a bright debut, showing off some bursts of speed, reminding any Ravens fan of Jermaine Lewis on his 34 yard return. Dave Zastudil, the Ravens controversial 4th round draft pick put his strong leg on a pedestal, being called into duty many times in the opener.
A successful opener does two things: answer questions, and raise expectations. When the Ravens square off against the Jets on Thursday, we expect the bar to be raised even further.