By Mike Wise
Friday, August 14, 2009
Amid the neon-red scoreboard crawl line, which interrupted the game as if the Allies had landed -- MICHAEL VICK FINALLY EMPLOYED! Philly Has New QB to Berate -- preseason football was played here Thursday evening.
Unless the Ravens are your thing, it wasn't very good.
Fred Davis finally ran the correct routes, but he seemed to borrow Carlos Rogers's 2008 hands, fumbling twice.
The fourth-ranked defense from a year ago looked like the 24th-ranked defense against Joe Flacco, Troy Smith and assorted scrubs.
Justin Tryon and Kevin Barnes made Fred Smoot look 30 years young. Beaten deep, their doors blown off, the kids looked in no position to unseat the nine-year vet at corner.
Lorenzo Alexander and Mike Williams both left the game for something much more serious than a tummy ache -- they're calling their injuries abdominal strains. Not good.
And the offense that could hardly score in the final eight games a year ago barely missed a beat in picking up where it left off, failing to score or even move into the red zone during the only minutes that mattered -- Jason Campbell's minutes.
He played decently, completing 3 of 6 passes in 10 snaps, not taking any crazy chances and, thank goodness, leaving the game unscathed physically. But even the replacements couldn't get things going.
Todd Collins was a little more accurate, but not much more successful in directing Jim Zorn's multiple-read offense down the field.
Cult Brennan lost a few followers, throwing to a blanketed Marques Hagans, a ball that was picked off by Derrick Martin, for the first interception of Colt's spectacular preseason career.
If the legions are looking for a silver lining, the rookie Brian Orakpo looked like the second coming of Fred Dean or Warren Sapp, bull-rushing, emasculating any offensive lineman in front of him on his way to frightening the Baltimore backfield.
Still, when the main headline from your first preseason game is, "Jason Campbell Not Hospitalized," it doesn't portend a whole bunch of progress.
The grandest indictment of Washington's effort was Baltimore.
The Ravens' regulars did what they wanted to, moving their offense into the red zone, coming away with points. And once they accomplished their goals, they got off the field satisfied they had looked sharp and been productive in minimal time.
"Our line did a heck of a job for being their first time out there," said Flacco, the second-year quarterback who stunningly guided the Ravens to the AFC championship game as a rookie this past January. "I didn't have to do anything but sit in the pocket and make the throws. I think this was a pretty good outing so far."
Campbell and company shouldn't get too down; these were the Ravens, after all. Even without their hellion defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, who was a master at creating chaos, even without Bart Scott, they are still one of the most formidable defenses in pro football, a rugged unit that engaged in sanctioned violence against the Steelers for the right to go to the Super Bowl seven months ago.
But they should also know it doesn't get any easier. Those same Steelers come to FedEx Field for the second preseason game next weekend, the same fierce bunch of players who hit for the love of hitting and pin their ears back at least a couple of times a game with the goal of leaving the quarterback motionless.
Again, if you're looking for a highlight to be shown in Ashburn, after all the offensive line health concerns, Campbell never went down.
But after that, it was the usual drudgery and not one "a-ha" moment, that incredible play from a kid who starred in his big moment. Hagans could have had one, leaping high for a slightly overthrown Campbell pass. But it went through his hands, just as this first dress rehearsal went through the Redskins' hands.
Lucky for them, the NFL-shaking news that Michael Vick was signing with the Philadelphia Eagles eclipsed any real or imagined meltdown of their own.
Vick could be eligible to play in Week 7 when the Eagles visit FedEx Field, and perhaps even earlier than that. The best Campbell and most of the burgundy-and-gold legions can hope for by then is that Philadelphia's backup quarterback will be more popular than their own.