Thursday started the second week of preseason games for the NFL where the Atlanta Falcons played the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
This preseason matchup pitted Ryan vs. Flacco, two quarterbacks from the same draft class and they both signed lucrative contracts in the offseason.
Thursday night neither quarterback played his best, but this is just preseason folks, they do not need to be elite, not yet at least.
Flacco has yet to have a stellar performance in the preseason but does he need to?
No, what he needs to do is acclimate himself to the new players and find his rhythm, now is the time to work out these kinks.
A starter should not play at the top of their game in the preseason, they have secured their spot on the team and should be more concerned with adjusting themselves with the new arrivals. There are a few positions the Baltimore Ravens need to consider and make hard decisions about in the upcoming weeks.
The first position the Ravens need to fill is an often overlooked and underrated position -- the center. Last season the Ravens lost their center Matt Birk when he decided to retire, this is a big loss to the Ravens' offensive line, Birk was one of the best centers in the game and the fans are not aware how important this position can be.
Note Thursday night's game when AQ Shipley got his chance to show if he was capable of filling Birk’s shoes. Shipley struggled with blocking and committed two penalties, the first penalty came on his very first play, committing a 15-yard penalty of hands to the face, a penalty that will be enforced more this season.
His second penalty was a loss of five yards for a false start, this is inexcusable especially when you’re trying to prove you should fill a particular position. Gino Gradkowski is perfectly capable of filling the role of center as he showed in the Ravens' first preseason game and in the second half of Thursday’s game. Gradkowski needs to capitalize off of Shipley’s mistake and show that he is up to the task.
Another position that needs filling is tight end left open due to Pitta’s season-ending hip injury. The Ravens have Dickson as an option but will need to replace Pitta. Dickson is not up for the job and is unable to do what Pitta can do.
The Ravens need to find a tight end who is physical, athletic and can make plays. Dickson is good in his role but he needs to be better. Rookie Furstenberg could fill this role his performance on Thursday showed his ability to get open and his athleticism.
The Ravens signed Shiancoe and Clark to help fill this role but Shiancoe has yet to show he is up to the task -- dropping passes in Thursday’s game is not how to get things done. Clark did not get a chance to play in this game.
Bajema also played in the game Thursday night, he had one catch for 18 yards but was unable to show his skills.
Hopefully veterans Shiancoe and Clark will not only be assets to the offense but also be able to help develop the younger players.