TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens may have a new look, but they’re seeking to win the same ol’ way.
The Super Bowl champions opened the preseason Thursday night with a 44-16 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that gave coach John Harbaugh plenty to be encouraged about.
Joe Flacco was sharp in limited work, a revamped defense swarmed and forced four turnovers, and special teams scored one touchdown and set up another.
While the start of the regular season is still a month away, Harbaugh likes the way the team is coming together after an offseason of change that saw Ray Lewis retire, Anquan Boldin traded and Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard leave via free agency.
“We’re a very different team than we were, so we were really anxious to get on the field and just see who we are because we really don’t know in a lot of ways,” Harbaugh said. “We suspect we have a chance to be a good team, but we’ve got a long way to go as far as being on the same page in a lot of ways, so it’s a good thing we’ve got preseason, obviously.”
Here are five things we learned about the Ravens and the Buccaneers, who also unveiled an overhauled defense in the preseason opener.
1. FLACCO’S THE MAN, BUT … : Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor directed two long drives that finished with touchdown passes to LaQuan Williams and Aaron Mellette. Baltimore has a solid running game with Ray Rice, however they have evolved into more of a passing team. Taylor showed he’s capable of making some plays. Even more importantly, he got the offense into the end zone, albeit against Tampa Bay’s reserves.
2. FLASHING SIGNS OF PROGRESS: Despite the final score, Bucs coach Greg Schiano felt his starting defense fared well early in the game, with Lavonte David notching a sack and Danny Gorrer coming up with an interception to take some of the luster off Flacco’s performance.
“We’ve been getting our hands on balls in training camp, and we got our hands on the football during the game,” Schiano said. “So that, to me, is a good segue.”
The Bucs played without cornerback Darrelle Revis, who’s still recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him most of last season with the New York Jets. Once they get him in the lineup, it should help an anemic pass rush, as well.
3. CONFIDENT FREEMAN: Josh Freeman worked two possessions. The first ended with a sack, but the other produced a field goal. He looked comfortable in the pocket, made several nice throws, including a nifty sideline throw to Vincent Jackson that the receiver made an adjustment on make an apparent catch that was overturned because Jackson was bobbling the ball as he stepped out of bounds. Rookie Mike Glennon threw for 169 yards, but most of that came on two completions. The third-round pick threw an interception and was sacked once.
4. THE KID CAN MAKE PLAYS: Ravens third-string receiver LaQuan Williams recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown and later scored on a 21-yard pass from Taylor. With Boldin no longer in the picture, Baltimore is hoping some of its young receivers will step up and fill the void. Harbaugh called him “a guy that just brings his lunch pail every single week, puts on his blue-collar work shirt and goes to work.”
5. NICE DEBUT: The Ravens revamped their defense with the offseason acquisitions of several key players, including linebacker Elvis Dumervil, end Chris Canty, safety Michael Huff and linebacker Daryl Smith. Canty sacked Freeman for an 8-yard loss on the third play of the game.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org