After months and months of festering from a tough 2019 postseason loss, the Ravens hit the field to take on the confusing Cleveland Browns.
Confusing you say? Yes, they’re kind of like a box of chocolates. There’s so much talent on paper, but you just really never know what you’re going to get.
Well, today you got one of those chocolates that unfortunately had some fruit inside or something. Like a cherry chocolate? Yuck.
Let’s break it down!
You really can’t go wrong with 377 yards and 38 points.
The offense didn’t look like it skipped a beat in this contest and once again Lamar Jackson exited this game early as we hit garbage time.
The only real bugaboo was a Patrick Ricard fumble on a FB dive. It’s Week 1 after an offseason with no preseason, so it’s not a huge issue, but something to keep in the back of our minds moving forward.
Jackson on Jackson: A
I love tracking Lamar Jackson receipts. Here’s Sheldon Richardson pre-game:
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) September 10, 2020
Well, here’s Lamar post-game:
Lamar heard you Sheldon….
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonRSR) September 13, 2020
The 2019 Most Valuable Player returned to MVP form early.
His stat line was, of course, impressive as he almost put together another perfect passer rating. However, it’s really the types of throws that he made that impressed the most.
In 2019, the offense involved heavy RB and TE targets, when compared to other teams. Well, out of 20 completions, wide receivers caught 12 of them (note: WRs had 13 catches in this game, but one of Snead’s catches was from RGIII, his only completion of the game).
Not only were WRs more of a focus, but the Ravens prioritized outside-breaking routes and it looked like what fans hoped for.
The only thing to keep an eye on is that Jackson did take some hits in this game. While it didn’t prove to be an issue, it’s always something to watch.
Running backs: B-
Maybe it’s my expectations, but I left this game pretty unimpressed with the Ravens running game. J.K. Dobbins got it done with two goal line carries (shout out to fellow Flock members that started Mark Ingram in fantasy; we weep together) and looked quite solid.
However, it was hard for them to muster up much early in this contest. Ingram finished with just 2.9 YPC, Dobbins had 3.1 and Edwards added 4.3 (but had one big run).
It’s just one game and we know this is a talented group, but I was left wanting a little bit more.
Wide Receivers: A-
We already talked about the increased WR involvement, so I won’t drag that out.
This turned into a blowout and they didn’t need to continue to throw, but I was impressed with the WR group.
Let’s get my one complaint out of the way… On Miles Boykin’s red zone target, he came around slow on the ball and it looked like a TD in the making. CBS commentator Charles Davis said the same on the broadcast. It’s just a complaint. Nothing to drag out.
Other than that, Boykin looked much more comfortable on the field and he should see a bigger role in 2020.
The story of the day is Hollywood Brown. His speed is insane, this is known. However, we finally got to see what made him a 1st round pick and that’s his route running. He finally got to use his footwork on a comeback route on which Lamar easily found him. He brought in five of his six targets and had a 47-yard bomb. This kid is going to be elite.
Willie Snead also did a very nice job in the middle of the field. (Anybody else not recognize him without the hair?) With the Ravens targeting the outside boundaries, Snead had more room than in the past. He feasted on it and got lost on his way to a touchdown.
We also had a Devin Duvernay sighting early in the game with a 12-yard WR screen. Absolutely loved seeing them get him involved early. More to come from this kid.
Tight End: A-
Mark Andrews is a top-three TE in the NFL. It’s solidified and I will not listen to Zach Ertz arguments. Andrews is efficient and he has no issue climbing the ladder like he did on his first TD that saved Lamar’s bacon. That was an overthrow but Andrews made the play.
Nick Boyle continued to be an absolute missile blocking and provided reliable hands (his one incomplete target was too low). You know what you’re getting from Boyle every game and it’s solid work.
Offensive Line: B
Alright so let’s go back to the run game piece. We can’t just go blaming everything on the running backs. They need their OL to open holes for them.
Tyre Phillips got the start at RG and I’ve been telling you all on Twitter all offseason he’s a stud in the making. He looked phenomenal in his first start. He’s powerful, he has good posture and fluid hips and that man can move. One of the first plays of the game was a power left and Phillips burst through the hole with the lead block.
Matt Skura complemented his impressive comeback by returning just nine months after dislocating his kneecap and tearing almost every ligament in his knee. He’s going to need some time. He looked a little slower today than last year, but that’s going to come with time.
This grade comes in at B. It was an A-effort in the pass game, but the run blocking, specifically in the middle needs to improve. Luckily, we have 15 more regular season games to tune things up.
This is one of those performances where I came away feeling like the defense didn’t play that well. However, when you look at the stats, it’s hard to really say that. They only allowed six points, they had two takeaways (an INT and a fumble; the 1st Cleveland fumble was on special teams) and the Browns only had 300 yards.
While not the shutdowns we’re used to here in Baltimore, it’s still not anything bad. Let’s take a look to see who contributed.
Defensive Line: B-
A new-and-improved defensive line had its flashes. Calais Campbell had one heck of a debut, especially early. He made an immediate impact on his very first series in purple, with three impact plays.
Derek Wolfe also looked great, but let’s be real: we all expected Campbell and Wolfe to make an immediate impact. So who was the diamond in the rough? None other than Broderick Washington. Washington is getting some early playing time for a late round pick with Justin Madubuike nursing an injury.
I was shocked how many times he stood out to me. He only had one tackle on the stat sheet, but he did his job, got some pressures and made an impact.
This grade is torn down a bit by poor edge setting from the Ravens OLBs, as they struggled to stop the outside run, and a complete lack of a pass rush. Tyus Bowser got in on a sack, but it was a second effort.
There’s still issues here and, while the team has some playmakers, work needs to be done to sharpen things up.
Have yourself a debut, Patrick Queen! Queen led all Ravens in tackles, registered a sack, and it looked to me like he stripped that ball out that L.J. Fort came up with. Yeah, I’ll take that in anyone’s first NFL game.
Malik Harrison got some early playing time which surprised many. He had a nice pass breakup, but he also lost the edge on a Nick Chubb cutback. He’s a third round pick, so there’s going to be bumps in the road. Hopefully he learns from that and we don’t see it again.
Chris Board dragged this grade down. He lost his deep zone coverage in the goal line package and David Njoku sat down, ordered his meal and caught a wide-open TD while Board scrambled to run the order out to him.
Defensive Backs: A
These guys were the stars of the show for the Ravens defense. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters continue to clown Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ was pretty irrelevant in this one and Jarvis Landry mostly made underneath catches.
The thing that stood out the most is that almost every catch that wasn’t a checkdown within five yards of the LOS was contested. These DBs are sticky. Even Tavon Young was all over a boundary catch by Njoku. For those keeping count at home, Njoku is 6’4 245 and little ole 5’9 185 Tavon Young was all over him.
— Tairek (@tairek5) September 13, 2020
Boy did I get heated when James Proche let that punt hit the ground and the Ravens started one of their drives at their own one-yard line. Maybe it’s because the Ravens went on for a 10-play 99-yard scoring drive or maybe it’s because Proche impressed on his other returns, but let’s just say I got over it.
The Ravens also made a key special teams play when the Browns tried a fake punt and Fort punched the ball out and recovered it. That’s just solid ST prep to recognize and make a play.
Oh yeah, Justin Tucker is that GOAT. So nothing new there.
I almost got bored giving the game ball to Lamar Jackson last year because he basically deserved it every game. Well, that’s what MVP’s do I guess.
So game ball today goes to Lamar Jackson, but an honorable mention goes to the rookie, Patrick Queen, who stepped in and showed immediate potential.