There wasn’t much flash in the Ravens’ opening-season win against the Browns.
Instead, it was more of a workmanlike performance where the Ravens methodically put away Cleveland in a 38-6 victory. The dagger was a 99-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by rookie J.K. Dobbins.
With the exception of a couple of long passes to Hollywood Brown and a spectacular leaping catch by Mark Andrews in the end zone, Jackson effectively navigated the game with intermediate passes and mistake-free football.
In short, Jackson showed his maturity as a third-year player. After challenging the Browns by running at their defenders early, Jackson made sure to get out of bounds to avoid hits later in the game.
“I thought he just showed great poise in the pocket the whole game,” Harbaugh said. “He had a good awareness of the rush. They were bringing it. They have really good pass rushers. They mixed up their coverage – man, zone, different types of zone coverages – and he had just a great feel for it.”
Harbaugh did face some questions about leaving Jackson in the game with a 32-point lead in the fourth quarter and he defended that decision. Jackson was eventually replaced by Robert Griffin III with 4:05 left.
“The four minutes left was because the defense was on the field up until that point,” Harbaugh said. “Ten minutes left, no, I don’t think so. It’s the National Football League. You look around the league, you’ll see that not too many people are taking their quarterbacks out with 10 minutes left in the game in the National Football League – and that’s historically true.
“There are a lot of reasons for that. I don’t think I have to get into all the reasons for that, but all the people that want to say that should be done, I’d have to disagree with that.”
The Ravens game runs through Jackson, and with no preseason games, the offense does need the work. However, the Ravens do need to protect their greatest asset to have any chance of reaching the Super Bowl.
The next test is the first road game of the year against the Texans.
Last season, the Ravens left Houston shell-shocked with a 41-7 victory. Jackson completely out-dueled Deshaun Watson in that game with four touchdown passes and a 139.2 rating. Watson was sacked six times and threw an interception and finished with a 63.7 rating.
The Texans lost to the Chiefs 34-20 in Week 1 and need to avoid falling to 0-2. The Ravens want to keep their momentum going with a huge prime-time matchup with Kansas City in Week 3. Houston had a few extra days to prepare because they opened the season on Thursday night.
They needed the added time.
There is a long way to go this season, but the Ravens have provided the city with a sense of optimism. Jackson unanimously won the NFL MVP last year, but he has the potential to be even better this year.
“For me personally, looking at Lamar, I’ve known the type of player he’s been just [by] playing with him,” Andrews said. “The guys is incredible; he was incredible last year. To me, he’s, obviously, the best player in the world, and his arm reflects that.
“It reflected that last year; it’s this year as well. He’s going to continue to grow, and he has. It’s just a blessing to be able to play with him. He says I make his job easy, but it’s the other way around for sure.”
That’s a scary thought for the Ravens’ opponents.
“You can tell he’s a lot more comfortable, and he’s a lot more pinpoint with it,” Brown said. “It’s now our job to be at the spot, because that’s where he’s putting it. He’s doing a good job of throwing it away from defenders and throwing it to where you can catch and run. So, he’s been doing a good job of just improving his game.”