Typically my Monday morning post-win blog is all about overreactions to the game. We discuss how the Ravens won, ow amazing they looked, and how special this team is.
I want to do that, I genuinely do.
But today I’m feeling more underwhelmed from a win than I have in recent memory.
I suppose being underwhelmed by a 33-16 road win over the Texans, led by a top-tier QB in Deshaun Watson, is a good thing. After all, this is potentially the Ravens’ toughest non-divisional road opponent on the season (they still play at Washington, Philly, Indy, and New England) and while Houston is 0-2, they’re still a damn fine team. But it was a slew of things that had me feeling very melancholy this morning.
For starters, losing Tavon Young to another ACL tear is not great. Not only is it detrimental for the 2020 season, but as much as it pains me to say it, I think the writing is officially on the wall for Young as a Raven. Despite his great play in stretches on his way to earning his new deal in the 2019 offseason, Young has missed all of the 2017 & 2019 seasons, and now 14 games of the 2020 season. That means in his five-year career with the Ravens, Young will have played in just 33 out of a possible 80 regular season games.
Perhaps they keep him on board next season (his cap savings is only $3M versus a $5M dead hit), but it cannot be as a starter. This is a hole Eric DeCosta will need to address in the offseason, if not sooner via trade during the season.
Speaking of injuries, Ronnie Stanley had a scary moment grabbing his ankle in the game – the same ankle that’s been ailing him in the early parts of the season. I expect a week devoid of practice once again, but given his return to the game, he’ll be there for the Chiefs in Week 3. The question for me is how far is he from being 100% this early in the season? And what’s the Ravens contingency plan? If it’s D.J. Fluker at Left Tackle, that’s a scary thought…
Despite Stanley’s efforts, the Ravens OL as a whole looked.. not great. Lamar Jackson was constantly under duress, en route to four sacks on the day, and more scrambles than we’d care to see. For the second consecutive week, we saw the line get properly owned by an opposing defensive front. As the Ravens look ahead to another tough assignment in Week 3 with the Chiefs, followed by an equally stout assignment in Week 4 with rookie stud pass rusher Chase Young and the WFT?
That simply needs to improve.
Flipping the field, I think you can guess what my biggest issue was in this game, as it’s apparently the same issue we’ll see every week in 2020, and the same issue we saw in 2019.
Lack. Of. Pass rush.
Let’s be honest for a moment: if it wasn’t for Wink Martindale’s ability to disguise blitzes, along with the addition of Calais Campbell, the Ravens would allow opposing quarterbacks to sit in the pocket all day, waiting for a receiver to shake loose. The Ravens simply cannot get home with a four-man rush. Outside linebacker Matt Judon, who continues to wait for his payday, is lightening the Brinks truck weekly with his phantom efforts. Tyus Bowser currently looks like the best OLB option in the group, but was slightly less active this week (although he still had a sack). Second year outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson is B-U- into ‘B-U-S-T’ and could earn the title by the end of the year, as he continues to see only limited rotational snaps, and stays largely off the stat sheet.
I’m actually surprised that the team hasn’t tried out more players, or made a call to veteran Clay Matthews at this juncture. I also think perhaps calling up Aaron Adeoye next week wouldn’t be the worst idea. Either option would give them fresh legs on the edge, and really, it can’t be much worse than what we’ve seen thus far.
Beyond the glaring issues, there were certainly a few other odds and ends that had me down in the dumps in this game. The Ravens going 4-for-15 on 3rd down was a major frustration, as was the offense’s inability to run the ball in the first half (why was J.K. Dobbins an afterthought?), along with trying to figure out why Jackson dives head first, instead of sliding, on carries when it’s apparent defenders are coming to clean his clock. Defensively, letting Watson escape nearly every time they got to him in the backfield, along with watching a banged up Brandin Cooks dismantle backup sCB Anthony Averett had me facepalming all afternoon.
In all, the team just looked very flat yesterday.
Alas, these games happen, and if you can manage to come out on top (especially in a big way), I’d rather see these things happen in the early season and on the road, as opposed to down the line when the team should be firing on all cylinders and full steam ahead.
Still, let’s not sugar coat it: issues exist. The Ravens need to play much better in the trenches, stick to their game plan, and minimize critical mistakes if they want to stay atop the AFC North for the duration of the season. Those adjustments need to start immediately, with the Chiefs looming large next Monday night.
Call me entitled. Call me a bad fan.
I just call it a ‘meh’ win.