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The Good, Bad, & Ugly: Queen’s Gambit

Queen tackle vs Jets
Joey Pulone/Baltimore Ravens
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The Good, Bad, Ugly, & the Margot Robbie

Happy victory Monday, Ravens Flock! Hopefully this is the first of many times we get to utter that sentence during the 2022 NFL season. Before we dive into Sunday’s performance against the Jets though, we have to get to some quick housekeeping notes.

If you’re a long time reader of Russell Street Report you’re probably used to our boss, aka the capo, Tony Lombardi bringing you this article following every Ravens game, but this season we’re shuffling the deck a little bit! If you couldn’t tell by the change in gorgeous Hollywood celebrity at the end of the title (no disrespect to Megan Fox), I’ll be handling the reins here going forward and on Friday’s “Out to Lunch” segments, while our friend (and my podcast co-host on Russell Street Replay) Nikhil Mehta will be covering my usual OTLs on Mondays. Confused? Don’t be, just know that no matter who is writing what, we’re all still dedicated to bringing you the best Baltimore Ravens content every week, for the fans by the fans.

So, with that out of the way let’s break down this wet and slippery matchup in the Meadowlands on Sunday shall we?

THE GOOD

OFFENSE SHAKES OFF EARLY RUST

As I predicted in our Week 1 preview article last week, the Ravens offense did indeed start off slow and rusty on Sunday. Now you may be asking yourself, how does this fit into the “good” category? Well my little flockers, riddle me this, how many times in the past have we seen this Ravens offense start off slow and just not be able to get it together all day, or at least until it’s far too late? Think back to last year in Miami, where even despite attempts to quell the Dolphins’ pressure, they simply could not properly adjust until the 4th quarter when the game was mostly out of hand.

Or, think of the playoff game in Buffalo back in early 2021 where the offense was only able to muster three points all night behind a patchwork offensive line.

These are just two of numerous examples in recent years in which the Ravens are jolted early and have struggled to re-find their footing (given how rarely they’re usually able to be contained), but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. They took it all in stride, continued to trust the process, and eventually the dam finally busted open. It wasn’t the most spectacular performance overall that we’ve seen from Lamar Jackson and company, but the mettle of an offense is determined in how they respond when things aren’t going perfectly, and that was pretty damn good on Sunday.

TURNOVERS ARE BACK

Boy, did Marcus Williams sure show us in short order on Sunday how valuable he’s going to be or what? It took less than a full quarter of football for him to make himself known in a big way, and it’s oddly fitting that it was at the expense of our old friend Joe Flacco.

In addition to Williams, Chuck Clark would later punch out a fumble that certainly made the man who recovered it, Marlon Humphrey, proud.

 

Mind you, all of this was still without the presence of perhaps the best ball hawking corner in football in Marcus Peters. It’s only been one season, but it’s felt like an eternity since the Ravens have had that legitimate threat on every play to create additional possessions for the offense. Sure, the Jets may not be the Chiefs or the Bills, but good teams get it done against the teams they’re supposed to, and two game-changing turnovers is a heck of a start to build off of heading into Miami (against another quarterback who doesn’t mind throwing an interception or two).

THE GROWTH OF A STAR

I don’t know about all of you (just kidding yes I do), but I was highly impressed with what we saw from Lamar Jackson on Sunday. He was poised in the pocket, and not once did he look rattled while things were starting off slow. He was calm both in his body language and on-field play, continuing to go through his reads and finding the open men downfield despite the weather making it incredibly difficult to do so.

On a day like yesterday, the old Lamar would’ve looked for Mark Andrews on every passing play before inevitably taking his eyes away from downfield and looking for a lane to cut up into. While we still definitely want to see him use that dynamic rushing ability, the ability to keep calm in the pocket and sling it on a consistent basis is what wins Super Bowls. And the best part is, this was only week 1. Jackson still has months and months to get even better in this department, and it’s going to be exciting to see this growth continue.

THE BAD

THE WOE-LINE

Things weren’t great for the Ravens offensive line on Sunday, there’s no doubt about it. We saw flashes of some nice moments, like Tyler Linderbaum getting to the next level and flattening a Jets linebacker, but for the most part it wasn’t pretty. Especially in the run game, they just looked outmanned.

It all began when Ja’Wuan James went down early in the game with what John Harbaugh described as yet another torn Achilles. You absolutely hate to see it for James, who worked so hard to get back and was finally getting his chance to re-emerge in the NFL, but lingering injuries are a cruel mistress. If this is indeed it for James’ playing career, we give him massive respect for attempting such a difficult comeback and wish him nothing but the most success going forward in life.

From there, the running backs (who we’ll talk about in a moment) would get zero momentum on the ground with defenders in their face the second they took the handoff in a lot of cases. Hopefully the impending return of Ronnie Stanley will help things, along with Linderbaum settling in as a pro, but the performance was not inspiring on Sunday.

THE UGLY

THE BUS AND THE BUCKEYE ARE SORELY MISSED

It might sound a little crazy to place blame on the running backs in this game after detailing how bad the offensive line was in the rushing game, but they’re not completely absolved either. Even the leading rusher on the day, Kenyan Drake, looked, at the absolute best, “just serviceable” in flashes. There wasn’t a single one of those holy you-know-what rush attempts on the day that we’ve come to expect from this ground and pound attack. Heck, the best rush of the afternoon was Mike Davis almost losing a fumble. That’s a problem.

Now, the Ravens are definitely just working with what they’ve got at the moment, so hopefully JK Dobbins can get back on the field next week and help the woes in this department. Not only him, but after Gus Edwards shared a positive message about his recovery last week, maybe we can get him back on the field by Week 5 or 6 as well. No matter what though, improvement HAS to come from somewhere; the backfield is the bread and butter of this team.

THE MARGOT ROBBIE

As some of you may know, the Margot Robbie (previously the Megan Fox) is given out to the Ravens MVP of the game. It’s ironic that we’re starting the season with this player too, because both he and Robbie are in fact Queens.

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Patrick Queen played one of his best games as a pro on Sunday. Sure, some people may say Marcus Williams or Justin Madabuike were more deserving of this award, but Queen came into this season with perhaps more (non-health related) question marks than anyone on the defense, and took a good first step towards silencing his doubters on Sunday.

He was flying all over the field, both in the run game and in rushing the passer. He looked quicker and more explosive than we’ve ever seen him, to the tune of eight tackles and a half sack. Was he perfect? No. There were still a couple moments of over-pursuit here and there, but the good outweighed the bad by ten fold for Queen on Sunday. An inspiring performance for a man looking to become even more of a leader for the defense and fully live up to his first round draft selection.

Awesome job PQ, we can’t wait for a repeat on Sunday against Miami.

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