The Baltimore Ravens will be flying down to Miami gearing up to play a team that has been pegged to tanking for the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Miami recently traded away three star players that resulted in hauling back two first-round picks, a second-round pick and a linebacker from the Saints and Texans. Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills are now Houston Texans. This game should be a slam dunk for the Ravens on both sides of the ball.
There is plenty of optimism surrounding Baltimore this year especially on offense, but pay attention to the defensive side of the ball to see how this team reacts to new leadership. Let's look at five Ravens that you should keep your eye on this Sunday in Miami.
For the last three seasons, Eric Weddle manned the free safety position. Eric DeCosta made a transition to release Weddle before his contract expired. It was strictly a business move based on performance and salary, but to counter, the Ravens made a rare considerably surprising splash in free agency by grabbing a potential future Hall of Fame safety in Earl Thomas. Thomas was a catalyst of the “Legion of Boom” during his time with the Seattle Seahawks and for obvious reasons. “Area 29” has recorded 28 career interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries and 664 tackles over the course of 125 games in his career. Baltimore had a turnover ratio of minus three last season. Earl Thomas was brought in to create turnovers, period.
Although Thomas has struggled with injury problems the last three seasons, he claims that he feels good and is ready to go. This is good news for the Ravens defense and Wink Martindale. A free flying Thomas is good for everybody, except Ryan Fitzpatrick. Look for Earl to be flying over the field Sunday against a depleted Miami Dolphins offense.
Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari, & Ben Powers:
What you just read is exactly how the Ravens recently released their depth chart regarding the left guard position. John Harbaugh doesn’t want to reveal any “secrets” before the Week 1 opener. Bozeman, Mekari and Powers each bring inexperience to a position that at this point should be settled. Bozeman played in 14 games as a rookie, starting in one, while Mekari is a UDFA. Powers was a fourth-round pick from the University of Oklahoma. Maybe the Ravens are looking to employ a rotation at the left guard position to see who stands out. There were multiple mistakes made throughout the preseason by each, but someone has to stand out from the rest.
If Baltimore doesn’t like what they see, they could possibly look outside the organization to bring in reinforcements. Keep a close eye on the left side of the line this Sunday to see who starts and who gets the most reps at the position.
All throughout the preseason, “Project Pat,” was a force on the offensive and defensive side of the football. There have been reports of preliminary talks of a contract extension with Ricard and the Ravens organization, which suggests that he will have a significant role for years to come. They have also decided to only keep five defensive linemen on this years 53-man roster, which is another clue Ricard will have an increased workload. Although Ricard will probably not start on any given week, he will see work within the DL rotation and receive reps when necessary.
Someone alert the Dolphins that number 42 shows no mercy, whether its clearing the way for the running backs or pushing through a the Dolphins offensive line to get after “Fitzmagic”.
Whoever Plays Slot Corner:
Tavon Young is officially out for the year and someone has to step up in his place. This will also be a rotational position based on the opposing teams personnel. Brandon Carr will more than likely be the option in majority of situations, but look for Anthony Averett to get some reps against smaller wide receivers. Averett is younger and has more agility to go up against opposing slot receivers.
Cyrus Jones also is an option, but again this will look like a revolving door. The loss of Tavon Young hurts but it isn’t catastrophic. Watch for several different cornerbacks to work through the slot because of the depth that the Ravens have accrued.
On to the most obvious player that everyone is going to be watching around the country on Sunday, which is quarterback Lamar Jackson. Several questions will begin to be answered as the weeks go on but gather your opinion on a play-by-play basis. Look for increased mechanics, footwork and how he handles being “the guy.” How many times will he run the ball? Will these runs be designed or after being forced out of the pocket to scramble?
Look to see who he has a connection with throwing the ball to. The obvious answer is Mark Andrews, but Andrews isn’t going to get the ball every snap that Lamar drops back. Expect Greg Roman to dice up some plays that free up certain receivers to get open. Marquise Brown is someone who comes to mind that may not play an immediate starting role, but rather a situational one.
No matter at what level Jackson plays at, he will always be doubted. He could throw for over 300 yards with multiple touchdowns, but reporters will say it was against the worst team in the NFL. “Action Jackson” has and will be given every opportunity by the franchise to succeed. Lamar Jackson is the new face of the Baltimore Ravens, lets see how he handles the pressure.