I’ll preface this by stating the obvious: the Miami Dolphins are a bad team - like very bad.
We knew this entering Week 1 and Sunday’s season opener only reaffirmed that they are one of the worst teams in the league. With that being said, however, it’d be foolish to overlook the Ravens impressive performance today.
Baltimore looked sharp on both sides of the ball and used a hot offensive start to propel themselves to a dominant showing. They continued to apply pressure in the second half and coasted to a wire-to-wire victory.
The Ravens set a new franchise record for first-half points (42), total points (59) and offensive yardage (643). Not a bad season opener.
To the takeaways machine we go.
1) Lamar Jackson CAN throw and is NOT a running back
All eyes were on quarterback Lamar Jackson Sunday afternoon and playing in front of friends and family, “LJ” did not disappoint. Albeit he was matched up against a largely talent-deprived defensive unit, Lamar Jackson’s showing in Week 1 is a great first step in silencing the “he can’t throw” critics. Jackson played the role of pocket passer and did so quite well, as he rushed only three times - one of which was a broken play. In the first half alone, Jackson completed 10/11 pass attempts for 210 yards and four touchdowns.
He delivered touchdown passes to Marquise Brown (x2), Willie Snead IV, Miles Boykin, and Pat Ricard, while also completing attempts to each of his tight ends. Jackson and Mark Andrews showcased their chemistry in the second half, connecting for multiple passes. After a strong two drives in the third quarter, Jackson finished the day with a whopping five touchdown passes and 324 yards, all while completing 17/20 throws.
2) Concerns over Marquise Brown should be alleviated
Speaking of Brown, the first-round pick demonstrated exactly why they call him “Hollywood”. After a long offseason full of rehab, recovery, and spotty practice participation, Brown was involved early and often on Sunday. On the first play of the team’s second drive, Brown caught a slant pass and took off to the races, sprinting 47 yards for a touchdown. Just a few offensive snaps later, Brown caught an 83-yard bomb from Jackson and outran a Dolphins defender to find the endzone. He looked a bit gimpy getting back to the sidelines at one point, but given his lack of playing time during the offseason and the playing conditions at hand, that’s to be expected.
Brown’s final stat line: five targets, four catches, 147 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, “Hollywood” and Jackson seem to be on the same page and have a solid rapport, which was a question considering their lack of reps together over the summer.
3) New additions make an immediate impact
In addition to Brown, several other newcomers made their presence felt on Sunday, especially Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram - the team’s prized free agent signings. Ingram rushed for 51 yards on the very first play of the game and capped off the opening drive with a redzone score. He continued to run hard between the tackles all game and made the most of his 11 carries, finishing with 88 yards (8.0 YPC) and two touchdowns. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill were sprinkled in for a combined nine carries, but it was Ingram who spearheaded the team’s rushing attack.
Earl Thomas wasted no time creating turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. On the Ravens’ opening defensive possession, Thomas jumped a route to intercept a back-shoulder pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Thomas showcased his sideline-to-sideline range throughout the game and forced an incompletion, as well. Justin Bethel, another free agent signing, recovered a fumbled punt by Jakeem Grant and rookie WR Miles Boykin caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
4) Despite middling sack total, pass-rush shows promise
A big storyline entering the season was the team’s pass-rush, as there were questions as to where it would come from without Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Willie Henry. Baltimore Ravens recorded just three sacks on Sunday, but that number fails to represent the performance of the pass-rush overall. Baltimore’s defensive front was disruptive and active throughout the game and got after Ryan Fitzpatrick. Taking advantage of a makeshift Dolphins’ offensive line, the likes of Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, and others put forth strong performances. Judon was active early and sacked Josh Rosen in the fourth quarter, and McPhee recorded both a sack and two quarterback hits.
Tim Williams failed to finish off multiple sack opportunities but was aggressive in his pursuit off the line. Also aiding the pass-rush is the fact that both of the team’s starting linebackers are capable of getting after the quarterback. Patrick Onwuasor, who had 5.5 sacks last year, had a sack and two quarterback hit, and Kenny Young delivered a big hit on Fitzpatrick in the second quarter.
5) “Peanut” looks ready to carry the mantle at linebacker
Circling back to Onwuasor, the defensive signal-caller did far more than just rush the passer. “Peanut” was all over the field from start to finish, picking up right where he left off last season. In addition to a sack and two QB hits, Onuwasor led the team in tackles (5), deflected a pass attempt, and recorded a TFL. He also forced an incompletion in the first quarter after rushing Fitzpatrick up the middle. Onwuasor has made massive strides since the beginning of last year and his impact on the team’s defensive success should not be overlooked. Much has been made over the loss of C.J. Mosley in free agency but with PO at the helm, it won’t be surprising if the defensive doesn’t miss a beat. After Week 1, it’s looking like that will be the case.
6) Revolutionary? Maybe not, but who cares?
Weeks ago, head coach John Harbaugh touted the Ravens’ new-look offense as one that would be “revolutionary” and change the way offense is played in the NFL. However, Harbaugh also added that the concepts Baltimore would use were not new but rather the way they utilized and implemented them would be unique. That’s essentially what we saw on Sunday. We didn’t see much of the actual playbook in the preseason, so anticipation surrounding what the offense would look like was high heading into Week 1. A combination of RPO’s, play action, and power run schemes, none of which were unique, propelled the Ravens to a 59-point explosion on the back of a career-best day from Lamar Jackson.
Needless to say the early returns on Greg Roman’s redesigned scheme are positive. Maybe the Ravens’ offense won’t “change the way offense is played”, but so what? If Roman is getting the best out of his quarterback, playmakers, and offensive line, and the offensive is successful, that’s all that matters. So far, so good.
7) Secondary takes another blow but should be fine
Touted as the best secondary in the league and for good reason, the Ravens have now seen two starting cornerbacks suffer injuries in the past several weeks. Nickel corner Tavon Young is out for the season and in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, veteran Jimmy Smith suffered a knee injury. The severity of Smith’s injury is unclear for now but it certainly didn’t look great and held him out of the rest of the game. In his absence, Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr continued to hold things down, while second-year man Anthony Averett saw an uptick in snaps.
Averett held his own for the most part but gave up a couple receptions. If Smith is forced to miss an extended period of time, the likes of Averett, Cyrus Jones, and Justin Bethel will be relied upon to step up. Luckily, the team has Earl Thomas roaming in the defensive backfield, which will certainly help compensate for the loss of cornerback talent.