The NFL season is officially here. The Baltimore Ravens will kick off their season against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. The two teams met twice last year. The Browns won the first game 40-25 behind 165 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Nick Chubb. The Ravens bounced back in their second meeting with a 31-15 victory. This time they were dominant on the ground with 243 total rushing yards, while holding the Browns to only 57 total rushing yards.
Over the offseason, the Browns added Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. to the offensive line and signed tight end Austin Hooper. They also lost linebackers Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey in free agency.
Here are five players to watch:
Elliott will presumably get the first start of his career on Sunday. He has been a standout in training camp in the past, but injuries have kept him off the field. As a result, he has only played 40 defensive snaps up to this point. Now with the release of Earl Thomas, Elliott will have the opportunity to take over the starting full safety role. Elliott has a lot of upside, and it will be fun to see him get real playing time.
It was somewhat surprising when the Ravens selected Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was one of the best running backs in his draft class, but his role is unclear with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill already on the roster. Last Tuesday, head coach John Harbaugh said the following about Dobbins: “I think he’s gonna definitely have a role and he’s definitely gonna have, probably a significant role.” However, Dobbins was listed as the fourth running back on the team’s first depth chart. To be fair, that depth chart was put together by the PR staff.
Because the depth chart put out by the PR staff means nothing. It's not even worth talking about to be honest.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) September 7, 2020
Nevertheless, Sunday’s game will be our first opportunity to see his workload within the offense.
The Browns struggle to stop the run. Last season, they gave up 2,315 rushing yards to opposing offenses, which was the third-worst mark in the NFL. This makes the Ravens, and in particular, Lamar Jackson, a nightmare matchup for their defense. In their last meeting, Jackson carried the ball 17 times for 103 yards. Jackson’s ability to run the football could break this game wide open.
Peters has 27 interceptions since he entered the league in 2015, which is more than any other player during that span. He is coming off another strong season with five interceptions and a league-leading three interception returns for touchdowns. Baker Mayfield threw 21 interceptions last season, which was the second highest mark in the NFL behind only Jameis Winston. I would not be surprised to see Peters start the season with another big play.
In addition, Peters and Marlon Humphrey will have the responsibility of covering Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. They did a great job in their last meeting holding the two wide receivers to 118 receiving yards combined.
The biggest difference between Baltimore’s win and loss last season was their run defense. As I previously stated, they allowed Nick Chubb to rush for 165 yards and three touchdowns in their first meeting. However, veteran run-stopper Brandon Williams missed that game due to injury, and linebacker L.J. Fort was signed the very next day. With both of those players on the field, the Ravens were able to hold Chubb to only 45 yards.
Nevertheless, it will be even harder for the Browns to run the football this Sunday due to the addition of Calais Campbell. Last season, Campbell was named PFF’s Run Defender of the Year and had the highest PFF run-defense grade among defensive lineman. He should continue to disrupt plays against the Browns. Campbell, Williams, and new acquisition Derek Wolfe have the potential to be dominant against the run.