The Ravens kicked off their highly-anticipated regular season against the Browns on Sunday, and to say they got off a strong start might an understatement.
Much like their season opener in 2019 against the Dolphins, the Ravens clicked on both sides of the ball early and often. After settling into a comfort zone, Baltimore began rolling and never looked back — propelling themselves to a 32-point victory over a division rival.
Here’s a breakdown of some key takeaways from the impressive showing.
1) In case you forgot, Lamar Jackson is pretty good
If you thought Lamar Jackson might be due for regression after an electric sophomore campaign in 2019, his showing in Week 1 will not help your cause.
Jackson picked up right where he left off last season and put forth one of the best passing performances of his young career. He picked apart a short-handed Browns’ defense with surgicial precision, completing 20/25 throws for 275 yards and three touchdown passes.
He came up just shy of finishing with a perfect passer rating (152.1), which would have marked the second consecutive season-opener that he accomplished that feat. Still, it was a near-perfect showing from Jackson, who also led the team in rushing with 45 yards.
Jackson orchestrated a 10-play, 99-yard scoring drive in just under six minutes of play towards the end of the second quarter. On that drive, Jackson ripped off consecutive compeltions of 9 yards to Pat Ricard, 25 yards to Miles Boykin, 21 yards to Marquise Brown, and capped it off with a 16-yard touchdown connection with Willie Snead IV.
His most impressive throw of the day, though, was a 47-yard hookup with Brown that came on the drive prior.
2) Newcomers off to a strong start
On the first possession of the game, DE Calais Campbell made his presence felt immediately on back-to-back plays. Campbell knocked down a pass from Baker Mayfield pass at the line of scrimmage and on the following play, Campbell got his hands on another throw that was promptly intercepted by Marlon Humphrey.
Campbell was just one of several newcomers on the roster who made a strong impression in their Baltimore debut.
Rookie linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison each drew the start in their first professional games and had a positive impact. Queen led the Ravens in tackles with eight and recorded both a TFL and sack. He also stripped RB Nick Chubb for a forced fumble at the end of the third quarter. Harrison looked spry himself and made a key pass breakup in coverage on Odell Beckham Jr., which nearly resulted in a interception.
On offense, J.K. Dobbins only rushed for 22 yards on seven carries but looked decisive as a runner, scoring twice in the red zone. Fellow rookie WR Devin Duvernay turned a bubble screen into a 12-yard gain on the team’s first offensive possession and also worked as the primary kick returner, returning two kicks for 64 yards.
Along with Derek Wolfe and Tyre Phillips, the Ravens appear to be in good shape as it relates to their rookie class and free agent signings.
3) Encouraging signs from the run defense
Last year, maybe the biggest weakness on this Ravens’ team was their run defense, especially in defending outside-run and zone scheme concepts. This weakness was apparent in the Week 4 meeting against the Browns, when Chubb gashed Baltimore for 165 yards and three scores.
It’s precisely why the Ravens made a concentrated effort to improve their run defense in the offseason by adding players like Campbell, Wolfe, Harrison, and Queen. The early returns after Week 1 are mixed but there’s reason to be encouraged.
Cleveland got off to a strong start on the ground, rushing for 69 yards in the first quarter highlighted by a 22-yard scamper from Kareem Hunt and a 29-yard rush from Chubb on the same drive — which set up the Browns first and only touchdown of the game.
On the next two drives to end the first half, though, the Ravens battended down the hatches and held the Browns to just 14 rushing yards on six carries. They prevented the Browns from settling further into a comfort zone and gaining momentum.
The box score would suggest the Browns had their way on the ground overall, rushing for 138 yards as a team with a YPC average of 5.1. However, after the first quarter, the Ravens clamped down and Cleveland found minimal rushing success until late in the final frame of play, at which point the game was already out of reach.
The Ravens’ run defense was far from perfect and while there’s clearly room for improvement, their ability to respond in Week 1 was encouraging.
4) Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, 1-2 punch
Baltimore’s receiving corps has been billed as one of the weakest in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. They opted not to add a receiver early in the draft nor did they sign anyone in free agency, instead banking on their young talent taking a step forward.
If Week 1 is an indication of how the regular season may unfold, the organization’s confidence in their in-house receiving options could prove to be well-warranted.
Marquise Brown’s much-anticipated sophomore campaign got off to a strong start. The speedster caught five of six targets for 101 total yards, gashing the Browns’ defense for receptions of 47 yards, 25 yards, 21 yards, and 16 yards.
Brown appears destined for a star-studded season, and his growth in Year 2 should align perfectly with continued dominance from TE Mark Andrews.
Andrews shouldered the bulk of the receiving load in 2019 as Jackson’s go-to target, and the two’s chemistry already appears to be in midseason form. Like Brown, Andrews coralled all but one his targets for 58 yards and two touchdown receptions — the first of which was a wildly impressive one-handed grab in the first quarter.
Just how far these two can ascend should go a long way in determining the ceiling of this Ravens’ offense. It doesn’t hurt to get consistent contributions from other targets like Willie Snead IV (64 yards, 1 TD) and Miles Boykin (3 catches, 37 yards), too.