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Ravens News 9/16: Offensive Buzz Saw and more

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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The Ravens Offense Is Still a Buzz Saw

Discussions around Lamar Jackson’s outlook for this season have typically come with requisite caveats for expected impending regression. Jackson’s performance in 2019 was awesome, but it was also an incredible outlier—he not only set a record for QB rushing yards (1,206), but paced the league in both touchdown passes (36) and touchdown rate (9 percent), the latter of which, as history tells us, is almost sure to decline in 2020.

But as I wrote last week, the league has never really seen a quarterback quite like Jackson. And if his Week 1 performance told us anything, it’s that he’s the exact type of player who could set a new precedent. Jackson calmly picked apart a hapless Browns defense, completing 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three scores while compiling a near-perfect 152.1 passer rating. The reigning MVP notched a 12 percent touchdown rate in the team’s opener, for those keeping track at home, and his raw numbers don’t even tell the full story for just how in command he was all game. Jackson completed a career-best 9-of-10 passes for 180 yards on throws 10-plus yards downfield and coolly alternated between lofted touch passes and sidearm throws. He also added 45 yards on the ground on seven carries.

Jackson―and the Ravens offense at large―showed us that they’ve got a few new cards to play in 2020. The team’s top pass-catching duo in particular look ready for liftoff to a whole new stratosphere: After being limited to a 41 percent snap rate in 2019, tight end Mark Andrews played a more robust role in Week 1, reeling in five catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns―one of which was a spectacular one-handed grab on one of Jackson’s few errant throws. In this offense, which funnels so many targets to the middle of the field and to the tight end position, Andrews’s ceiling feels limitless. Meanwhile, second-year receiver Marquise Brown (who played in just half of the team’s snaps as a rookie) netted a five-catch, 101-yard line (all of which came in the first half), a clear signal that he’s ready to put his injury-shortened rookie season in the rearview and make a big leap in 2020.

All told, the Ravens’ offense looked just as good as, if not better than, the juggernaut group we saw last year. The main difference could be Jackson’s ongoing development as a passer. As NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal pointed out, Baltimore’s 107 yards on the ground represents the low mark of the Jackson era. The Ravens still scored 38 points.

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4. Patrick Queen

BALTIMORE RAVENS LB

Queen is an undersized linebacker that scurries across the field collecting tackles on his unsuspecting victims. The rookie recorded eight tackles, one sack and one forced fumble in his debut. The AFC North added Devin Bush last year and now Queen joins the fold. Your move, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

8. J.K. Dobbins

BALTIMORE RAVENS RB

Dobbins’ stats may not equal his contributions. He scored his first two touchdowns on just seven carries for 22 yards. The Ohio State product was given the ball in short-yardage situations, which hurts his yards per carry. It is clear that he is going to take on a large role in this offense with each passing week.

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The major concern involves rookie inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. Both have excellent speed and instincts, but what will happen when teams run directly at them?

Queen, who led the team in tackles Sunday with eight, including one sack, knows his technique can compensate for his lack of bulk and experience. Some of his tackles against the Browns were deep off the line of scrimmage. Queen said he still wants to work on “everything in my game.”

Offensively, the Ravens had problems with run-blocking in the interior of their offensive line. Center Matt Skura, coming off major knee surgery, didn’t play well, and rookie right guard Tyre Phillips struggled at times but turned in an overall good performance in his first NFL game. This could be a weak area for the team all season.

The Ravens also need second-year receiver Miles Boykin to improve. He had had three catches for 37 yards but dropped one pass near the goal line.

Overall, the Ravens put down a strong building block in the opener. It’s way too early to say that they can’t fix these problems, but in the playoffs, quality teams expose and exploit weaknesses.

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A high-octane offense must be countered with the “D” word from the defense: discipline.

“We’re going to really have to play a disciplined game,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “We weren’t disciplined enough on defense on Thursday night. We have to be more disciplined, and play a more disciplined game.”

On the offensive side of the ball, receiver Brandin Cooks said discipline will be paramount going against a talented Baltimore secondary.

“Those guys are playing at a high level,” Cooks said. “You’re talking about guys that are disciplined, play great team ball on that side of the ball, so we understand that we have to be disciplined as well, going against a secondary like that.”

Running back David Johnson described one of the things the Ravens’ front-seven does best.

“The difficult thing with Baltimore is they have so many different exotic fronts, and so many different blitzes,” Johnson said. “That’s what makes it tough to block against those guys. As long as we can figure out that, while we’re scouting against them, I think we’ll do alright in the run game.”