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Ravens at Texans: Key Matchups

Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Following a 38-6 beatdown of the Browns, Baltimore aims to continue their fast start to the 2020 season against another potential AFC contender in Week 2.

A glance at the Texans depth chart shows a squad constructed to surround franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson with burners that suit his downfield game, The Ravens will counter with the most talented cornerback corps in the NFL. Houston’s defense is lacking in quality playmakers, they do not boast the pieces necessary to contain Lamar Jackson’s hyper efficient attack.

The Ravens possess the personnel to exploit several advantageous individual matchups, and follow up their 41-7 thumping of Houston last November with another blowout victory...

WR Marquise Brown vs CB Bradley Roby

‘Hollywood’, a prime second season breakout candidate, lived up to the hype against Cleveland with five receptions for 101 yards. His top end speed combined with nuanced route running and a rare ability to maintain velocity in-and-out of his breaks make Brown a tough assignment for any cornerback in the NFL.

Roby is the Texans top cover man. He did an admirable job shadowing Tyreek Hill for most of the Week 1 contest. But Hill, a player with a similar skillset as ‘Hollywood’, eventually scored a 4th quarter touchdown against Roby’s coverage.

New Texans defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, a former Ravens defensive lineman, kept his safeties deep last week in an effort to prevent big plays against the Chiefs, which allowed Travis Kelce to dominate. However, against a less fearsome stable of wideouts, Weaver may deploy a gameplan designed to limit the Ravens own elite tight end Mark Andrews, which would in turn enable Marquise to continue his ascendent season.

LB Matthew Judon vs RT Tytus Howard

Judon produced one of the best game of his career against Watson’s Texans last season. His stat line included two sacks, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble. Judon is poised to improve upon his relatively quiet single tackle for loss and quarterback hit in the opener versus Houston’s porous blocking unit

Watson’s propensity to hold the ball waiting for receivers to uncover downfield is partly to blame for the Texans annual struggle to keep their quarterback clean. Although Laremy Tunsil has brought stability to the blindside, the Chiefs hit Watson seven times and brought him to the turf for four sacks in Week 1.

Howard, a first round selection in the 2019 draft, may struggle particularly with Judon’s bull rush, as well as coordinator Martindale’s deceptive pressure packages. Houston will have trouble keeping pace with Baltimore if Judon can create one of the possession changing plays that earned him the franchise tag.

RB J.K. Dobbins vs MLB Benardrick McKinney

McKinney has been the backbone of Houston’s traditionally stout run stopping unit. A former Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro, he has amassed 500 tackles in 74 career starts. Yet after losing disruptive nose tackle D.J. Reader to the Bengals in free agency, the Texans allowed 138 rushing yards with a 5.5 yard average to rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire last Thursday.

The Ravens lost an impact trench warrior of their own when Marshal Yanda retired. His absence was felt in Week 1 as the team collected their lowest rushing yardage total of the Jackson era. Their 3.7 yards per carry average currently ranks 10th worst, a far cry from the record smashing ground game that has prevailed since Lamar became the starter on November 18th, 2018.

Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards will share the workload with Dobbins. The elusive rookie could soon earn a featured role in coordinator Roman’s system considering the interior blocking downgrade. Baltimore’s offense should be able to move the ball through the air regardless of their rushing success, but breaking tackles at the second level could be the difference between a carefree second half and a meaningful fourth quarter.

S Chuck Clark vs TE Jordan Akins

General Manager Eric DeCosta has assembled a roster with top shelf talent at nearly all of the most valuable positions. Yet the safety spot will be targeted by opportunistic offenses.

Clark has been a revelation as the defensive signal caller and fared well when matched up on tight ends in 2019. Still, the departure of malcontent Pro Bowler Earl Thomas should not be overlooked. As evidenced by the Ravens struggles against tight ends in 2018, Martindale’s defense has been susceptible to damage from tight ends. Without the presence of Thomas patrolling the middle of the field, cracks could possibly emerge.

Akins, a talented third year player, can serve as an outlet value for Watson. He converted first downs on 58-percent of his receptions last season and secured a 19-yard touchdown last week. With Clark, first-year starter DeShon Elliott and their rangy rookie linebackers, Baltimore is certainly capable of eliminating Akins. Nonetheless, Houston will need contributions from role players such as Akins to prevail over the Ravens attacking defense.

Prediction

The Texans clearly possess some top shelf talent. J.J. Watt owns the technique to best Orlando Brown Jr., Laremy Tunsil packs the skills to stymie Calais Campbell, Will Fuller brings the speed to get behind Marlon Humphrey and David Johnson will challenge the Ravens linebackers.

Ultimately, the franchise quarterbacks will decide the outcome. On one side of the ball, Deshaun will face a scheme tailor made to confuse and harass indecisive quarterbacks without his former go-to target DeAndre Hopkins. On the other side, Lamar has several avenues to pick apart a vulnerable Houston defense.

Baltimore will cruise to a 2-0 start and begin preparations for their primetime showdown with Kansas City.

Ravens 34, Texans 13