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Ravens News 9/18: Andrews unleashed and more

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

2020 NFL Week 1 stats and nuggets you might have missed - Bill Barnwell

Mark Andrews’ usage was way up

If you watched any highlights of the weekend’s action, you probably saw the Ravens tight end’s spectacular touchdown catch to open the scoring of the early games on Sunday. Andrews was the second-most productive fantasy football tight end in 2019, racking up 852 yards and 10 touchdowns in 15 games.

The only thing holding him back from taking another step forward seemed to be his usage rate. Whether it was a tight end rotation, nagging injuries or concerns over his Type 1 diabetes, the Ravens seemed hesitant to use Andrews on a full-time basis. The 2018 third-rounder didn’t play more than 55% of the offensive snaps in any game across his first two seasons. Travis Kelce, for comparison, played 95% of the offensive snaps for the Chiefs in 2018 and 92% last season.

In Week 1, though, Baltimore finally unleashed Andrews. He played a career-high 71% of the offensive snaps against the Browns despite the fact that the game had turned into a blowout by halftime. If we take out the fourth quarter, when Andrews mostly sat as the Ravens held a huge lead, the 25-year-old set a career high for snaps (36) and tied the second-most routes (21) he has run as a pro. If Andrews is going to play this frequently, it dramatically raises his ceiling and allows him to compete with Kelce and George Kittle as the NFL’s most productive tight end.

As Baltimore Ravens’ defense confounds other QBs, Lamar Jackson says its complexities make him better - Aaron Kasinitz

“Going against our defense — you know that they’re doing the exciting things — they do different blitzes and stuff like that that have helped me out a lot,” Jackson said. “I always tell those guys I need stuff like that during practice and camp, just for when I go against other opponents, it’ll be a lot easier for me on the field.”

“I’d argue the thing that [Jackson] does best now [is] see and process,” ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback, wrote Thursday on Twitter. “His mind has gotten so fast he is seeing things develop before they do — aka ‘QB processing.’ Just so impressive to see in only Year 3.”

“Going against our defense in training camp really prepares you for just about everything,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “It’s really a blessing to be able to do that.”

“Practicing against Lamar helps us get better as well,” Martindale said. “He poses all different kinds of problems.”

NFL Week 2 Rookie Preview: Browns’ Jordan Elliott looks to cash in on TNF, Jets’ Mekhi Becton has his hands full against 49ers’ Nick Bosa - Michael Renner

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ HOUSTON TEXANS

For a team as loaded as the Ravens were last year, they’ll be counting on contributions from a surprising number of rookies this season. Right guard Tyre Phillips (40.7 overall grade) and linebacker Patrick Queen (45.9) are the only true full-time starters, but J.K. Dobbins (63.7) saw 23 snaps at running back, Broderick Washington Jr. (38.1) saw 28 snaps at defensive tackle and Malik Harrison (74.7) saw 22 snaps at linebacker.

NFL Week 2 game picks: Browns prevail; Seahawks beat Pats - Gregg Rosenthal

Baltimore Ravens 34, Houston Texans 21

What did Bill O’Brien do to the NFL schedule makers in order to draw the Chiefs and Ravens out of the gate? While other defenses knock off the rust, Houston has to deal with young MVPs ready to expose the Texans’ oddly constructed group. Their expensive inside linebackers (Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney) won’t be able to cover Baltimore’s backs and tight ends, and it’s hard to imagine Houston’s pass rush getting to Lamar Jackson, who’s fresh off perhaps the best throwing day of his career. Yes, he’s getting better. Meanwhile, a Texans offensive line that made great strides in 2019 looked rough in the opener, with the Ravens’ complex blitzes the ultimate test for a group’s communication. This game won’t be 41-7 like last season, but it may not be close.

NFL Week 2 picks, odds: Patriots, Giants and Lions pull off major upsets, plus what we learned from Week 1 - Will Brinson

Ravens at Texans

Point spread: Ravens -7

Same deal here. The Texans are obviously much better, but it’s also clear Bill O’Brien wants to force-feed David Johnson and establish the run. That won’t work against a Baltimore team that looks ready to smash people all season long. Lamar Jackson has only gotten better as a passer and he’ll be able to move the ball against this defense, which stood no chance against the Chiefs in Week 1. Once they get up, the Ravens will lean hard on Houston’s front seven, and it might be too much to overcome. Wouldn’t be surprised by a J.K. Dobbins breakout game here.