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Ravens News 9/9: Repeating 2019’s magic and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Power Rankings, Week 1: Chiefs, 49ers on top at kickoff - Dan Hanzus

3. Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson said last week he’s fully recovered from a groin injury and will be ready to go in Week 1 against the Browns. Good news for Baltimore, bad news for Cleveland, but we remain interested to see how the Ravens plan to deploy Jackson as a playmaker after 2019’s record-setting MVP performance. The Ravens have an embarrassment of riches in their rushing game, with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and promising rookie J.K. Dobbins. Citing that depth as a reason to turn Jackson into a pocket passer would be comically stupid, but there may be logic in dialing down the designed QB runs in an effort to increase the chances of having a healthy Jackson for 16 games and beyond.

The 16 Biggest Story Lines for the 2020 NFL Season - Danny Heifetz

15. The Ravens will try to repeat their 2019 magic—and overcome their heartbreak

Last summer, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh compared the offense they were about to unveil with Lamar Jackson to Apple introducing the iPhone. He wasn’t as far off as that hubris-filled statement would suggest. Baltimore rushed 3,296 yards and 5.5 yards per carry, which were both NFL records, and Baltimore secured the no. 1 seed in the conference with a 14-2 record. Jackson was the youngest MVP in league history and landed on the cover of Madden. Yet when the no. 1-seed Ravens played the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round, Baltimore sank. The Ravens fell 28-12 in a game that was never truly close. Baltimore returns most of its 2019 squad except for future Hall of Fame right guard Marshal Yanda, who retired, and safety Earl Thomas, who was released.

News & Notes: Browns Will Test Ravens’ New Look Run Defense - Clifton Brown

With Chubb and teammate Kareem Hunt in the backfield, the Browns’ running back tandem as good as any the Ravens will face all season. It’s a good way to find out where Baltimore’s run defense stands after the makeover.

“That’s [Browns Head Coach Kevin] Stefanski’s bread and butter, going all the way back in that system that he’s been a part of,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He talks about how important it is, and you can see it in the offenses that he’s coached in the past. So, yes. It’s going to be a big part of what we do, and we’re about to find out, because we’re going to play a really good running team on Sunday.”

Led by Campbell, Wolfe and Brandon Williams up front, the Ravens believe they can have the league’s best run defense. That’s a lofty goal, but they have the talent to back it up. Campbell and Williams are Pro Bowl players, and Wolfe won a Super Bowl as part of a dominant defense with the Denver Broncos. Add the quickness of Queen and the physicality of Harrison, and the Ravens’ defense is more athletic and faster than last year’s edition.

It all looks good on paper, but the Ravens are eager to see their new defense on the field. They’ll start getting answers on Sunday.

“You never know until you play the games,” Harbaugh said. “That’s why the games are played. That’s the comparison that is real. Everything else is just speculation. But I’m encouraged. We have good players. They practice really hard. We go at it really hard in practice. It’s not like we aren’t prepared from a physical standpoint.”

Players to watch in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season - Ben Linsey


Ravens’ blitz vs. Browns’ offensive line

There is a strong case to be made that no team improved its offensive line as much as the Browns did this offseason, adding Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills to replace Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard at tackle. Both are players who profile better as run blockers than they do as pass blockers, but it’s hard to imagine Cleveland gets worse in pass protection at those spots, even with Wills swapping sides from right tackle to left tackle. They’ll face a tough Week 1 test against Baltimore, which blitzed at by far the highest rate in the NFL last season (55.5%) while trusting its talented secondary to hold up on the back end.

Marquise Brown

There was talk about Baltimore adding another wide receiver this offseason, but there weren’t any prominent free-agent signings or draft selections that give any indication Brown isn’t the clear-cut No. 1 option at the position heading into 2020. Now healthy after battling some injuries as a rookie, there’s no reason to believe Brown can’t thrive in that role. Looking at all wide receivers with 50 or more targets in 2019, Brown’s 134.4 passer rating when targeted led the way — he was a big play waiting to happen in the league’s most efficient offense. He’ll likely see a lot of Denzel Ward in this matchup, which should be a good battle.