It was an eventful morning for Ravens fans, when Friday’s news that the team and Lamar Jackson wouldn’t reach a contract agreement was brought further context when they found out what the young QB left on the table. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen put out a thread of tweets that explained the situation.
Sources: Lamar Jackson rejected a Ravens' 6-yr contract offer with $133 million fully guaranteed at signing, which is more than Russell Wilson ($124 million) and Kyler Murray ($103.3 million) but well short of the $230 million fully guaranteed deal that Deshaun Watson got.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 11, 2022
Confirmation of Jackson’s desire to receive a fully guaranteed contract in the neighborhood of what Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was (ridiculously) rewarded is that surprising, but it does show just how far apart he and the team still remain in negotiations. This put a bit of a damper on the proceedings of what’s always a fun day on the NFL calendar. Thankfully, it was ultimately wiped away with a workmanlike win by Baltimore.
There was a lot to take away from a victory that saw the debut of several free agents, draftees, and a new coordinator, so let’s jump into it shall we? The first thing to look at (perhaps predictably) is related to the news that came out prior to kickoff:
Despite contract standoff, Lamar Jackson looks locked in
Following a few stalled drives and a frustrating first quarter, it was fair to wonder where exactly Jackson’s head was at in the aftermath of highly publicized and ultimately unsuccessful contract talks. But he settled into a rhythm in the second half and it’s good for Baltimore that he did.
Their offense wasn’t able to get much going at all. When they finally did, everything seemed to happen through their young quarterback. He broke things open with a beautiful back shoulder throw to Devin Duvernay for the game’s first touchdown, followed it up with a second touchdown to Duvernay (in which he did his best Matthew Stafford impression on a no-look pass). Jackson iced the game on a deep shot to Rashod Bateman.
Was this a no look TD pass by Lamar?! If Mahomes did this…. pic.twitter.com/id2rTGbW8f— Banks (@BarstoolBanks) September 11, 2022
Kenyan Drake led the way with 31 yards on the ground, most of which came in the second half when the Ravens passing attack started to threaten the deep and intermediate parts of New York’s defense. Jackson was second in rushing for the Ravens with 17 yards on eight totes of the rock, and had a few highlight reel plays in that category as well:
He might not be locked down to a long-term deal yet, but one thing is for certain. Lamar Jackson, the MVP caliber player, is still very much going to be in the picture for Baltimore this season.
A much-maligned receiving corps looks ready to roll
It’s been a talking point since Baltimore shipped Marquise “Hollywood” Brown out of town and opted not to replace him: that their lack of investment at wide receiver this offseason (and general apathy towards the position as an organization) would cost them. But after one game, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta’s calculated gamble on young, unproven wideouts is paying off.
The Jets went out of their way to contain Baltimore’s de facto number one option in the passing game, tight end Mark Andrews, who’s five catches for 52 yards was fairly respectable. It’s what happened in his wake (as well as the Jets keying on Baltimore’s run game) that looks encouraging.
Duvernay beat one-on-one coverage for each of his two scores. Bateman broke the game open with his long touchdown. These are the two guys the Ravens need to step up and take advantage of the opportunity this year presents for them. So far, so good.
Additionally, tight end Isaiah Likely saw a few targets and Demarcus Robinson hauled in a few passes as well. First game jitters seemed to get the best of the former, but Robinson looked every bit the competent rotational veteran Baltimore needed. All told, things look just fine with this group after one week.
The Mike Macdonald era is off to a hot start
Patrick Queen shot out of a cannon. Justin Madubuike looking unblockable. Marcus Williams sitting in a short zone and picking Joe Flacco off turned the tides of the game.
It hasn’t been talked about much nationally, but Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald has assumed the reins of this defense at the ripe age of 34; it wouldn’t be a stretch to think some growing pains are to be expected. While that still may be the case this season, everything went according to plan in Week 1, with the Ravens defense racking up three sacks, and 11 QB hits on Flacco all told.
Much has been made from his players about how much Macdonald simplifies things, and makes the “why” of it all very clear. They looked like a unit very much in sync to that point, and some of that credit is assuredly owed to Macdonald.
Ravens will need to emphasize urgency moving forward
Today’s takeaways are mostly positive, but Baltimore would be wise not to overlook a key deficiency in their offensive execution, and to be honest, overall approach. Too often over the last few years, we’ve seen Baltimore’s offense chew up the play clock by making substitutions, getting in a potentially long play call, and getting set at the line with just a few seconds left to go before they need to snap the ball.
This has been a systemic issue with Roman’s offense since at least 2020, and while it can be executed at times, it’s put them well behind the eight ball much too often. In a modern NFL that relies upon reading a defense and making checks to take advantage of what you see, pot committing to one call and only giving yourself a few seconds to properly execute it in the first place isn’t going to get it done.
Overall, this bled through into their start to the game which was plagued by mistakes on offense, and left them with just three points to show in the first quarter. That will work just fine against a rudderless operation like the Jets, but is something that will need to be ironed out moving forward.