NFL Week 1 takeaways: What we learned, big questions for every game and future team outlooks - Jamison Hensley
What to know: Lamar Jackson isn’t distracted by the lack of a contract extension. Jackson dominated like he usually does in a season opener, throwing three touchdowns and one interception. He played loose, looking off his favorite target, Mark Andrews, over the middle and finding Devin Duvernay 25 yards downfield in the end zone. Jackson then stepped up for a 55-yard touchdown strike to Rashod Bateman (his first on a pass that traveled at least 50 yards in the air). It was the type of performance that the Ravens desperately needed for an offense that is without its top two left tackles (Ronnie Stanley and Ja’Wuan James) and top running back (J.K. Dobbins).
Can the Ravens maintain this relentless pressure on quarterbacks all season? After hearing all offseason how pass rush was the biggest question mark (Baltimore ranked 22nd in sacks last season), the Ravens recorded three sacks (another was negated by a penalty) and nine quarterback hits in their reunion with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. Justin Houston continually crashed the edge, and Justin Madubuike collapsed the pocket from the middle. The Ravens, though, wreaked havoc against a Jets offensive line dealing with injuries. Baltimore still has something to prove Week 2 against Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was sacked three times against the Patriots in the opener.
Lamar Jackson can still sling it. Betting on himself this season after contract negotiations stalled, Jackson injected some life into a sluggish Ravens offense with his arm. Even as his receivers let him down a few times, Jackson remained patient and got the passing game humming against an improved Jets defense. Devin Duvernay, who had two career touchdown catches coming into the game, had two scores on Sunday — from 17 and 25 yards. Then Rashod Bateman, who had an ugly drop earlier, dusted the Jets secondary to haul in a 55-yard dime from Jackson. Up three scores in the fourth quarter, the Ravens kept throwing. It’s a clear indication that’s the most trusted element of their offense right now.
Ravens run game sluggish. Jackson was the Ravens’ leading rusher at halftime — with 4 yards on one carry. The team accumulated only 8 first-half rushing yards, the fewest in the Jackson era. He rarely left the pocket early, limiting Jackson’s scrambling possibilities. But it also speaks to the struggles of the running backs, who combined for 46 rushing yards on 15 carries, with a long run of 10. Mike Davis also almost coughed up a ball late in the third quarter, with the Jets still within striking distance. It also didn’t help that oft-injured Ja’Wuan James — Ronnie Stanley’s replacement at left tackle — went down early in the game. The Ravens were limited with RB J.K. Dobbins inactive, as Davis, Justice Hill and Kenyan Drake had trouble finding daylight. Baltimore has ranked third, first, first and second in the NFL in rushing yards since drafting Jackson, and he’s clearly been a big part of that.
There were a lot of questions about this group coming into the season and the win over the Jets didn’t answer many of them. Rookie center Tyler Linderbaum had a solid first game, especially snapping in the shotgun formation, but he didn’t get much movement at the point of attack. The same can be said about tackles Ja’Wuan James, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the second quarter, Morgan Moses and Patrick Mekari. The running game is the bread and butter of this offense, which means the Ravens have to start knocking defenders off the ball. Grade: C
The Ravens came out slow and the tackling was not crisp, but it got better as the game went on. They mixed and matched a lot of coverages, which confused New York quite a bit. Baltimore seems to have found a good center field-type safety in Marcus Williams, who led the team in tackles with 12 and also intercepted a pass. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is better playing inside than outside because he is physical and one of the better tacklers on the team. Humphrey had seven tackles. Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton, however, needs to improve his tackling. Grade: B
NFL Week 1 grades: Trey Lance and 49ers get a ‘D’ after upset loss, Dolphins get an ‘A’ for thrashing Patriots - John Breech
If Lamar Jackson is bothered by the fact that he didn’t get a new contract, he definitely didn’t show it against the Jets. Although he got off to a slow start in the first quarter, he threw three touchdowns over the final three quarters of Baltimore’s blowout win. Offensively, the Ravens weren’t great — they had a nonexistent ground game — but players like Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay (54 receiving yards, two touchdowns) came up with big plays when the Ravens need them most.
Devin Duvernay Flourishes in Bigger Role - Clifton Brown
Sunday was a strong opening statement. He scored the Ravens’ first touchdown when they were struggling offensively, beating Bryce Hall for a 25-yard reception late in the first half. It was one-on-one, Duvernay against Hall, and the third-year wide receiver won the battle. Duvernay made a nice release off the line of scrimmage, then outfought Hall to make a leaping catch despite contact and tight coverage. Lamar Jackson made an outstanding throw, and Duvernay rewarded him with a superb catch.
“It felt good to get in the game mode, get things going, show the work I’ve put in this offseason and training camp,” Duvernay said. “I just went up and tried to make a play. We’ve been doing it all camp. It feels good to put into play in a game.”
Duvernay wasn’t done. His second touchdown catch went for 17 yards on a crossing pattern after he kept himself alive while Jackson was under duress. Feeling pressure from his blind side, Jackson calmly stepped up in the pocket and saw Duvernay break free. Jackson hit Duvernay in stride, the kind of red zone connection that required both players to adjust.