The Baltimore Ravens traveled to East Rutherford on a rainy Sunday to kick off their 2022 regular season against the New York Jets. Baltimore had a slow start offensively, but came to life in the second and third quarter. Defensively, Mike Macdonald’s NFL debut as the Ravens defensive coordinator couldn’t have gone much better. Macdonald’s defensive front harassed Jets quarterback Joe Flacco from start to finish. The Ravens defense didn’t allow the Jets to convert a single third down conversion in the first half, and the Jets didn’t convert one (aside from a Brandon Stephens penalty that negated a sack) until midway through the 4th quarter. Let’s dig a little deeper . . .
What We Learned Offensively
The Ravens only called three pass plays from 11 personnel, the lowest in the league in Week 1. Conversely, they had the second most passing plays with two tight ends on the field (17) and saw Lamar Jackson complete only 6/16 attempts. Jackson did throw a remarkable 25-yard touchdown strike to Devin Duvernay, as well as gains of 15 and 17 to Mark Andrews late in the game from two tight end personnel.
The Ravens protection held up well enough against a formidable Jets defensive front and Lamar Jackson navigated the pocket well. Rookie first-round pick Tyler Linderbaum lost ground in a few one-on-one reps, but ultimately had a solid game, particularly on the ground. He put both a linebacker and safety in the dirt, looked as athletic as any Ravens offensive lineman over the last five years on a screen, and generally maximized his skillset as well as one could ask from an undersized rookie center in their NFL debut.
TYLER LINDERBAUM SERVIN UP SOME FLAP JACKS pic.twitter.com/fesXdfpnYq— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 14, 2022
Under center PA slip screen with Tyler Linderbaum sealing off the perimeter? Yup. pic.twitter.com/G9l8Mwp2Ul— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 14, 2022
The Ravens run game started to work late after struggling to generate much push up front. Baltimore had one of their most ineffective rushing performances in the four years that Greg Roman has been their offensive coordinator. They elected to run the ball without threatening Lamar Jackson’s legs frequently. Later in the game they started to develop some rhythm against a stout Jets front by gaining numbers advantages.
The beauty of counter.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 14, 2022
The Ravens get two double teams with a puller to account for only four defenders.
Easy gain. pic.twitter.com/Tx87qlhBxp
We also learned that the Ravens are, in all likelihood, going to run more under center offensive plays than they have in any of Roman or Jackson’s iterations thus far. On Sunday they ran three pass plays and nine run plays from under center. For reference, Baltimore has only thrown the ball (excluding goal to go) 32 times over the last three seasons from under center. The Ravens used zone runs and bootleg play actions off of it, a welcome sight to becoming a more well rounded and diversified offensive attack.
Easy boot completions like this are a welcome sight in Baltimore’s passing offense. Establishes some rhythm, works the defense laterally and sets up the run game.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 14, 2022
Baltimore ran 11 plays from under center Sunday. For reference, 32 such passes since 2019.
Four Sunday. pic.twitter.com/iZ4a0oJ6Gq
We also learned that the Ravens are going to rely on Devin Duvernay in heavy doses. Duvernay doubled his career receiving touchdown total Sunday, hauling in a pair of impressive grabs in the end zone. According to Next Gen Stats, Duvernay had only 0.11 yards of separation on the first, the lowest of any touchdown in the last four seasons.
Lamar Jackson & Devin Duvernay (25-yd TD)— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 11, 2022
Air Distance: 43.9 yds
Target Separation: 0.1 yds
Completion Probability: 33.0%
Duvernay had 0.1 yards of separation from Bryce Hall, the smallest separation on a TD pass over the last four seasons.#BALvsNYJ | #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/rmmtKa2mg5
This was only the second catchable target Devin Duvernay has seen over 20 air yards downfield in his career, and he made the most of it. The former University of Texas All-American was rewarded with another touchdown two possessions later on a fun red zone concept that sucked up the Jets weak-side secondary.
Such good pocket presence from Lamar. Keeps throw ready, eyes up field, floats it overtop perfectly.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 14, 2022
Looks like a mesh to the D, 1 and 2 sit at different levels. Trips that shows eye candy in front of backside defenders, who trigger. Duvernay cruises.
Fun red zone play! pic.twitter.com/LabjJMQaO7
What We Learned Defensively
Macdonald showed us that he’s still going to bring pressure, blitzing Flacco 12 times, two of which resulted in sacks. 17 different defenders rushed the passer Sunday, with 11 rushing the passer at least four times, including Marlon Humphrey. However, Macdonald was a bit more obvious with his fronts on third downs. He used wide alignments for four man fronts that included some wide-9 technique and wide 5-techs as well as Patrick Queen often mugging, who rushed the passer a career-high 13 times.
Here are looks at the Ravens defensive front on the first 10 third downs.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 13, 2022
Jets went 0/6 in the first half and didn’t convert one until an illegal contact on 3-9 mid way through the 3Q.
Wide, four man alignments with some mugging. pic.twitter.com/lVvgzEGC2H
Macdonald also deployed a heavy dosage of split safety/middle of the field open coverages, combining for 22 snaps of cover-2, man-2, cover-4 and cover-6. Flacco went 13/22 for 100 yards with an interception against split safety coverages per Sports Info Solutions.
We also learned that the Ravens new-look defensive line has dominant potential. The Ravens front manhandled Jets blockers and ball-carriers alike, pressured Flacco 21 times (the third most of any team this week) and hit him 10 times. Justin Madubuike, Justin Houston and Michael Pierce were dominant as both pass rushers and run defenders. The four man fronts included Madubuike being aligned as far wise as a 5-technique, allowing him to use his versatility and unique physical skillset all over the front.
One of my breakout candidates for 2022 was Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 14, 2022
Madubuike was dominant against the Jets in Week 1 and finished with 5 combined tackles, a TFL and half a sack. pic.twitter.com/BnvKJLha1y
Patrick Queen also turned in a solid performance, generating four pressures, a half-sack, while also making several big-time tackles in space.
For the second time this drive, Flacco wants to attack Queen with Hall. Queen stays patient and gets in Hall’s hip pocket once he decides.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 13, 2022
Flacco forced to throw the ball away. https://t.co/3FBUQzAfE1 pic.twitter.com/cPP7ljej49
Love to see the way Queen protected the cutback lane while being explosive in pursuit. You can see him maintain inside leverage that allowed him to make the play in space.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 13, 2022
Made quite a few plays in space Sunday. pic.twitter.com/aPg8t4kWxV
Overall, Macdonald’s defense looked to create pressure through any means possible while playing conservatively on the back end. The Ravens were clear and concise when dealing with switch releases from receivers, they tackles well, and generally were more physical than the Jets. Rookie Kyle Hamilton ended up playing the majority of the second half as the Ravens shifted into a strong percentage of dime looks with a two and three score lead.
Malik Harrison ended up aligning as an outside linebacker on over 20 snaps, proving to be a strong edge setting run defender who can crash from the back side to end plays. Harrison has a very similar physical profile to Tyus Bowser and will likely continue to receive significant snaps until Bowser returns from injury. Harrison was physical and imposed his will on blockers regularly, while making a few plays in space underneath.
Marcus Williams looked as good as advertised. He was as true air traffic controller on the back end, often arriving at the catch point suddenly and violently. He broke on a ball that resulted in him notching his first interception as a Raven and returned the ball to the Jets 13 yard line. He also tackled consistently well and ended plays. Paired with the consistently impressive Chuck Clark and the dynamic Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore proudly boasts the presence of three talented veteran defenders on the back end despite experiencing growing pains at times with Kyle Hamilton and Brandon Stephens.
With the Dolphins coming to town, Baltimore will have to prove that they’re a formidable group against a more capable passer and the gamebreaking speed of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. With Miami’s offensive line ailing with injuries and ineptitude aside from Tyron Armstead (who is also nursing an injury), their defensive line could be in line for another dominant performance.