“We would have been negligent if we hadn’t worked on it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. “It’s something we needed to get a lot better at. We’ve studied it the whole offseason. We’ll have a plan for it and hope it works. These guys are probably the best in the league at doing it right now. They do it more than anybody, they do it better than anybody. It’s something they’re committed to. I have all the respect in the world for what they’re doing defensively.”
Last November, though, the Ravens were caught “off guard,” according to Jackson, by Miami’s aggressive approach. The Dolphins sent at least five rushers on more than half of Jackson’s dropbacks, according to TruMedia. Miami safeties Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones combined to blitz 38 times. Overall, the Dolphins blitzed a defensive back on 24 of Jackson’s 48 dropbacks, the most defensive back blitzes for any team since Next Gen Stats started tracking such things in 2016.
“We hadn’t really gone over defenses doing all-up Zero against us, like, just all-up, flat-out Zero,” Jackson said Wednesday. “But I feel like we’ll have an answer for it this year. We watched a lot of film on those guys, because we don’t want it to happen again.”
“Other teams did (Cover) Zero, but it was just the way they did it that kind of affected us,” Jackson said.
As NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner put it during a film review in his “QBConfidential” series, “Not being able to handle Blitz Zero cost (the Ravens) this game.” It certainly led to an avalanche of criticism for offensive coordinator Greg Roman, whose game plan will be scrutinized Sunday probably even more than usual.
Dolphins passing game vs. Ravens pass defense
There aren’t many players more divisive than Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who played efficiently (23 of 33, 270 yards, 1 touchdown) in the Dolphins’ 20-7 opening win over the New England Patriots. New coach Mike McDaniel seems determined to play to Tagovailoa’s strengths, asking him to connect with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on timing routes that can turn into bigger plays. He was 10th in air yards per attempt in Week 1 after ranking 29th last season.
Hill, the former Kansas City Chiefs star who caught eight passes on 12 targets in his Miami debut after the Dolphins traded for him in the offseason, remains one of the most dynamic playmakers in football. Waddle caught 104 passes on 140 targets as a rookie in 2021, and though he averaged just 9.8 yards per catch, he punished the Patriots with a 42-yard touchdown in Week 1. Tagovailoa also likes to target Chase Edmonds out of the backfield. Miami could be without starting right tackle Austin Jackson (ankle), and left tackle Terron Armstead (toe) also missed practice Wednesday.
The team’s secondary depth took a hit when veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller tore his ACL late in the game, but the Ravens could fill that hole and then some if former All-Pro Marcus Peters (knee) returns against Miami. Second-year cornerback Brandon Stephens will also be asked to do more. Regardless of who plays, the Ravens’ defensive backs and linebacker Patrick Queen, who played every down against the Jets, will have their hands full with Hill and Waddle.
Patrick Queen’s Year 3 Starts Impressively - Clifton Brown
Now in his third season, everything seems to be coming together. Queen’s upward trend started last year after he moved from SAM to WILL linebacker playing next to veteran linebacker Josh Bynes. Queen started playing with more freedom and he took that up a notch in Week 1, diagnosing plays quickly and taking ballcarriers to the ground with solid tackling.
“He is very accurate, and he can run the ball, too,” Queen said. “Dealing with a dual-threat quarterback, everybody has got to be on their keys, everybody has got to be doing their responsibilities. People in the media try to say he’s not a good quarterback – this and that. Obviously, if you start for an NFL team, you’re a good quarterback. So, we’re just going in being prepared, trying to take away those reads.”
Week 2 NFL Picks Against the Spread - Sheil Kapadia
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
This feels like a game where we’re going to learn a lot about how different this Ravens offense is compared to last year’s version. In 2021, Lamar Jackson’s biggest issues came against the blitz and against man coverage—two areas in which the Dolphins specialize, and the Ravens got hammered by the Dolphins, 22-10, in Week 10 last year. In the 54 games that the Ravens have had Jackson as their starter, that 2021 offensive performance against Miami ranked 53rd in EPA per drive.
Of course, the Ravens defense held the Jets without a touchdown for 59 minutes last week. It’d be no surprise to see them give Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense plenty of problems. In what feels like it could potentially be a low-scoring, ugly game, I’m taking the points.
The pick: Dolphins (+3.5)
This is the game I’m most excited for on Sunday because I want to see where these teams go next. Both had similar openers, featuring lackluster running games, just enough big plays offensively and suffocating defenses. In terms of pass protection, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel has sprinkled his Shanahan dust on the offensive line, but it was a bad sign that Miami couldn’t run against a Patriots team mostly playing five defensive backs.
How Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ staff handle the Dolphins’ blitzes will be a great litmus test after these teams’ Week 10 meeting last season, when Miami exposed a hole in the Ravens’ passing game that wasn’t (presumably) plugged until the offseason. Baltimore tried more runs under center last week, without great success, but I’ll take Lamar over Tua Tagovailoa if both offenses are in one-dimensional, figuring-it-out mode.