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Ravens News 9/14: Spread Struggles and more

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Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

5 things we learned from the Baltimore Ravens’ Week 1 win over the Houston Texans

Gordon McGuinness, PFF


Oweh has previously graded out better than he did in Week 1, but those were games where he had a small number of splash plays. His performance against the Texans was the most complete he has looked since entering the NFL. And considering his improved performance late last season, there should be some optimism surrounding Oweh’s 2023 season.

Unlike last year, when the Ravens asked him to take some of the injured Tyus Bowser’s Sam linebacker responsibilities, Oweh was tasked with getting after the quarterback in this game. Oweh finished the game with seven total pressures, including four quarterback hits. Two of those hits came on clean-up pressures, with Oweh using his 4.38 speed to chase down Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud. That closing speed could be key to the edge defender putting more quarterbacks on the ground this year.

Ravens film study: A ‘rusty’ debut for the offense — and more on the run game, pace of play and Odafe Oweh

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Spread struggles

Monken’s arrival changed more than the look of the Ravens’ passing game. It also changed the looks they’d get in their running game.

More spread formations would mean more light boxes. More light boxes would mean fewer congested running lanes. And fewer congested running lanes would mean more production from Jackson. Over the past four seasons, with Jackson on the field, the Ravens had averaged a remarkable 6.6 yards per carry and 0.12 expected points added per rush against six or fewer defenders in the box, according to TruMedia.

On Sunday, the Ravens lined up with three wide receivers on 40 of their 58 plays. Houston responded with light boxes. The Ravens just couldn’t do much with them. Excluding scrambles, their ground game finished with 11 carries for 41 yards (3.7 per carry).

Ravens film study: Rookie WR Zay Flowers lives up to ‘Joystick’ nickname in debut

Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun

On the third play of the Ravens’ second possession against the Houston Texans in the first quarter, Flowers, the 22nd overall draft pick out of Boston College, lined up in a bunch formation wide left along with tight ends Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar to his right at the Texans’ 28-yard-line. Split out to the right was receiver Odell Beckham Jr., while Jackson stood in the shotgun with running back J.K. Dobbins on his left hip. Houston, meanwhile, had 6-foot-1, 226-pound linebacker Christian Harris lined up against the bunch, with 5-11, 194-pound cornerback Steven Nelson behind him and 5-11, 240-pound linebacker Denzel Perryman inside but leaning toward the stack before the ball was even snapped.

Once it was, Jackson momentarily held the ball out in front of Dobbins while Flowers shuffled a couple of steps to his left and glanced at the defenders in front of him. Jackson then quickly flung the ball toward Flowers, who cradled the tight spiral into his sternum before turning upfield and accelerating through the crease created by Kolar’s block on Harris and Likely’s on Nelson.

Perryman closed in from the right, taking a slight angle upfield, but didn’t stand a chance. As he came diving in for what he thought would be a potentially crunching hit on the 5-9, 182-pound rookie, Flowers planted his right foot and spun back to the right, leaving Perryman and his left arm grasping at the warm Maryland air.

Defensive end Jonathan Greenard was next in line, but as he closed in from Flowers’ right the receiver jump cut to the inside, causing Greenard also to whiff. Flowers then continued upfield for 4 more yards before burrowing to the turf between the four Texans players that surrounded him, including edge rusher and No. 3 overall pick Will Anderson Jr.

Death of the long pass: Are vertical plays trending toward extinction?

Brooke Pryor, ESPN

Theory 1: Defense killed the deep ball

Patrick Peterson remembers coming into an NFL where truly elite defenses had lockdown corners, where they dared quarterbacks to try it: your best guy vs. our best guy.

Disciples of Deion Sanders like Darrelle Revis and Champ Bailey.

After 13 years, though, Peterson is seeing fewer islands and more archipelagos.

“A lot of defensive schemes were around their cornerbacks,” Peterson said. “...I won’t say defenses have become more complicated, but defenses have said now we don’t want to make the quarterback just find the easy throw right away. We want to make him think through the process of passing the ball, just not line up, ‘OK, I got a press corner here, a single high, I’m going deep to one of these guys.’”

Instead, defenses are using more two-high looks, putting two safeties back deep and making it more difficult for receivers to get open on the vertical routes. And it’s not just the secondary adjustments that discourage quarterbacks from throwing deep. As the game evolved, defenses went from static zone coverage where defenders were only active if someone was in their assigned area to more dynamic, man-match coverages that blend zone concepts with varying degrees of man-to-man defense. Think Pete Carroll’s Legion of Boom to Vic Fangio’s counterpunch developed with the San Francisco 49ers.

Part of the chess match is the evolution and usage of pass rushers.

That’s exactly the goal, Peterson said. Blanketing over the top, forcing the quarterback to hold on to the ball longer and progress through his reads gives the pass rush the extra tenth of a second needed to get to the quarterback.

Week 2 NFL picks: Jaguars win thriller and drop Chiefs to 0-2, Patriots slow down explosive Dolphins

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

The Bengals are coming off a horrible showing in their opener, one in which Joe Burrow looked bad. That will change here. The Bengals will get the offense going here. The Ravens have some injury issues on the offensive line, which could be a problem. The division games are always tough, but I don’t see Cincinnati going 0-2 to start this season like it did in 2022.

Pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 20

Ravens vs. Bengals Predictions, Picks & Odds For NFL Week 2: Sun, 9/17

Mark Lammey, Sports Illustrated

When they faced Burrow and company in Cinci last season, they fell in a matchup where we saw it also go over the total. In fact, even the first meeting between these teams last year saw a win for the Bengals in which they scored 27 points.

All that to say that we aren’t going to overreact to their three points in Week 1. Burrow linking up with WR Ja’Marr Chase is simply too dominant, and the Ravens secondary doesn’t have the depth to cover him, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. However, what Baltimore does have is new weapons for Jackson to throw to.

That includes the experience of WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and the speed of rookie Zay Flowers, who had an incredible debut, catching nine passes for 78 yards. Everything above adds up to a high-scoring contest, making the best bet from our Ravens vs. Bengals picks on the over 46.5 points (-105 at FanDuel Sportsbook).