clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ravens vs. Browns potential X factors: Veteran newcomers will be leaned on

This early season divisional clash could be decided by key contributions from handful of players in all three phases.

NFL: SEP 17 Ravens at Bengals

The Baltimore Ravens will be back on the road in Week 4, where they’ll take on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon. They are heading into the matchup as underdogs against their AFC North division rivals, who are coming off a big bounce-back win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 3.

In almost every game, there is a play or two made that helped swing the momentum back into a team’s favor or extend their lead to put an opponent away for good. There are a handful of select players who aren’t being talked about as much ahead of this game that could be pivotal in determining the outcome of the contest.

Below are some of those individual players that could prove to be deciding factors.

TE Mark Andrews

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

With two of his top wide receivers ruled out for this game, Ravens’ star quarterback Lamar Jackson will need his most trusted pass catcher to come up clutch for him this week. Going up against one of the stingiest pass defenses in the league, headlined by a Pro Bowl pass-rushing tandem, Andrews will need to present his quarterback with quick options in the passing game. That will help the Ravens’ offensive line, who won’t have to hold up longer than they need to in pass protection.

In two games against the Browns last season, Andrews was limited to just three receptions on nine targets for 31 receiving yards and no touchdowns. He logged 15 catches on 21 targets for 180 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns in two games in 2021. He will need to get back to being his usual dominant self against Cleveland for the Ravens to be able to consistently make plays through the air by attacking the seams of the defense.

OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

This will be the three-time Pro Bowler’s first time going up against the Browns since departing Cleveland, where he spent the previous two seasons playing. With both David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh ruled out, the Ravens are going to lean on him even more than they have through the first three games.

According to Pro Football Focus, Clowney currently leads the Ravens in pressures (13) and pass rush win rate (15.5%), and is tied for second-most sacks (1.5).

Whether its against his former teammate Deshaun Watson — who is questionable to play with a shoulder injury — or fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Clowney’s ability to consistently apply pressure will be paramount. Even if he doesn’t get home as often for sacks, preventing whoever starts at quarterback from being able to step into the throws or buy more time for Cleveland’s pass catchers to get open can be just as valuable.

Another Ravens’ edge defender to keep an eye on in this game is recently signed veteran Kyle Van Noy. He will likely be called up from the practice squad considering how short they are on healthy options at the position. His new teammates and coaches have already been raving about how quickly he’s picking up the defense despite only having been on the team for a few days.

“(He’s) a well-seasoned veteran [whose] been in a lot of different schemes, so he knows exactly what we expect of him,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “I’m just excited to welcome him to the team and I think he’s going to be a great addition for us.”

WR Nelson Agholor

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns will likely be devoting more attention to limiting the impact of first-round rookie standout Zay Flowers, since both Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman won’t be playing in this game. That means that nine-year veteran Agholor will likely have more opportunities to make plays in 1-on-1 coverage and find soft spots for key conversions and clutch plays. Agholor has been doing just that over the past two games even before the aforementioned starters suffered their respective injuries.

After not even recording a single target in the season opener, the former first-rounder has caught 9-of-10 targets for 102 receiving yards, five first downs, and a touchdown the past two weeks. He helped set up what was nearly a game-winning field goal last week against the Indianapolis Colts, when he hauled in an 18-yard reception from Jackson on third-and-long in the final minute of regulation.

Clutch plays like these are exactly the kind of snags the Ravens’ pass catchers will need to make in crunch time if they hope to put up enough points to emerge victorious.

FB Patrick Ricard

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns

For months following the hire of Todd Monken as the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator, there was wide speculation about what role, or lack thereof, Ricard would have moving forward. Through the first three games of the regular season, it has been made evident that the four-time Pro Bowler still has a prominent role in this new-look offense.

His ability as a devastating blocker in the run game and an extra pass protector will be needed this week. Richard can help keep an aggressive Browns’ defense off balance and Myles Garrett at bay wherever he ends up lining up.

With All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley listed as doubtful to play on Sunday, expect to see Ricard spending a lot of time lined up next to Patrick Mekari, who would be the starting blindside protector in his stead.

CB Rock Ya-Sin

NFL: SEP 24 Colts at Ravens Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The role of filling in for three-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey as the Ravens’ No. 1 cornerback belongs to Brandon Stephens and deservingly so given the high level he has consistently played at to start the season. However, Ya-Sin has seen an uptick in his total defensive snaps through the first three games after missing most of training camp with a knee injury. He has made some impressive plays.

The fifth-year veteran has only been targeted three times and allowed just two of them to be completed for just 22 yards. Stephens will likely spend most of his time in man-coverage on Browns’ top wideout Amari Cooper. However, on the occasions he doesn’t and lines up on the opposite boundary, Ya-Sin will need to continue to play his best. Hopefully, he can begin rotating more or with fellow veteran Ronald Darby and even start getting the bulk of the snaps until Humphrey returns.