In a Mighty AFC, Ravens’ Challenge Got Tougher – Ryan Mink
This year, Baltimore was hoping to give Jackson more help, so he didn’t have to be Superman every time he took the field. That’s why the Ravens signed Sammy Watkins (and aggressively pursued other top free-agent wide receivers). That’s why Baltimore drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round and bucked up for better blocking with right guard Kevin Zeitler.
Dobbins was a huge part of that calculation, too. Entering his sophomore year, he was going to bring another dynamic to Baltimore’s offense as a homerun threat as a runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield. Behind Jackson, Dobbins might have been Baltimore’s biggest offensive threat, though Mark Andrews and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown would have something to say about that.
So where does that leave Baltimore in the AFC picture? Are the Ravens good enough to still knock off those other conference titans and reach their Super Bowl dreams?
Well, they still have Jackson, but they’re probably also going to need to find some other ingredient to do so.
Ravens defense prepared to carry a heavy load in 2021, even without ‘football savant’ Marcus Peters – Childs Walker
Meanwhile, the Ravens are still loaded with accomplished veterans or gifted young players at every defensive position. Eight months ago in the playoffs, they delivered championship-level defense against two of the most dynamic offenses in the league. They’ve long boasted about their depth, especially in the secondary.
“The defense, can they win a game for Baltimore early in the season? Can they really be … a phase that carries the load for the team?” said ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst and former NFL safety Louis Riddick. “Yeah, I believe that they can.”
“It was kind of heavy air, thick air,” safety Chuck Clark said of the pall that settled over practice Thursday after Peters and Edwards went down.
“Will we miss him? Yes,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said. “Like I’ve said before, he’s a football savant.”
To illustrate the cornerback’s football acumen, Martindale noted that Peters called the team’s entire defensive game plan from the sideline in the second half of the Ravens’ preseason finale against the Washington Football Team.
“I’m confident in Anthony Averett,” he said. “Anthony’s had a great camp. He’s ready to go. Chris Westry is ready to go; he’s done well. Brandon Stephens is ready to go; he’s done well. Ar’Darius Washington had a really good camp. Those guys will take one step up from where they were and take on a little more responsibility.”
Raiders Bracing for Lamar Jackson, Stopping Ravens Run Game – Todd Karpovich
“He’s so talented. I think there’s a lot of respect around the league about his ability to run and how he makes people miss and extends plays,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “But his passing abilities now too, you look at third down, I think he was like ninth in the league in quarterback efficiency. So, I mean he’s got the whole game now. He’s very talented. He can make the throws, he can run, extend plays. That’s why he’s so difficult to defend.”
“What are they going to do and where are guys at? But again, having a relationship with Greg [Roman] and knowing him, he’ll adjust,” Bradley said. “And it’s not going to slow them down at all. They’ll just put pieces in there. This is the NFL, and everybody is extremely talented. The guys they signed, extremely talented, so we know we are going to get their best shot. We understand that part of it and like I said we got a lot of respect for how they attack defenses.”
Everything You Need to Know: Ravens vs. Raiders – Clifton Brown
Ravens pass defense vs. Darren Waller
A former Raven, Waller is one of the NFL’s best tight ends and a difficult matchup for every team. Veteran defensive back Jimmy Smith (ankle) is questionable, and if he can’t play, Waller becomes an even more difficult assignment for the Ravens. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale could throw a variety of looks at the Raiders, hoping to throw off the timing between Waller and Carr. Keeping the ball out of Waller’s hands on third down and in the red zone will be key.
Ravens pass rush vs. Derek Carr
After so much talk about Baltimore’s pass rush during the offseason, we finally get to see it unveiled. This will be the Ravens debut for veteran pass rusher Justin Houston, as well as rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, a first-round pick with loads of athletic ability. Veteran Calais Campbell has looked ready for the season since Day 1 of camp, and he needs eight sacks this season to reach 100 for his career. Third-year linebacker Jaylon Ferguson secured his roster spot with a strong finish to training camp and hopes to have his best season. Carr has hurt the Ravens in the past, with a 2-1 record against them while throwing eight touchdown passes and just one interception. The more pressure the Ravens can put on Carr, the better their chances.
Ravens first-and-10: The key matchups and storylines for Week 1 vs. Raiders, plus a prediction – Jeff Zrebiec
Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is credited for being the first defensive coordinator to shut down Jackson and the Ravens’ run game. Bradley’s 2018 San Diego Chargers defense held the Ravens to 90 rushing yards and forced three turnovers in a 23-17 road victory in an AFC divisional-round playoff contest. A main factor in the Chargers’ success was Bradley keeping six defensive backs on the field to match up against Jackson and the Ravens’ speed. The Ravens have seen that and plenty of other defensive schemes over the years aimed at containing Jackson. If Bradley opts to go small again, the Ravens are plenty equipped to combat that by going big with multi-tight end looks and a heavy dose of fullback Patrick Ricard.
Ravens 26, Raiders 23
I thought this was going to be a tough spot for the Ravens even before Edwards and Peters went down this past week. The home crowd should be a factor. The Raiders are relatively healthy. They have several offensive weapons that will give the Ravens problems. And Gruden’s group has had its sights set on this game for a long time. However, the Ravens are usually at their best in situations like this. Harbaugh will have the team ready to play and Jackson loves the prime-time stage. You get the sense watching and listening to Jackson the past few weeks that he’s ready to go and he’s ready to put some questions to rest. It’s also far easier to trust the Ravens’ defense than it is the Raiders’. If this game is close down the stretch, the Ravens have the edge, because they have Justin Tucker, and Harbaugh tested the team’s conditioning and focus throughout camp.