Twelve Ravens Thoughts (and a prediction) ahead of Week 4 clash in Cleveland

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With the Ravens hoping to rebound from their first loss of the season as they continue an early run of AFC North road games against Cleveland on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Jadeveon Clowney has downplayed any significance to returning to Cleveland despite his messy departure from the Browns, but playing with an extra chip on his shoulder wouldn’t be the worst thing with Baltimore needing him more than ever with both Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo sidelined. He’s played impressive football. 

2. Given the accounts of Kyle Van Noy quickly acclimating to Mike Macdonald’s defensive system, the 32-year-old playing Sunday wouldn’t be surprising. You’d prefer more of a ramp-up for someone who didn’t have a training camp, but Jason Pierre-Paul played 55 snaps less than a week after officially signing last season. 

3. Acknowledging it’s only Week 4 and they’re still the Browns, that defense under Jim Schwartz has been very impressive statistically and when you watch their first three games. Per Sharp Football, just three of 39 total drives against Cleveland have reached the red zone or scored before the red zone.  

4. You’d love for your $100 million left tackle to be available to block Myles Garrett, who’s off to an outstanding start even by his standards. We’ll see if some limited practice is enough for Ronnie Stanley to play, but I suspect Patrick Ricard will be helping with Garrett either way. 

5. Given Cleveland’s pressure and the fact that the Browns have allowed a league-low 3.5 yards per pass play, this feels like a game where Lamar Jackson may need to run 20 times to win. Jackson is 6-for-16 for 56 yards and an interception under pressure this season, per Sharp Football.

6. That creates a big test for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Browns linebackers to contain Jackson as much as possible. It’s no secret Cleveland drafted Owusu-Koramoah out of Notre Dame to help contain Jackson in the open field. In their two full games facing off, Jackson has 127 yards on 27 carries. 


7. On the flip side, Deshaun Watson is coming off his best game as a Brown with Kevin Stefanski using more spread alignments in the wake of Nick Chubb’s injury. Of course, the Ravens have a much better pass defense than Tennessee, so we’ll see if Watson can build on that.  

8. Eric DeCosta signing two wide receivers to the practice squad — bringing the practice-squad total to four — signaled concern about the status of Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman, and they’ve yet to practice this week. I was looking forward to watching Beckham play in front of the Cleveland crowd too. 

9. The injuries at wide receiver make it even more important to get Mark Andrews involved early after a quiet Week 3. The Browns defense has been strong at every level, but stressing the linebackers is the key to unlocking the running game, which Baltimore will need playing on the road. 

10. With Marcus Williams back and practicing fully on Thursday, the Ravens have even more reason to keep Kyle Hamilton at the nickel for the time being. Cleveland had some success testing Hamilton in coverage last December, but playing him close to the line of scrimmage helps account for Watson’s mobility. 

11. Asked what he made of his early-season fumbles, Jackson pointed to them mostly occurring while in the pocket, which initially came across as an excuse before he eventually acknowledged needing to better protect the ball. The occasional strip-sack is going to happen, but he’s been too loose with the football.

12. If the Ravens want to fare well over three straight road games, they must clean up their special teams, which continue to be uncharacteristically sloppy. The punt coverage has been especially poor, and losing Tylan Wallace to injured reserve doesn’t help matters. 

Prediction: With defense being the strength for both teams over the first month of the season, this one has the potential to be an old-school AFC North clash with the Ravens aiming to improve to 2-0 in the division and the Browns wanting to show everyone they’re for real. I’m not convinced either one of these offenses is ready to rise to the occasion against such impressive talent on the opposing side, which will keep this a low-scoring game. Baltimore is looking healthier than last week, but injuries continue to stunt John Harbaugh’s team early in the season. That reality and home-field advantage will help the Browns win 17-16

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