With the Ravens having won six of their last seven season openers after their 24-9 win over the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. While the offense started slowly, the defensive line really came to play against a capable interior offensive line. Justin Madubuike was particularly dominant throughout the game and earned high praise from PFF. After the game, Calais Campbell said Madubuike “has All-Pro potential, but it has to be all the time.”
2. You probably don’t want to see Justin Houston playing 54 snaps every week over a 17-game season, but Jets left tackle George Fant certainly wishes he saw less of the 33-year-old on Sunday. Houston wreaked havoc in the pocket and also played the run well.
3. That was as punchless as the running game has looked since the Marty Mornhinweg era. Baltimore didn’t play starters in the preseason and was without J.K. Dobbins and Ronnie Stanley, but that made last year’s ground attack look dominant. You don’t want to lean on Jackson’s legs too hard again.
4. Despite evaluating their offseason program, revamping their practice schedule, and ramping up slowly this summer, the Ravens lost two Week 1 starters to season-ending injuries. Though Stanley and Marcus Peters are expected to return sooner than later, Ja’Wuan James and Kyle Fuller were supposed to be valuable depth pieces.
5. With Fuller out and Peters’ Week 2 status in question, Brandon Stephens will play an even bigger role after already seeing 58 of 84 defensive snaps against the Jets. He needs to clean up his tackling a bit, but the 2021 third-round pick made some good plays on the ball.
6. We debated the viability of Patrick Mekari as the starting right tackle or center before the additions of Morgan Moses and Tyler Linderbaum, so naturally the versatile lineman was pressed into duty at left tackle in the opener. His performance was solid, but Stanley’s health remains as critical as ever.
7. One of the least surprising developments was the Baltimore defense using the dime package a league-high 47.6% of the time, according to TruMedia. The nickel has become the real “base” defense anyway, so why wouldn’t you take the next step with such safety depth and shaky inside linebacker coverage?
8. Greg Roman has talked about Lamar Jackson potentially operating under center more frequently the last few offseasons, but it finally came to fruition with Jackson taking 11 snaps under center, including the first play of the season and several first-down plays. I like the bootleg and play-action potential with that.
9. Just like it was premature to fit Isaiah Likely for a gold jacket after an outstanding preseason, his underwhelming NFL debut is nothing over which to panic. However, John Harbaugh wasn’t pleased to see the rookie’s holding penalty on the perimeter, something he did a couple times in summer games.
10. Harbaugh confirmed Nick Boyle being a healthy scratch — at least relatively speaking after his 2020 knee injury that required multiple surgeries and limited him to five games last season. The Ravens coach is “pretty sure you’ll see him out there sometime soon,” but that definitely explains keeping Josh Oliver around.
11. Neither offense played with good tempo or managed the clock particularly well, but the Ravens getting out of the huddle too late and letting the play clock run down isn’t a new development. As Harbaugh stated below, there’s more involved than casual observers realize, but it’s still a concern.
12. Neither his offensive line nor his receivers offered as much assistance as the Jets would have liked, but the game often looked too fast for a 37-year-old Joe Flacco, who’s started just six games since the start of 2020. It was definitely weird seeing him play against the Ravens.