With the Ravens having won seven of their last eight season openers after the 25-9 win over Houston on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. J.K. Dobbins was the first Baltimore player on the field Sunday morning, indicating how eager he was to start a season so critical to his future. The Ravens will move on quickly because that’s how the NFL works, but I’ve rarely seen so many players heartbroken for a teammate.
2. Eleven months after a torn ACL, Ronald Darby wasn’t as strong in man coverage, but he held up well and was an aggressive tackler, making three stops for no gain or a loss. As John Harbaugh said, “You even kind of forget that [knee] recently. He looks good to me.”
3. Jadeveon Clowney will lament whiffing on what could have been two sacks, but he was more disruptive than the one tackle and one quarterback hit registered on the stat sheet. The 30-year-old was motivated to play the team that drafted him first overall, and the Ravens need more of that.
4. Though Lamar Jackson was far from the only standout quarterback with a forgettable Week 1, he’ll need to be much better as the banged-up Ravens turn their attention toward Cincinnati. He understandably missed Mark Andrews over the middle, but being so careless with the football won’t work against better competition.
5. Roquan Smith celebrated his first Week 1 as a Raven by setting a franchise record for tackles in a season opener with 16. That’s impressive, but I was surprised Ray Lewis never had that many in Week 1. Patrick Queen was also excellent to kick off his contract year.
6. Though Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t thrilled with a two-catch, 37-yard day, you saw the attention he can still command by drawing a pair of pass interference flags for 43 yards. Jackson showed good timing on the pretty 29-yard completion to Beckham, throwing it long before the veteran receiver looked up.
7. We’ll see how the Ravens proceed without Dobbins, but Justice Hill appears to be the better system fit with Todd Monken’s affinity for space players. That’s not to suggest Gus Edwards won’t have an increased role, of course. As of Monday, Harbaugh wasn’t anticipating an outside addition at running back.
8. Justin Madubuike set the tone for the second half with a sack on the first play of the third quarter, but three penalties — two of them face masks — overshadowed what could have been a pretty big day. Consistency remains key for him in a contract year.
9. Even if it came against a third-string right tackle who normally plays guard, David Ojabo’s strip-sack is the kind of play the Ravens hope will get the 2022 second-round pick going after a quiet summer. The talent is there, so a confidence boost should help.
10. The pass rush turned up the heat in the second half against a Houston offensive line down its top two centers, a starting guard, and its starting right tackle. If the Ravens couldn’t generate pressure against a unit like that and a rookie quarterback, when exactly would they?
11. C.J. Stroud joined Brett Favre in throwing his first NFL completion to himself after Smith batted a pass back to him. Harbaugh complimented DeMeco Ryans’ team, but putting the ball in Stroud’s hands on fourth-and-1 in his own territory on the first drive of his career was pretty curious.
12. Losing your running back for the season, a starting safety indefinitely, and two starting offensive linemen for at least a bit is a brutal start, but I’m not hedging on my prediction of an 11-6 finish and a wild-card spot for the Ravens. Losing upside is deflating, however.