It’s been a long wait since the January 16th loss at Buffalo for the Baltimore Ravens to be back on the field in a game that matters. Tonight that wait ends as the 2021 season begins in Las Vegas.
Obviously injuries are part of the game, but losing JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, and Marcus Peters for the season before the first official snap of the year, was a series of tough blows.
Definitely a series of shots to the body, but I don’t think the Ravens have been knocked out either.
The Ravens do a lot of things well as an organization. One of the things you appreciate the most following the Ravens is their year-to-year consistency. Names on the back of the jerseys change, but the Ravens find ways to compete.
Maybe the injuries suffered will ultimately limit the Ravens ceiling for this season, but my expectation is that Baltimore will go 12-5 and get back to the Playoffs. They’ll adjust, and they’ll find a way to move forward with what they have. That’s what they do. Their ability to adapt, and compete is who they are.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Something I Like: Lamar Jackson
Beyond organizational DNA; what I like best about the Baltimore Ravens is Lamar Jackson. Jackson is the primary reason why each week he’s on the field, the Ravens will have at-least a puncher’s chance to win. In a league full of athletes, he plays the game at another level. He scares the opposition, and creates opportunities for his teammates just by his presence. His physical gifts are evident to everyone. He deserves more credit for being a leader, his work ethic, and his on-field intelligence.
Something I Don’t Like: Jackson’s COVID status
I don’t know if Jackson has received the vaccine or not. Jackson has declined to state.
I do know Jackson has been COVID positive twice already.
COVID – like everything else in this country in 2021 – has become a partisan issue. Can we universally agree that the Ravens need Jackson on the field?
Something I Like: The Additions The Ravens Made At RB
I think the Ravens did good work adding Latavius Murray, and Trenton Cannon to the active roster, and Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman to the Practice Squad.
Murray averaged 4.5, and 4.4. yards per carry the last two years in New Orleans. He has also has some ability to catch the ball. He is going to help this offense.
Bell and Freeman? I don’t know if we know if they have life left in their legs or not.
Bell missed ’18 with the contract dispute, and then had unimpressive stints with the Jets and Chiefs in ’19 and ’20. It should be noted though that New York was horrible, and he did have 66 receptions out of the backfield. Also, he didn’t join KC until October 17th last year.
Some worry that he’s a malcontent. I think that is a non-factor. The Ravens will just move on if there is any issue. I’d expect him to be activated next week.
Freeman had an injury riddled ’18, followed by 59 receptions in ’19, and a ’20 season which saw him join the Giants late last September, and later deal with an ankle injury, and COVID.
Bell and Freeman might both be done.
But the fact that both we’re effective as receiving options in ’19 gives me some optimism that one of them will be able to help.
Murray is going to help.
The Ravens feel they have something with Ty’Son Williams.
If you get anything out of Bell or Freeman, you’ve got a usable group.
Something I Don’t Like: Losing Dobbins (& Gus)
I think the Ravens can still have an effective and productive running game; but I hate that they lost Dobbins and Edwards.
I was expecting Dobbins to emerge as the Ravens best offensive weapon (outside of Jackson); and take his place among the best RB’s in the league.
The Ravens will miss his homerun ability, and the way his speed put additional pressure on opposing defenses.
Losing Edwards is also deflating. Gus is a perfect back for this system, and having him run downhill through the tackles has been a lot of fun to watch the last couple of years.
Something I Like: The Youth At LB
Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh.
Lots of young legs.
Was really excited about getting Bowser back. He’s just continued to improve and develop year-over-year.
I think we saw this Summer how Queen has grown with his first year behind him, additional time in the system, and a full Camp.
I’m expecting a big year.
I thought we’d see more of Harrison last year on passing downs.
This year he looks more capable of staying the field. He’s going to deliver some hits.
I’m hoping the Ravens keep it simple with Oweh, and just send him to seek and destroy. His development game-to-game, month-to-month is going to be a significant story all year.
Something I Don’t Like: How Losing Peters Changes The Defense
Peters might’ve been my favorite non-Jackson player on the roster, because he’s a playmaker.
You can quibble about his coverage skills, but he’s good enough to play on an Island, and more importantly he’s got elite ability to track the ball and change games.
The Ravens have believed in their ability to scheme pressure, largely because of their confidence in having Peters and Humphrey being able to cover receivers 1×1 down the field.
The Ravens have quality CB depth in Averett, Smith, and Young; but I would expect more zone coverage than we’ve seen the last few years and I wonder if there will be a corresponding impact on the Ravens ability to get to the QB.
Quick thoughts on Averett, Smith, and Young – I like them. I think Averett has good physical ability and has continued to improve. Smith has had a great career, and if he’s never been ‘elite’, he’s been very good for a long time. You just want him healthy late in the year. Young has missed so much time, and you are going to just hold your breath to see if he can get through a year. But when he’s been able to stay on the field (such as ’18), he was a difference maker with his coverage in the slot.
Something I Like: The Starting O-Line
Getting Stanley back is huge obviously.
I tend to think some of the metrics which have graded Stanley so favorably the last few years, is at-least partly related to Jackson – but Stanley is talented in his own right.
Zeitler at RG is an upgrade. Not Yanda in his prime, but an upgrade.
Villanueva is a downgrade from Zeus Jr at RT, but he should be serviceable. He’s also going to like being in an offense that wants to run the ball, as opposed to being asked to pass block 50 times a game like he was last year in Pittsburgh.
The play at Center almost has to be better vs. anything we saw last year.
Something I Don’t Like: Boyle’s Injury, TE Depth
Boyle was placed on short-term injury reserve, and will likely be back in Week 4 or 5.
When he returns, the Ravens will have a nice duo with him and Andrews.
While he is out, you lose his blocking ability.
I guess the flip-side, is that you get a few weeks to see if Tomlinson or Oliver can step-up and take advantage of anytime.
Going into ’20, I was down on losing Hurst because I liked having 3 usable options for an offense that often liked to feature 2 TE’s, and I didn’t think Hurst was properly replaced.
That’s kind of still the case now, except that Boyle still isn’t right here in the middle of September; after his season ending knee injury last November.
Is he going to look right in a few weeks?
Something I Like: Being Able To Count On Things
Even if the running game takes a step back from the last two years, it will remain productive.
The Special Teams will remain strong.
The Defense will be good at the minimum, with the possibility of being elite.
If you can run the ball, and you have strong Special Teams and Defense; you can expect to be in every game. When you add Jackson, to those known quantities, you’ve got legitimate reason for optimism.
Something I Don’t Like: The O-Line Depth, and The Starting D-Line Age
I’m picking a bit here.
At some point there are ramifications of a salary cap, and that’s just the way it is.
Still, I’d feel better if there was a reserve Tackle I liked better than Phillips.
The starting D-Line (Wolfe – who is out tonight, Williams, Campbell) is good.
Good, but old.
I’m hoping (and expecting) Madubuike, and Washington get plenty of snaps this year, and limit how many snaps the starters get. You want to get to December without Williams and Campbell being gassed.
Something I Like: Justin Houston
Houston isn’t going to be a savior. He’s not the Justin Houston who had 22 sacks in ’14. But he doesn’t have to be that guy either. He averaged 9.5 sacks the last two seasons with Indianapolis. I’m very pleased they have him around. When the Ravens need to get off the field on 3rd down, he’s going to help. When you are playing the Chiefs and Bills and Browns, and you need pass rush without scheming pressure, he’s going to help.
Something I Don’t Like: Rashod Bateman starting on the Injured List
Justin Jefferson had a ridiculous rookie campaign for the Vikings last year. I’m sure there are a number of other seasons you can point to where rook Wideouts made an immediate splash – and I suspect that has become a bit more common in this passing era, and with the current rules. Still, typically via league history rookie WR’s have not been immediate difference makers.
Bateman suffered the groin injury and had surgery in early August. He’s been running routes for sometime now, and probably will be back by Week 4. His injury isn’t the end of the world, but it does further reduce the chances of him being a consistent week-to-week factor this year.
Something I Do Like: The WR Group As A Whole
The Ravens are starting the year with Hollywood Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and Tylan Wallace.
Bateman will be back soon. We will see about Boykin.
It’s a group with ability, and you can see the investment the Ravens have made via the draft.
The Free Agent addition of Watkins was another quality move from the Front Office.
Unless the light-bulb immediately goes on for Bateman, you probably don’t have a #1 here; but you have got a room full of guys that can help.
Prediction For Tonight?
Las Vegas is coming off of a .500 season, and has enough offensive talent to leap up and bite you. Maybe the Raiders ride the waive of an excited Vegas crowd finally able to enjoy Allegiant Stadium? Maybe Carr and Waller get cooking? Maybe Snead and Ngakoue have some additional motivation?
Unfortunately for the Raiders, it looks like RB Josh Jacobs might be out tonight, and I don’t think their defense is going to slow Jackson.
Key for the Ravens is just taking early control, and not letting Vegas hang around long enough to think they can steal a game. Maybe a second point is not looking ahead to KC next Sunday night.
ESPN’s Match-up Predictor gives the Ravens a 57% chance of winning.
I agree, and expect the Ravens to come back home 1-0.
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.