Ravens vs. Raiders: 3 key matchups to watch in Week 1

Ravens, Ty'Son Williams Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Ravens, Ty'Son Williams Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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Darren Waller Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

1. Ravens linebackers/safeties vs. Darren Waller

There is no more explosive or dynamic player on the Raiders’ offense than Darren Waller. And given the Ravens’ shaky recent history with covering tight ends, that could prove to be the X-factor for Las Vegas.

Waller is an undisputed top-five tight end in football. He has the athleticism, speed, and, receiving skills of a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. He’s a matchup nightmare for any defense.

That’s why, if the Ravens manage to slow Waller down, they should be able to come out on top.

There is no one specific player who the coaching staff will entrust to cover tight ends. That responsibility could fall on second-year linebacker Patrick Queen who, despite his struggles in coverage as a rookie, has the athleticism to match up with Waller.

Or they could turn to their safeties, DeShon Elliott making the most sense. Elliott was a revelation in 2020 and will be looking to put together a big 2021 season entering a contract year.

Don’t be surprised if the Ravens even opt to put a cornerback on Waller. If healthy, Jimmy Smith might have made some sense given that he has the size to match up physically with his opponent.

I wouldn’t even be shocked if they threw Marlon Humprhey on him a few times, even though the loss of Marcus Peters makes that less ideal.

It will be all hands on deck as the Ravens look to limit the effectiveness of their opponent’s best offensive player.

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This will be the matchup to watch on Monday.