Devin Duvernay, Justin Madubuike, and others shine in Ravens’ Week 1 victory
The Baltimore Ravens traveled to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to face off against the AFC East’s New York Jets. This was a special game in the hearts of many fans as the Ravens faced off against an old friend, No. 19 Joe Flacco.
No longer wearing five, Flacco may not be the same player he used to be, but it sure was good to see him still playing the game.
Throughout the game, there was a lack of wide receiver usage. The entire offseason, the Ravens’ biggest talking point has been their lack of talent at receiver.
As we have talked ourselves into being okay with it, it seems that the Ravens are not. On a whooping five plays, the Ravens utilized three wide receivers, a stat that I would only assume is by far the lowest of any team in Week 1.
Even with the injury to Ja’Wuan James, the Ravens’ offensive line held up. Ultra-reliable Patrick Mekari filled in returning to left tackle and was a rock.
The offensive line play was subpar early on, with the Ravens struggling to run the ball, but as the game went on, the Ravens’ bullies began to control the line.
Only allowing two sacks, there is much to improve on (especially the running game, more on that shortly), but the game got easier as it went along which is a good sign.
Speaking on the running game specifically, it was clear the Ravens missed J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Averaging a slim 3.0 yards per carry, the Ravens’ rushers struggled mightily.
Whether intentional or not, this limited quarterback Lamar Jackson’s legs as he only carried the ball six times for 17 yards. Not what the team is used to, but a good sign as he was often looking downfield for the big play to a receiver.
The Ravens do need more from their running backs. They used Mike Davis, Kenyan Drake, and Justice Hill, but none looked all that special and stood out. Onto the next.
The Ravens’ receivers, although they played much less than normal, had a good game. Devin Duvernay emerged as more than just an explosive Pro Bowl returner and had four big catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Rashod Bateman was found wide open deep for a score as well and looks to have a strong connection with Jackson. I was also thrilled with how Demarcus Robinson looked. The new signing, recently cut from the Las Vegas Raiders, has speed, quickness, and is an able blocker. He looked good going down the field as well and should fill a good role this year.
Jordan Stout, although not on the level of Sam Koch, is going to be good and in the light of recent events with a certain punter in that draft class, I am certain he was the best punter in the draft.
He has a boot for a foot and can really get the ball down the field with power, hang time, and movement. In addition to that, a sneaky important skill is field-goal holding and he and Justin Tucker have seemed to establish a repertoire with Nick Moore. Is there a new “Wolfpack” forming?
The Ravens’ defense was dominant in Week 1
The defensive line was dominant. From reserves like Brent Urban and Broderick Washington making big plays to the welcome return of a much improved Michael Pierce to the veteran presence of Calais Campbell defying the law of time, the defensive line was much improved, deep, and uber talented.
But wait, I haven’t even mentioned Justin Madubuike, the Ravens’ third-round pick last year. Campbell had high praises for him saying that he played an All-Pro-caliber game. This group is going to be a strength and make life easy for the secondary.
Speaking of the secondary, they had a great game as well. Free agent pick-up Marcus Williams had a huge interception and seemed to be in on every play. Marlon Humphrey returned to the field with energy and had a strong game.
Brandon Stephens, the college-running-back-turned-safety-now-turned-cornerback played a lot on the outside and was extremely impressive with a few really good pass breakups.
The loss of Kyle Fuller will be really hard to overcome but rookies Jaylon Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams both saw time and did not allow any big plays.
This group is deep and strong. Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick, played a lot and was around the ball, but his tackling will need to improve. He will get better over time.
Patrick Queen, the man who is at his best in year three. If you don’t understand that reference, in high school, Queen broke out his junior year before a great senior season landed him at LSU.
At LSU he struggled early on but broke out again in his junior year. Going into his junior year in the NFL, I expect the same and he showed the start of that on Sunday.
Playing fast, aggressive, and all over the field, Queen was someone who played well in coverage and against the run. He is stepping up as a leader and getting himself ready for a big payday.
Overall, this was a good game. The team played well and showed the depth of this roster. They have obvious needs to improve and yes, it was against the Jets, but this was a great start to the season for a potential contender in the AFC.
Many teams had explosive games and many teams had rough starts (cough, cough Joe Burrow and his new friend the interception), but the Ravens were right in the middle.
They played as they were supposed to, got the job done, and are ready for next week. Time to go 1-0 again.