Well gang we have made it! The Baltimore Ravens will open the 2019 regular season with a visit to Miami this Sunday at 1pm at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL.
The Ravens will be taking on a Dolphins team that has made a flurry of moves the past few weeks in what looks like an effort to tank for Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa in next year’s NFL Draft. Gone are Pro-Bowl LT Laremy Tunsil, veteran WR Kenny Stills, and veteran LB Kiko Alonso.
These moves have hampered an already hapless Dolphins bunch that will led by everyone’s favorite gunslinging quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Ravens will need to be careful not to allow “FitzMagic” to continue his early season tradition of success. Fitzy is 16-11 in the month of September, his only winning month of his career. He is also 4-2 against the Ravens.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson will enjoy a bit of a homecoming by returning to Florida and playing just 29 miles from his hometown of Pompano Beach. Same story for Ravens rookie WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown whose hometown is located just 22 miles from Miami Gardens.
Here’s what to watch for ahead of Sunday’s highly-anticipated season opener.
1) Ravens LG situation and lack of continuity on offense
We heard this from Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh on Tuesday:
The contenders appear to be Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers, and Patrick Mekari as James Hurst has been listed as a back up to several positions but is not a part of the depth chart at LG. Whether that remains the case when the Ravens suit up Sunday will apparently have to wait until then.
Whoever it is, I certainly hope they have been taking the lions share of reps with the first team the last few weeks. My biggest concern with the Ravens right now is the lack of reps the first team offense has had together throughout the preseason and training camp.
Marshal Yanda, Hollywood Brown, and Seth Roberts have all missed considerable amounts of time throughout training camp. Coupling that with the revolving door at left guard and the first team offense likely hasn’t seen much of each other throughout the preseason to date.
It helps to run into a team likely Miami week one. But it’s the NFL and the other team gets paid too. I am intrigued to see how well the first team offense gels together given their lack of extensive reps to open the season. I expect the offense to get stronger as the year goes along, but am hopeful they don’t derail a quick start for the Ravens.
2) Under Pressure
For all of the accolades I gave Fitzpatrick in the intro, these are the facts of the case:
- He is turning 37 in November.
- He has never moved well.
- The Miami offensive line might be the worst in the NFL
There are ways to mask these three things like quick hitting screens/slants and establishing a running game. I say these things to say this: If the Ravens pass rush struggles to get consistent pressure on Fitzpatrick, that won’t be a good sign for their ability to do so against a competent NFL line.
The pass rush represents one of the most concerning groups for the 2019 Ravens. Tony Jefferson and Harbaugh don’t seem concerned though:
Matt Judon will pace the group this season looking for a breakout performance and a big free agency pay day. He should dominate whichever scrub the Dolphins attempt to block him with. If they decide to double Judon (they should), the Ravens will need Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, and Pernell McPhee to win their one on one matchups to wreak havoc in the Miami backfield.
This shouldn’t be a contest where we have to see Don “Wink” Martindale draw up creative blitz packages to get pressure on the quarterback. While we know that Wink is capable of doing this, I’d like to see the Ravens be able save some of their more exotic stuff for some of their more difficult opponents. The longer you can keep that stuff off of film, the more effective it can be when you employ it.
3) New Blood
Anyone remember the last time the Ravens had this much new blood on the field?
The new blood is pulsating throughout the roster and for me it starts with new starting safety Earl Thomas. Thomas will be filling the void vacated by Eric Weddle and the Ravens will be hoping that Thomas can help get the Ravens back on track in the way of forcing turnovers:
Thomas is short sweet and to the point and I can’t wait to see the former Legion of Boom member cruising throughout the Ravens defensive backfield.
Offensively, the focus will be on Brown, Miles Boykin, and Justice Hill taking their first NFL regular season snaps. The talented trio of 2019 draft picks have been impressive so far this preseason and I can confidently say that I don’t remember ever looking forward to such a talented group of first year players. Mix in Jaleel Scott who could see the first game action of his NFL career, and there’s quite a lot to look forward to on the offensive side of the ball.
We haven’t even touched on the brand new offense installed by new Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The Ravens have been hooting and hollering about all their new looks and schemes all offseason and we know they haven’t shown much in the preseason.
I can’t recall a level of excitement like this around a Ravens offense and I cannot wait to see it in action this Sunday.
Jake McDonnell: Ravens 27 Dolpins 16
Nolan McGraw: Ravens 29 Dolphins 17
Isaiah Stumpf: Ravens 34 Dolphins 6
Ian Schultz: Ravens 31 Dolphins 14
I just cant see Miami having the talent of the field to keep this game close. I hate picking blowouts and I know the possibility exists for the Ravens new offense to flop and “FitzMagic” to make enough plays in the passing game to pull the upset. It’s not happening this Sunday for the Dolphins and the Ravens will hit the home opener 1-0.
Image Credit: USA TODAY