The 2020 NFL season is beginning a new, and with it a rejuvenation of the hope we all had for the Baltimore Ravens last season before their untimely departure. With new beginnings comes a new opportunity to write a different ending, filled with celebration, a Super Bowl trophy, and bragging rights.
Of course, the season doesn’t start at the finale, but with game 1 where John Harbaugh and company open against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns who look to rebound from a season that looked to be promising but ended on a note all too familiar in recent years.
On September 13th, the two will clash for the first time this season, but only one will start with the victory. In this article, we’ll look into what the Ravens need to do in order to grab a victory and start the year off right.
Up until recent years, the Baltimore Ravens’ defense has been their identity and strong suit. Ever since the addition of then-rookie Lamar Jackson, however, it seems that their offense is all anybody is talking about. The key to week 1 will be attacking a defense that hasn’t done much to improve on their forgettable 2019 season.
Easily one of the important ingredients to a victory, as all quarterbacks are, is Jackson’s ability to make plays through the air and on the ground. This week he faces a Brown’s defense that is a bit lackluster and should allow him to do what he does best and win the game. Look for Jackson to come out firing against a secondary whose only strength may be Denzel Ward, newly acquired Ronnie Harrison, and unproven Greedy Williams. The Brown’s defensive line is better than their secondary, but Jackson has proven that his speed and agility are a step ahead of his competition. I expect Jackson to get more yards in the air than on the ground in this one.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is expected to have a major leap in year 2. For those that haven’t seen, Hollywood’s taken to social media to showcase his workouts and training all offseason. With his foot also being healthier, and a gain of muscle mass, it can be safe to say that he’s primed for a breakout. Just like in week 1 against Miami last year, Hollywood should see the ball early and often.
Mark Andrews lead the team in pretty much every receiving stat the Ravens had last year. With the “Garnet Thor” Hurst being traded to Atlanta this past March, Andrews looks to see those numbers increase. He should also see the ball a lot on Sunday, particularly against a Browns linebacker corps that is less than ideal.
One of the Ravens stronger position groups of 2019, the offensive line needs to hold their own against Olivier Vernon and returning star Myles Garret. The departure of future Hall-of-Famer Marshal Yanda will be felt and is on the more pressing issues that will be tested. Most of the line is returning, but the RG needs to be secured in order to reproduce the same protection and production as last year and secure this week 1 win.
A big offseason splash this year came in the draft, when the Ravens got an absolute steal in the second round with J. K. Dobbins out of Ohio State. As the team broke the single-season rushing record, this addition has insured that the Ravens look to duplicate that rushing attack.
Right out of the gate last year, Mark Ingram broke off a 49-yard run on the first play from scrimmage of 2019. It’s hard to expect that same kind of play to happen, but if anyone can do it, it’s this running back group. The Ravens have the personnel to rush down anybody’s throat, and I expect them to do that to this Browns defense that allowed the 3rd most rushing yards in 2019.
Overall, the 2019 Ravens thrived on getting off to fast starts and running the clock out with a formidable lead. Obviously, those results are ideal and saved from stress-inducing nail-biters, and I can see one of those fist-pumping dominations coming this weekend.
The Ravens defense more than held their own last year and their offseason additions will only help improve. The key to this matchup will be keeping Nick Chubb in check and Baker Mayfield on his back foot so he can’t air it out to his big named wideouts and newly acquired TE, Austin Hooper.
While the starting offense remains relatively unchanged, the defense has many new faces. Additions such as Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, as well as Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison in the draft look to sure up a run game that showed its holes at times last year.
2nd-year Jaylon Ferguson and Pernell McPhee, who is returning from a bicep tear suffered last year, look to make life hell for Mayfield. Add to the mix Matt Judon and Tyus Bowser who are ready to make themselves known (one more so than the other) in a contract year for both. However, Cleveland has made great strides in improving their offensive line this offseason with the signing of Jack Conklin and drafting of Jedrick Wills Jr in the 1st round of this year’s draft. The Ravens need to get the pressure on Mayfield early and often so he can’t make plays to his well-known supporting cast.
Cornerback duo Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters make up arguably the best outside corner team in the NFL. The two and returning slot corner Tavon Young will have their work cut out for them as Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr are household names for a reason. The release of Earl Thomas leaves the safety position another hole for the Ravens to deal with, but DeShon Elliot (and possibly even Jimmy Smith) looks to step up alongside Chuck Clark to help up top.
Overall, if the Ravens keep the pressure on like they did last year, it shouldn’t be much of a problem to keep them Browns offense at bay.
The Wolfpack is back! All three return to keep the Ravens special teams one of the best groups in the league. If the trio does what they’ve been consistently doing for years, the kicking and punting wont’ be an issue this week or this year.
The return game hasn’t been very electrifying since the days of Jacoby Jones, but the Ravens do have options. Drafting speedsters Devin Duvernay and James Proche II, and giving WR Willie Snead IV some looks at returning kicks will help in that aspect. Any yards on returns is beneficial in any game, allowing the offense to start on better field positions and allow for easier scoring for the win.
This team has made the steps to be an even better team in 2020. The offense will look to start off hot and the defense rock-solid to start the year with not only a win, but a divisional one at that.