By: Ashley Anderson
The Baltimore Ravens will finally kick off their 2021 season this Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders. Although they have yet to play a down, there are some folks saying recent events will derail the entire year. Surely, it will not be an easy start as Las Vegas will have fans at Allegiant Stadium for the first time. Here are three big questions facing the Ravens on Monday night.
How will the offense handle the noise at Allegiant Stadium?
2020 was a quiet season in the NFL with most games played in empty stadiums or crowds with a limited capacity. That will no longer be true Monday night as the Raiders will finally have fans in their new stadium. The max capacity is 71,835, and they will be roaring to go.
To mimic that noise, the Ravens have been plumping pumping fake crowd noise and loud music at their practices. However, there is nothing quite like a fully packed football stadium in prime time, and Baltimore’s offense has a tall task. It is Bradley Bozeman’s first game back at center, and he and Lamar Jackson must be able to communicate well.
One thing Baltimore can do to quiet the crowd is get off to a fast start. If they strike quickly, it will likely make things a bit easier going forward. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman could incorporate more silent counts or high percentage plays to help get the offense in rhythm. Still, it is up to them to execute in a tough environment.
Will recent injuries affect morale for the Baltimore Ravens?
After back-to-back serious injuries in practice Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens cut their day short. It was later confirmed that both starting running back Gus Edwards and starting cornerback Marcus Peters suffered season-ending ACL tears. It was a gut-check for the team, especially given the other serious injuries they have dealt with this offseason.
The Baltimore Ravens regrouped on Friday and reiterated their resolve. This is a team with excellent depth, but injuries have tested them so far. Undoubtedly, seeing your star players go down has an impact on morale. Even head coach John Harbaugh seemed stunned at the losses, and it shows how deeply connected he is to his players.
Baltimore lives by their “next man up” mantra, and there is no better time to flex that than now. Young guys will need to step up and play their hearts out in honor of those who are sidelined. Only time will tell if the Ravens can withstand these challenges.
Who will lead the Ravens’ backfield?
This is the biggest question looming not just over Week 1, but really this entire season. It started when J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL in the final preseason game against the Washington Football Team. It was an unfortunate injury, but Baltimore knew they had reliable runner Gus Edwards waiting in the wings along with veteran Justice Hill and preseason hero Ty’Son Williams.
They were again dealt a blow when Hill tore his Achilles just days after returning from an ankle injury that cost him most of training camp. Still, Edwards and Williams were there, and the Ravens knew they could add a third back after cuts and from remaining free agents. Then, the unthinkable happened as Edwards tore his ACL, thus ending his season.
That latest setback left the Ravens reeling. Eric DeCosta swiftly added Le’Veon Bell to the practice squad and Trenton Cannon to the 53-man roster. Bell was prolific in his heyday, but it has been a while since he played at a high level. Cannon is more of a special teams guy, who would likely receive few carries.
Baltimore then went on to add Devonta Freeman to their practice squad. Freeman spent camp with the New Orleans Saints, so the Ravens are confident he is in football shape. After the Saints also parted ways with Latavius Murray, the Ravens also snatched him up on a one-year, $2 million deal.
Bell, Freeman, Murray, and Cannon have had limited practices with Baltimore, and they have much to learn about the playbook. One of them, however, will be the second-string running back come Monday night, with Williams, the only back who spent a full offseason with the team, leading the way.
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Likely, Lamar Jackson will do a bit more running than the Ravens would like to offset these recent issues. The Ravens could also use a versatile player like Devin Duvernay as a runner on jet sweeps to keep the ground game moving. It is a tall task, but the Ravens led the NFL in rushing the past two seasons with a variety of backs, and this year should be no different.