By Michael Natelli
Baltimore Ravens Disappoint in Week 1, But Don’t Panic
This isn’t a doomsday take, so if you’re looking for someone to bemoan how this isn’t Baltimore’s year, there’s bound to be plenty of that out there today on Overreaction Tuesday.
Last night was miserable, no question about it. On both sides of the ball, the team zigged where it should’ve zagged, and ducked when it should’ve jumped. Three extra points at the end of the first half sound really nice right now. But any sort of knee-jerk projection that this is somehow an indicator of how the season will go is misguided.
After losing a Pro Bowl corner and an entire running back room days before starting their season, it would’ve been easy for Baltimore to come out and lay an egg, chalking it up to not having enough time to get so many players acclimated to new roles in such a short amount of time. Just look how Green Bay and Tennessee responded to Instead, the Ravens went into the half with the lead, and even led 14-0 at one point. Odafe Oweh got his first career sack and the pass rush looked solid in the second half.
Chris Westry looked like he belonged on the field, and DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark were in midseason form. Lamar Jackson connected with Sammy Watkins for a big shot down the field and Hollywood Brown was a steady presence in the passing attack.
Bright side of things for the Baltimore Ravens
In an otherwise frustrating performance from the offensive line, Bradley Bozeman looked comfortable at the center position, answering one of the biggest questions the Ravens were facing before this string of new question marks emerged over the last several days.
The defense got a turnover with their backs against the wall after all seemed lost.
There was plenty to be disappointed in last night to be sure, some of it inexcusable. The offensive line play was largely atrocious. Patrick Queen can’t commit a senseless foul on Hunter Renfrow in a big spot and undo a big stop.
Getting points to end the first half was probably the right call. Enough that went wrong on Monday night should’ve gone right and secured a season-opening victory. But much of the chaos will have to come with time.
Imagine how things could’ve been different if Alejandro Villanueva had the league’s best blocking tight end next to him tonight?
Does Jackson get sacked and fumble in overtime with a veteran running back out there to pick up the block that Ty’Son Williams missed? Does Jimmy Smith make some of the plays Tavon Young and Brandon Stephens didn’t?
Could the Ravens have exploited the Raiders’ blitz-heavy defense if they’d been able to practice screens with Latavius Murray and Trenton Cannon?
These are all things that will be addressed over the next few weeks, either through more time on the practice field or time in recovery.
Patience is the key for the Baltimore Ravens
The front office and coaching staff will also have a much better sense of what this roster is once they’ve played a few games, and will be able to answer the questions we’re asking tonight about how much of these struggles can be chalked up to the recent string of injuries and “Hey, it’s Week 1”, and how much of it is a matter of simply needing more talented options at this or that position.
In the meantime, patience will be key. There’s a very real chance Week 2 against Kansas City is even harder to watch if Wink Martindale is still not comfortable trusting the young corners to fill the roles his defense demands. All the more so if the offensive line can’t turn things around in a hurry.
But the real litmus as far as “punting on 2021” is concerned will be Weeks 3 and 4. The Detroit Lions seldom called a measuring stick for just about anything, but if Baltimore does take its lumps in Week 2, can they come back in Week 3 and show another full week of practice has truly done them some good?
Can Lamar Jackson look how he normally does against teams of Detroit’s menial caliber? Can the Ravens go into Week 4 with a more healthy, practiced, and equipped roster and demonstrate they’re capable of more than just hanging around with the AFC’s middle class?
The reinforcements that will come back from injury over the next few weeks are reason enough to believe Baltimore will look like a much different team come October, and it’s hard to believe Eric DeCosta won’t be making at least one significant addition to the roster sooner or later. It’s worth remembering that the 2019 team started 2-2, lost to Kansas City, and went on to put together the most impressive all-around regular season in franchise history.
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Even if the Ravens enter Week 4 1-2, they’re still within striking distance of something similar if they use September to get themselves right. History has given us reason to believe they can. And if they do, enduring early September will just make success taste that much sweeter. Wake me up when September ends. Then we’ll talk.
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