1. The Passing game looks reborn
I think most of us remember how last year’s offense got started. To put it nicely it didn’t look pretty. The offensive unit didn’t get off the ground till the second half of the season in 2017. Thankfully it doesn’t look like that’s the case in 2018. We saw how well the receiver room looked as Ozzie Newsome made some much-needed renovations over the offseason. Each of the three wide receivers that the team acquired over the offseason had a touchdown Sunday afternoon. Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and John Brown combined for 10 receptions, 131 yards and three touchdowns. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco did a great job of spreading the ball around on Sunday. Completing passes to nine different offensive players. It’s the best he’s looked in quite some time. Crazy what a quarterback can do when he has viable weapons to throw to, isn’t it?
Flacco finished the day completing 73 percent of his passes, 24 completions for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Only playing two and a half quarters. If he played all four quarters, he could have thrown for 500, but the Bills didn’t do their part in making it a game. After having two seasons of not being fully healthy, maybe now we’re seeing what he can do. During that time the offense has certainly lagged and given their fans their fair share of headaches on Sundays. Baltimore fans can only hope there is more to come and there will be more performances like they had on Sunday.
The Ravens traded back into the first round this past April and took Heisman playmaker, Lamar Jackson. What most of us were thinking was, maybe, hopefully, this will set a fire under Joe Flacco. Similar to something we saw in Kansas City in 2017, when the Chiefs took Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In doing so, it lit a fire under veteran Alex Smith, as he had a career year in 2017. Setting career numbers in competitions, yards and touchdowns. Maybe we are going to see that in 2018 from Joe Flacco.
2. The running game couldn’t get off the ground
It might be an overreaction, it was only one game like Terrell Suggs said several times in the post-game press conference. But the lack of run game Sunday afternoon was, a little concerning. It never got off the ground. Alex Collins had seven carries for 13 yards, which averages out to a putrid 1.9 yards a carry. Kenneth Dixon had 13 carries for 44 yards, coming into the game after it was already over. Buck Allen had four carries for 17 yards. Against a pretty weak Buffalo pass rush, it’s a bit concerning. Seeing as how the team dominated in every aspect of the game.
Thursday night they’ll be going up against a far better rush defense in the Cincinnati Bengals. But, like I eluded to, maybe it was just one game. A hiccup of sorts. Alex Collins had a stellar year for the Ravens last season nearly rushing for a thousand yards despite getting limited carries compared to the other running backs that put up better numbers than he did. Only getting the ball 212 times, he averaged 4.6 yards a carry. Going into Thursday nights game, the Ravens have to hope that Alex Collins can get the ball rolling. This week’s game isn’t going to be as easy as the one on Sunday afternoon vs the Bills. Division games are always a different story.
3. Is the Ravens defense that good? Or are the Buffalo Bills just that bad?
Watching this game, I couldn’t help but think of that famous post-game press conference with the late coach Dennis Green screaming at reporters: “They are who we thought they were.” Coming into the game most people expected a two-touchdown victory vs the Bills, at least. Especially after the Bills announced that Nathan Peterman was going to be the starter. The Ravens defense had to have been licking their chops like lions seeing a gazelle hearing that news. And they didn’t disappoint.
It wasn’t until the second half where the Bills offense gained a first down. Peterman and Josh Allen were a combined 11/33 in pass attempts. The secondary kept the Bills receivers under lock and key. Nabbing two interceptions in the process. The front seven also looked prominent. Racking up six sacks vs the Bills line. Two of them coming from cornerback Tavon Young, who returned from a major knee injury in 2017. One coming from Tim Williams who may be poised for a breakout year. Another coming from the ageless wonder, Terrell Suggs and another coming from Za’Darious Smith. And the last one coming from rookie linebacker Kenny Young. Who has the potential to be the best player out of the Ravens 2018 draft class. And he may just fill that void the team has been looking for since Zach Orr tragically had to retire due to a neck injury.
Most football fans associate the Baltimore Ravens as an organization that prides itself on defense. When you think Ravens football, you think of intimating defenses. Could this year’s team be one of those defenses? Or are the Buffalo Bills just that big of a train wreck? Maybe it could be both. The defensive unit will be facing a step up in competition and it will be interesting to see what the secondary can do against an A.J. Green with no Jimmy Smith there to cover him.