Ravens Can’t Overlook the Dolphins
The Baltimore Ravens are starting the 2019 season in what will be a water-logged Florida against the Miami Dolphins, thanks to hurricane Dorian. Clearly the Ravens are the favorites here but there are some underlying tones that could prove to be troublesome for the Ravens. The Ravens have, what has been touted as, a revolutionary offense that has been unseen and unpracticed against an opposing team. They have some new and unproven parts in positions of importance, most notably the wide receiver corps. With receiver Seth Roberts injury shortened preseason, we could see a lot of Marquise Brown and Myles Boykin, two of this year’s rookie draft picks. There is the unknown arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick who seems to own the Ravens and can strike quickly or extend plays against a blitzing pass scheme. And there is the new head coach, Brian Flores, and his New England Patriots counterparts that make it so an understanding of the Patriots scheme is as important to study as Dolphins footage.
Every Ravens fan and what appear to be football fans all over the country are curious to see what Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is going to do this year. His run in the second preseason game against Green Bay blew up the internet and was required footage on every football show produced that week. With his improved arm and the new Greg Roman scheme, we are liable to see a productive offense as we have never seen in Baltimore before. He could easily break a number of Ravens scoring records but it may take a little time to work out all the bugs in Roman’s new offensive scheme. One thing Lamar does is win so even if things don’t go as planned, he almost always finds a way to pull it out.
Joining Jackson will be a number of young players and a new face or two. Last year’s powerhouse back, Gus Edwards, will be joined by the versatile Mark Ingram, who is as potent in the passing game as the running game (something we have missed since Ray Rice), and the speedy Justice Hill. In addition to those new additions will be his wide receivers that also have some new faces, Marquise Brown, Myles Boykin, Seth Roberts and a new (but not new) Jaleel Scott. The reliable Chris Moore and Willie Snead are joined by a returning group of tight ends that individually and collectively could be the best in the league this year. A standard of the running offensive scheme are good receiving and blocking tight ends and we have three of them. Hopefully, even if our new players take some time to settle down and become reliable, we have enough pieces in place to help Jackson be successful.
To me the greatest unknown in this whole game is Ryan Fitzpatrick (A.K.A “Fitzmagic”) where against the Ravens he has more than earned that title. With a win-loss against the Ravens standing at 4-2, and with his early season production, it is hard to tell what we are going to get with him in week one. He has proven in the past to be able to step outside the rush and extend the play, much like our nemesis Ben Roethlisberger, and hit an open receiver down the field. His early season antics last year had him producing 400 yards in each of his first two games and passed for more touchdowns than Lamar did his entire rookie season. If Fitzpatrick is on cue, the only way to beat him is to take advantage of their defense and score more points. Something the Ravens are hoping they have put the pieces in place to do this season.
Finally, after analyzing their starting quarterback and what his weapons will be able to do, what the coaching staff of the Dolphins is scheming up will be the last component to figure out. Where the Ravens offense is an unknown, what the Dolphins are going to do on both sides of the ball, is a complete mystery at this point. Where Flores is going, with both his coordinators, all products of the New England Patriots system, is anticipated to look an awful lot like what they did with their previous employer, requiring film study from a number of different teams. Film study has to include at a minimum, Patriots for Flores and his schemes, Arizona Cardinals for what Josh Rosen brings to the table and the Tampa Bay Bucs where Fitzpatrick spent last year. Not to mention the film on the Dolphins, that will provide a wealth of information on their returning players. How much of any and all of this will come into play is hard to say at this point, which is why this offense could be very difficult to prepare for in week one. The disadvantage when facing a new coach, new staff and new quarterbacks on one team for the first game of the season is obvious. In such a case you just have to prepare yourself and know what you are doing and impose your will on your opponent.
This game could be closer than people anticipate. If the Ravens secondary has any trouble communicating it may take a game or two for Earl Thomas, Tony Jefferson and their counterparts to get into sync. The Ravens will also have an unknown in the slot. Since Tavon Young’s season ending injury, we have seen a number of different cornerbacks trying to fill that position. It appears either Brandon Carr or Cyrus Jones will see a number of snaps in that spot as well as Anthony Averitt and perhaps we will even see DeShon Elliott and Anthony Levine in that role as well. If Fitzpatrick starts off like last year, the Ravens will have to count on their various pieces to step up and will need Brown and Boykin to catch some deep shots or extend short passes with yards after the catch. They will need Ingram to pound the defensive line and take pressure off of Jackson. And the Ravens new pass rush is going to have to step up and contain Fitzpatrick and be able to bring him down when they get their hands on him. This will be a bigger test for the Ravens than most anticipate and where I am hoping for a blowout, I am looking for a much higher score on both sides leading to a 35-21 Ravens win.