The Ravens kept hitting Joe Flacco on Sunday, giving their former franchise quarterback a taste of how Baltimore's defense hopes to play all season.
The pass rush was relentless with three sacks and 11 quarterback hits on Flacco. There were two takeaways by Baltimore, an interception by Marcus Williams and a forced fumble by Chuck Clark.
It took 59 minutes for the Jets to reach the end zone and the Jets didn't convert their first third down until the fourth quarter. By that time, Baltimore's 24-9 victory was well in hand. After his first game as Baltimore's defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald should sleep well. The defense was physical, fast, smart and relentless, giving Flacco a variety of looks and plenty of punishment.
There were plenty of defensive standouts for Baltimore and every level of the unit made plays.
However, the defensive line set the tone from the get-go, with linemen Justin Madubuike (5 tackles 0.5 sacks), Calais Campbell (4 tackles, 1 sack) and Michael Pierce (3 tackles, 1 quarterback hit) bringing inside pressure that never let up. Jets left guard Laken Tomlinson made the Pro Bowl last season and right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker is a first-round pick, but they couldn't handle Madubuike, who looked like he had a parking space in the Jets' backfield.
"He's a humble guy, but he was an All-Pro level player today," Campbell said. "It was fun to see. He can do it against anybody."
Madubuike sounded hungry for more quarterback hits, but he was pleased with the victory.
"I felt like I should've got back there more, but I definitely tried to pressure Joe," Madubuike said. "We all know how good he is, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. We have a standard on our defense. We have to come with that pressure and execute at a high level."
Baltimore's dominance up front gave Macdonald more freedom to dial up different looks and keep the Jets off balance. Campbell loved the aggressive nature of Baltimore's defensive game plan.
"Calling your first NFL game, it's a big deal," Campbell said. "He would make calls and you could see a lot of guys going, 'I like that, I like that.' That's a good feeling."
With the Ravens dominating up front, inside linebacker Patrick Queen was free to roam and make plays. He was all over the field (8 tackles, 3 quarterback hits), disruptive to New York's offense as both a run-stopper and blitzing linebacker. Queen raised his game toward the end of last season, but this was a higher level of impact from a former first-round pick who appears closer to maximizing his talent. His tackling has improved and Queen appeared to anticipate many plays on Sunday before the ball was snapped.
"He showed it all camp. He's just a great caliber player," Campbell said. "I think he knows he's locked in. The way he plays, the way he flies around, it's contagious."
The Ravens unveiled some of the three-safety looks that have been anticipated since they signed Marcus Williams and drafted Kyle Hamilton to join Clark. The trio is fast and versatile, and Williams was the first to make a big play with his first-quarter interception.
It came on an off-target throw by Flacco, making it an easy pick for Williams. It was the 16th interception of Williams' career, but he's not expecting it to be his last.
"It feels good, it's something I do all the time, so I'm not really surprised at myself," Williams said. "You may be surprised, but it's just what I do."
The swagger of Baltimore's secondary and potential to force turnovers will only increase when cornerback Marcus Peters returns from last year's knee injury. He was inactive against the Jets, but the Ravens' defense was very active. There were plenty of standouts for Baltimore, but Clark said the tone was set by the defensive line.
"I think our guys who front went to work, for real," Clark said. "That's who really did the work. At the end of the day, they made it easy for us."