The Dolphins beat the Ravens by blitzing heavily last year, and Baltimore has worked hard to find answers. Sunday's home opener against Miami will shed light on the Ravens' ability to handle "Cover-0" blitz pressure in 2022.
The Dolphins blitzed more than any team in the NFL last season (39.6%), and during their 22-10 upset win over Baltimore, the Dolphins blitzed Lamar Jackson on 31 of his 50 dropbacks and produced one of the most frustrating losses of his career. Jackson was sacked four times and was held to 15 of 27 completions for 139 yards, one touchdown and one interception with a 66.7 passer rating.
Mike McDaniel has replaced Brian Flores as Miami's head coach, but Josh Boyer is still Miami's defensive coordinator and the starting defense has returned virtually intact. Dolphins safeties Brandon Jones and Jevon Holland are masterful at timing their blitzes, and Miami won its opener by stifling the Patriots' offense during a 20-7 victory.
It will be no surprise if Miami blitzes heavily again, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens will be prepared to counter.
"We would have been negligent if we hadn't worked on it," Harbaugh said. "It was something we needed to get a lot better at, and we studied it the whole offseason. We'll have a plan for it and hope it works, because these guys are probably the best in the league at doing it right now. They do it more than anybody, they do it better than anybody and it's just something they're committed to."
The Ravens hope to make Miami pay for blitzing by popping some big plays. Jackson connected with Rashod Bateman on a 55-yard touchdown pass in Week 1, and many of the Dolphins' Cover-Zero packages could leave Bateman, Devin Duvernay and Mark Andrews in one-on-one coverage. Duvernay's first touchdown Sunday against the Jets came on a quick step drop that would also be effective in beating a blitz.
Jackson says the Ravens are better prepared this time for Miami's blitz.
"They just caught us off guard, really," Jackson said. "We hadn't really gone over defenses doing all-up zero against us – like, just all-up flat-out zero. But I feel like we'll have an answer for it this year. We watched film – watched a lot of film on those guys – because we don't want it to happen again.
"Other teams did zero [blitz], but it was just the way they did it that kind of affected us. But like I said, we'll have an answer this time around if they do the same thing."
Jackson Expects to Spend More Time Under Center This Season
Jackson has spent the majority of his career operating from the shotgun, but on Sunday he took 11 snaps from under center. It's something the Ravens talked about doing all summer, and it worked well against the Jets. On four passing attempts from under center, Jackson went 3-for-3 for 30 yards and drew a 32-yard pass interference penalty on his other attempt.
Jackson has grown more comfortable working from under center and likes the diversity it will add to the offense.
"Coach wanted to do things different this year, and I'm pretty comfortable with it," Jackson said.
Coach Harbaugh: Meadowlands Turf Did Not Factor Into Dobbins, Peters and Stanley Being Inactive
The Ravens did not activate J.K. Dobbins (knee), Marcus Peters (knee) or Ronnie Stanley (ankle) for the season-opener, but Harbaugh said that decision had nothing to do any concern about the artificial playing surface at MetLife Stadium.
However, Harbaugh did say that players have a preference for natural grass, and he is very pleased the Ravens play on natural grass at M&T Bank Stadium.
"We want those guys to have the best of the best, especially surfaces to play on," Harbaugh said. "You can't always get everything. I look at [Ravens Owner] Steve Bisciotti for instance, and I think it was seven, eight, nine years ago where the players went to Steve and asked for grass. Steve said right away, 'Yes.' That was his answer; he didn't even blink. He said yes. He put in the best grass you can put in out there for our climate, and you guys have seen how well it plays. [Steelers Head] Coach [Mike] Tomlin loves our grass. Yes, we talk about grass before the game.[period]"
The Ravens lost two players, cornerback Kyle Fuller (knee) and left tackle Ja'Wuan James (Achilles), to season-ending injuries at MetLife Stadium. Harbaugh said the turf was "packed down, it was a little tight."
"Maybe that's how it's supposed to be. I don't know, but that's what I saw. It was a little tough," he said.
Ravens Must Be Wary of Dolphins Speed
The addition of wide receiver Tyreek Hill has added more killer speed to a Miami offense that already had fleet receiver Jaylen Waddle and a mobile quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa. Harbaugh said the Ravens would be wary of Miami's ability to create big plays.
"They have two of the fastest receivers in football playing for them," Harbaugh said. "Two running backs that run that scheme extremely well. That's kind of how they're built on offense."
Ravens wide receiver Demarcus Robinson played with Hill in Kansas City and has seen what he's capable of.
"I saw it every day in practice," Robinson said. "But it's not a secret. He's a great receiver. Every team prepares for it, and I know our defense will, too."