Rich Eisen: Ravens Are for Real
Over the past several months, we here at Late for Work have written about the Ravens being overlooked by national pundits.
If it wasn't the Cleveland Browns getting all the love from the media (and oddsmakers), it was the Pittsburgh Steelers. There were some, however, who declared the AFC North was still the defending champion Ravens' division to lose.
In fact, those were the exact words used by NFL Network's Rich Eisen on "The Rich Eisen Show" back in July. So when he was asked during the "Overreaction Monday" segment of his show yesterday if Lamar Jackson and the Ravens were for real following their 59-10 rout of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Eisen couldn't resist the opportunity to say, "I told you so."
"I said July 19 it's their division to lose. I said July 19 I'm over and sick and tired of people saying Lamar Jackson isn't a real quarterback or they won't be able to win with him because he can't throw," Eisen said. "They are for real, coming at you."
When Eisen's co-host, Chris Brockman, referred to the Dolphins as "an FCS opponent," Eisen adamantly refused to put an asterisk on the Ravens' season-opening victory.
"The whole idea that it was just the Dolphins -- you still have to execute, you still have to make the plays," Eisen said. "When the receivers have a step on somebody or two, you still have to hit them. When the defensive line you're going at is tired, you still have to execute on the offensive line and not make the mistakes, you still need to hit the hole if you're running backs, you still need to make your blocks if you're up front. And the Ravens did it."
Eisen also complimented the Ravens for not relaxing after building a big lead in the second quarter.
"You still have to take an opponent when they're down and kick them when they're down," he said. "You still have to come up with the first-ever 40-burger in a first half in Week 1 history. You still have to go for it with your backup quarterback on fourth down like they did with [Robert Griffin III] because he's got to get ready if Lamar goes down. You still have to be that coach who makes the other coach go, 'What's your deal, bro?' and that's the Harbaugh family.
"They are for real. Let this serve as notice served."
Deion Sanders: Lamar Jackson Will Be Best of 2018 QB Class
The acclaim for Jackson after his spectacular Week 1 performance has been as unrelenting as the Ravens' offense was on Sunday. Add NFL Network's Deion Sanders and NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal and Adam Schein to the lengthy list of analysts and media members who were impressed.
Sanders went as far as to say Jackson will be the best of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft last year. Jackson was the final overall pick of the first round. The quarterbacks selected before him were Baker Mayfield (No. 1 overall by Browns, Sam Darnold (No. 3, New York Jets,), Josh Allen (No. 7, Buffalo Bills) and Josh Rosen (No. 10, Arizona Cardinals).
"He has an offense that's built particularly for him," Sanders said on "NFL Gameday Prime." "He's very versatile in that offense. He was reluctant to run the football [Sunday] because he was so prominent with the passing. Their defense can really play at a high level. Therefore, he's going to get ample amount of opportunities, unlike some of the others that have lackluster defenses."
Sanders praised Jackson for putting in the work during the offseason to improve his overall game.
"This guy really went home, got in the lab and studied himself and his insufficiencies, and he went to work," Sanders said. "He was talking about the width of his base, he was talking about his throwing motion. This guy went to work to correct all his mistakes and his mishaps from a year ago, and you see it paid dividends."
After witnessing Jackson's scary good effort in Miami, Schein wrote that he "is going to have a monster second season."
"Jackson was breathtaking in Baltimore's 59-10 shellacking of the Dolphins, and it's a harbinger of things to come," Schein wrote. "Yes, Miami is in the midst of a rebuild, smartly thinking about 2020 and 2021. But don't spin Jackson's opening statement any other way."
Rosenthal listed Jackson among his biggest Week 1 surprises.
"Even Jackson's biggest fans couldn't have expected an opening performance like Sunday's effort against Miami," Rosenthal wrote. "The Ravens' ridiculous running game forced the Dolphins to drop a safety near the line of scrimmage, and Jackson exposed that strategy with some beautiful deep passes over the top of the defense. Yes, it was against the Dolphins. But Jackson was extremely accurate on short, intermediate and -- most importantly -- vertical throws.
"The second-year quarterback's 83-yarder to Marquise Brown, 39-yarder to Mark Andrews and 33-yarder to Willie Snead were all precision throws dropped into a bucket that would have been impressive in 7-on-7 drills, much less during an NFL game. Jackson had more passing touchdowns (5) than incompletions (3) or rushing attempts (3), a trend that can't continue but which points to the ceiling of one of the sport's most fascinating players."
While Jackson deservedly got most of the headlines coming out of Sunday's game, Rosenthal wrote that the Ravens' running game also was in fine form.
"It should not be lost amid the Jackson fire-show that Baltimore's first three runs went for 49, 11 and 13 yards before Miami managed to limit the Ravens to single digits in rushing yards on a play (4 yards on a direct snap to Mark Ingram)," Rosenthal wrote. "Baltimore's running game is a lot to handle. The Ravens finished last season running with historic success on the ground, and it might take the league a few more minutes to catch up. Their 643 total yards on Sunday were the sixth-most in a game in the Super Bowl era."
Just How Good Can 'Hollywood' Brown Be?
It didn't take long for rookie wide receiver "Hollywood" Brown to flash his star potential. Despite Brown missing OTAs after undergoing foot surgery and not practicing this past Friday, the Jackson-Brown combination definitely wasn't running on empty in Miami.
Brown's first two catches went for touchdowns of 47 and 83 yards, with Brown becoming just the third player in NFL history to score touchdowns on his first two catches.
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote that Brown's debut (four catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns) raises the question of just how good the 25th overall pick out of Oklahoma can be.
"Advanced statistics suggest that Brown's 147 yards — the most by a receiver in his debut in 16 years, according to ESPN — were no fluke," Kasinitz wrote. "Brown gained an average of 11.3 yards after each catch more than metrics say an average player would have gained, according to the NFL's NextGen Stats. That was the best mark of any receiver in Week 1.
"Brown hauled in receptions on four of his five targets (80 percent), a rate which ranked in the top half of the league, and NextGen Stats show his targets averaged 18.4 air yards, the seventh-most in the NFL on Sunday. Translation: Brown was making impressive plays deep downfield."
The fact that Brown's big day came against an overmatched opponent should not minimize his stunning performance, Kasinitz wrote.
"Brown's success carried weight for a variety of reasons. [Minkah] Fitzpatrick is a former first-round pick, after all, and Brown had no trouble recognizing that he could burn the Dolphins DB and then doing so in a flash. … Not every team is as unimposing as Miami. But not every receiver can blow past Minkah Fitzpatrick."
On that play, which went for an 83-yard touchdown, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah likened the Dolphins defender trying to chase down Brown in the open field as "a boat race, and that is a speed boat against a canoe."