In the splash of the offseason, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield got one of the best wide receivers in the NFL when Cleveland traded for Odell Beckham Jr.
Meanwhile, much more quietly, Lamar Jackson has gotten Mayfield’s top weapons from college.
Andrews and Brown were Mayfield’s top receivers at Oklahoma, combining for more than 2,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2017. Now they’re Jackson’s go-to receivers in Baltimore.
“I see why they were so good,” Jackson said with a laugh. “Those guys are fast. They do it all. I’m glad they’re on my team.”
The way the Ravens and Browns have built around their young quarterbacks has been starkly different.
The Browns used trades to grab Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The Ravens used the draft, getting pass-catching tight end Mark Andrews in the third round in 2018 and Marquise Brown in the first round in 2019.
It’s been just three weeks, but the Brown-Andrews duo (51 catches, 517 yards, four touchdowns) has put up bigger numbers than OBJ-Landry (53 catches, 449 yards, one touchdown).
Andrews even said last week that he’s had an easier time connecting with Jackson than he did Mayfield in college. That’s saying something considering Andrews was in Mayfield’s wedding this summer.
“[Baker] had a lot of other guys around him that he gravitated toward first, and it wasn’t until about my third year there playing with him that that kind of came on,” Andrews said. “It wasn’t as an immediate impact and an immediate chemistry as it is with Lamar.”
It’s not just that Jackson’s targets are Sooners. Right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. protected Mayfield’s blindside in college (and was also at his wedding). Ben Powers, the Ravens rookie fourth-round pick, was Mayfield’s left guard for two seasons.
Asked whether he hears a lot about Mayfield from his Oklahoma teammates, Jackson said not really. The two young quarterbacks will face each other a lot over the years and always be linked by the fact that they were the first and last picks of the first round in 2018.
“I feel he’s a great quarterback. He went No. 1 in the draft for a reason,” Jackson said. “He’s a cool guy. I’ve talked to him off the field too, seen him out a couple guys.”
Ravens Offensive Line in For Toughest Test Yet
The Browns’ other offseason moves – besides acquiring Beckham – were beefing up their defensive front. Cleveland traded for pass rusher Olivier Vernon and signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Add that to Myles Garrett, the No. 1-overall pick in 2017, and Larry Ogunjobi, one of their top defenders from last season, and it’s a stacked group.
Baltimore’s offensive line was regarded as one of the team’s biggest question marks heading into the season. In the first weeks, it’s actually been one of Baltimore’s strengths. But there’s no doubt that the level of difficulty gets turned up this week.
“This will be the best defensive front we’ve played yet, I’d say, by a long way,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “This is one of the best defensive lines in football, so let’s just focus on Sunday.
“That’s their best group. And they play really hard, and they’re very physical. Our offensive line and our tight ends are going to have to be up for it, and our backs.”
The marquee matchup will be between Garrett and Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Garrett is off to the best start of his career with six sacks (second-most in the NFL) through three games. Stanley is expected to become a Pro Bowler in his fourth season.
Both high draft picks, they’ve been battling for the past two seasons. Stanley shut out Garrett during his rookie year. Garrett had 1.5 sacks in two games last season.
“With a lot of pass rushers, you see guys that have really good speed or guys that have power or technical rushers,” Stanley said. “He’s a mixture of all of those.”
The Ravens’ left guard spot was particularly under the microscope as Baltimore entered the season, and Harbaugh made it clear that whoever started in Week 1 wasn’t locked into the spot. After three games, however, it appears Bradley Bozeman has taken a strong hold on it with solid play.
What was a major question mark has turned into a non-story. Only 11 teams have given up fewer sacks (six) than the Ravens this season. Meanwhile, only four defenses have notched more than Cleveland’s 11 sacks so far.
“As offensive linemen, you don’t want to be talked about. If you’re being talked about, it’s usually not good,” Bozeman said. “Everybody in the league is good. The Browns are particularly good across the board. I’m excited about it.”
Matthew Judon Takes the Fall for Kansas City Penalty
A 15-yard roughing the passer penalty during Sunday’s loss in Kansas City gave the Chiefs a free set of downs that ultimately led to a touchdown in a 33-28 loss.
The penalty can be debated. Judon did grab Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the back of the jersey behind his helmet, but that’s hardly what brought Mahomes to the turf. Still, the flag was thrown and Judon and the Ravens suffered the consequences. The issue is that it’s Judon’s fifth roughing the passer penalty since the start of last season.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he spoke with Judon about the penalties.
“Those are things that you just have to make wise choices on,” Harbaugh said. “They call them the way they call them, and they’re pretty consistent with how they call them. So, we’ve got to be consistent with how we play all those kind of plays.”
Minutes later in the locker room, Judon put it on his shoulders when asked if he might be losing the benefit of the doubt in referee’s eyes.
“Nah man. It’s hard being an official. The game is played at a different speed than the eye can catch. They’re doing a great job,” Judon said. “Sometimes I get the call, sometimes I don’t get the call. I just have to be better at that.
“I have to know how they’re officiating the game and I have to know where and when I can hit the quarterback in the strike zone. It’s a lot of onus on me and I take full responsibility. I have to do better for my team to win games.”
Judon is Baltimore’s best pass rusher and is off to a strong start with three sacks in three games.
“I’m not going to play cautious. I’m not going to think out there,” Judon said. “But I just have to understand. Being aware is different than playing cautious.”
Justin Tucker Isn’t Talking About His Crafty Drop-Kick Kickoff
The thinking and design behind the drop kick punt kind of kickoff that Justin Tucker pulled off in Kansas City is going to stay between Tucker and Tucker.
Tucker has clearly been practicing that kick, and he doesn’t want to shed any light on the process.
It was quite clever in that the kick forced the Chiefs to fair catch the kickoff, thus not taking any time off the clock. The move kept 2:01 on the clock, essentially giving Baltimore a free timeout.
It also was an odd kind of kick that can be difficult to field without fumbling because it’s skied so high and can flutter in the wind.
Tucker simply told reporters to consult with the league office about the rules about the kick. Tucker didn’t like the first toss to himself, so he picked it up and did it again. The Chiefs wanted a false start to be called.