Returning to the starting lineup Week 1 after his serious knee injury in 2019 was an emotional experience for Matt Skura. With that achievement behind him, the Ravens' starting center feels even more confident about his health.
Skura played 49 snaps and said his knee felt fine following the season opener.
"I think I'm really close to being 100 percent, or right at 100 percent," Skura said. "It's something I'll have to work through the entire season, but right now my knee feels great. My knee was the only thing that wasn't sore after the game. That was definitely encouraging for me, going through a whole game and looking back and knowing my knee held up great."
When Skura tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in Week 12 last season, the odds were against him playing again less than a year later. But all long, Skura's goal was to be ready faster than people expected, and his hard work and determination made it happen.
"It's a remarkable accomplishment," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I'd say no, I didn't think there was any chance he would be able to go Week 1 in all honesty. I thought he'd be a PUP and come back after six weeks at the earliest type of a situation. That would've been excellent.
"For him to be back playing in the opener is a tribute to him and to our trainers and the doctors that did the surgery, just the whole thing. His wife, for putting up with him, all of these things that go into this. And he played a good solid game. He's only going to get better from here."
The interior of the Ravens' offense line had some trouble at times during the season-opener against a strong Browns defensive line. Skura was pushed backwards when fullback Patrick Ricard fumbled in the first half.
"It's encouraging to know that even though we didn't have our best game as an offensive line and just me personally, it's good to know there are so many things we can improve on," Skura said. "If we, including myself, clean up the little things, I think the game would have gone even further and we could have scored more points."
Tyus Bowser Begins Contract Year With Stellar Performance
Entering a contract year, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser said he wanted to have at least 10 sacks this season, in addition to helping the Ravens win a Super Bowl. He's off to a strong start. Bowser had a sack against the Browns on Sunday and played a career-high 39 snaps, just four fewer than Matthew Judon.
Bowser had a career-high 5.0 sacks last season, but he wants to be a three-down linebacker, not just a situational pass rusher. Against the Browns, Bowser made his presence felt in a variety of ways that got Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's attention.
"I think he played his best game, first of all, since he's been here," Martindale said. "He's another guy who was very active. He was setting the edge in the run game. You saw the sack he had on the fourth-down play with Baker (Mayfield). I'm really proud of Tyus and the attitude he brought to that game. He just needs to keep stacking them now. I thought he played one of the better games of his career."
Ravens Prepare for J.J. Watt's Unique Style
Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt was out with an injury last season when the Ravens handily defeated the Texans, 41-7, in Baltimore. But Watt is healthy again, and Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman says that keeping the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014, 2015) from ruining Baltimore's game plan will be easier said than done.
"He's still wrecking things," Roman said. "He looks quick as ever. Year after year, I've seen him wreck games. Got a very unique style. I told the players, it's like Lamar (Jackson) when Lamar runs the ball. It's really hard to get a good hit on him."
Expect Watt to vary where he lines up, probing for weaknesses in the Ravens' offensive line. The Ravens did a superb job handling Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald last season, but Watt is another elite lineman who can take over a series or make a huge play at a defining moment. He's one of the more difficult defensive linemen to block, not only because he's talented, but because his techniques are unorthodox.
"He just knows how to defeat blocks and he's very unique," Roman said. "Some people who would try to do that, it would absolutely end disastrously. But he's got the balance, quickness, to set up the offensive lineman or blocker, show him one thing and give him something else. He has a really good instinct on when to take those chances and understands angles in real time. It's hard to get a really crushing block on him because he's a very slippery yet powerful player."
Swatting Passes Is a Calais Campbell Specialty
Calais Campbell put a stamp on his Ravens debut by getting a piece of three passes on Sunday, including one deflection that led to an interception by Marlon Humphrey. A defensive lineman getting three pass breakups in one game is incredibly rare.
At 6-foot-8, Campbell knows how to use his size and athleticism to make plays, and Martindale plans on using Campbell's entire skill set. Whether he's rushing the passer, stuffing the run, or dropping into coverage, Campbell is the kind of versatile player that Martindale loves working with.
"You saw the impact he had in the Cleveland game," Martindale said. "Who besides us would take the 'Monstar' who will probably go down as a Hall of Fame pass rusher at the end of his career and drop him out on the first third down and he causes an interception? He's one of the most unselfish players I've ever been around. He's been great since he's been here and it's been a fun to have him."
Ravens Are Not Looking Past Deshaun Watson or Texans
The Ravens won by 32 points in Week 1, and they beat Houston by 34 points last season. But that means nothing to the Ravens as they prepare to visit Houston on Sunday.
It's the first road game of the season for Baltimore, and Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the league's most explosive players. Watson is a threat whether inside or outside the pocket, and whether he's throwing or running. Just like Jackson, Watson makes defensive coordinators restless and Martindale is preparing to see Watson at his best.
"We're not overconfident, trust me," Martindale said. "He gets better every year. He's a proven quarterback for a reason. It was just one of those days last year. He, to me is like a LeBron James type player in the NFL instead of the NBA. He's a general. He's a point guard out there. We respect his game."