By season's end, the Ravens and Dolphins will both likely be in the thick of the AFC playoff chase.
Thus, Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium will be a better litmus test than the season opener.
Here are my thoughts heading into the game, all in 50 words or less:
This is a chance for Greg Roman to show his offense will adapt and counterpunch after the Dolphins wrecked Baltimore with a relentless all-out blitz last year. Baltimore has worked on and practiced those answers for months. Now it comes down to execution and a game of cat and mouse.
Big plays are one answer for beating a blitz. Had Sammy Watkins hauled in a deep touchdown shot on the Ravens' opening drive last season, it could've been a different game. Instead, he seemed to lose it in the lights and early momentum went down the tubes as well.
Yards after catch is another way to capitalize on Cover Zero. Slants can turn into long plays when both safeties are blitzing, and Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay can both make people miss and dust them. Bateman's ability to pick up yards after catch separates him from Marquise Brown.
It's clear the Ravens took the long-term approach with bringing injured players back. There's been no rush. They've been patient with J.K. Dobbins. Ronnie Stanley looks great, but it has been left up to him. Tyus Bowser was placed on PUP. Marcus Peters has practiced for a month.
We'll see if Dobbins plays Sunday, and if he does, you'd figure the Ravens would keep him on a pitch count. It could be tough though considering Dobbins' adrenaline will be off the charts. I don't know that I've ever seen a player want to play this badly.
It should be appreciated that Patrick Mekari, the Ravens' likely left tackle this Sunday, can start at all five offensive line positions. I talked to him about it this week. He said he takes no pride. It's what the team needs, so he does it. Can we clone this guy?
This game is why the Ravens signed Marcus Williams. Baltimore has defend against big plays much better than it did in 2021. But the defensive pressure up front may be even more pivotal in limiting big plays. Get to Tua Tagovailoa and he'll take the quick, short pass.
Another year, same depth concerns at cornerback. The Ravens lost Kyle Fuller to an ACL tear in the opener and now have three corners – Peters, Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Stephens – questionable for Sunday. It's unreal how Baltimore gets depleted seemingly every year no matter how much depth is assembled.
Speaking of Fuller, this is another example of how teams should be required to install natural grass at their stadiums. The turf at MetLife Stadium has long been scrutinized after a rash of injuries. Player safety is a major initiative, so buck up and pay to keep ligaments safer too.