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Late for Work: Ravens Have a 'Special Player' in Zay Flowers

WR Zay Flowers
WR Zay Flowers

Ravens Have a 'Special Player' in Zay Flowers

Overreactions are a staple following Week 1 of the NFL season, but the praise being heaped on first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers for his debut performance is justified.

Not only did Flowers put up good numbers (a franchise rookie record nine catches for 78 yards) in the Ravens' season-opening win over the Houston Texans, but he also passed the eye test. Flowers' speed, elusiveness, and ability to get open were on full display.

It was apparent why Lamar Jackson nicknamed Flowers "Joystick." The pundits have another name for Flowers: special.

"Lamar Jackson-Zay Flowers, what a connection. He lined up everywhere. Special player," NFL Network's Brian Baldinger said when breaking down film of Flowers from Sunday. "Oh, it's going to be fun to watch Zay Flowers."

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah wrote: "You can watch one comeback route from Zay Flowers and see he has everything needed to be a special player. Elite speed/burst plus ability to get in and out of breaks efficiently. No wasted steps/movement and you can feel his speed."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec also took note of Flowers' impressive showing.

"Are we done with the Marquise Brown–Zay Flowers comparisons?" Zrebiec wrote. "They were never fair to begin with, and that's not a diss to Brown, who played really well at times for the Ravens and was at his best in the biggest games. But Flowers is extremely comfortable working in traffic and is always looking to break tackles and get upfield. That was on full display Sunday. Per Pro Football Focus, Flowers broke four tackles. No NFL player broke more in Week 1. Flowers also got 11 total touches (two handoffs and nine receptions). Brown didn't get that many in any of his 46 career games in Baltimore."

Odell Beckham Jr. Showed His Value by Making Clutch Catches

Odell Beckham Jr.'s numbers weren't as big as Flowers', but the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver still made an impact in his highly anticipated Ravens debut.

"Given the magnitude of the contract he got (one year, $15 million), there probably is an expectation that Beckham will put up reasonably big numbers. I've said all along that Beckham's value, behind what we've already seen, would be justified less by volume and more by what he's able to do in big moments," Zrebiec wrote. "Whether that's on key third downs, in the red zone or even late in games, the Ravens need Beckham to be at his best in crucial situations.

"In his return to the field, Beckham had two catches for 37 yards and drew two pass interference penalties. On one of his catches, he converted on third-and-7 deep in Ravens territory to get Baltimore a first down. On his second one, he made a 29-yard catch on third-and-6 to set up an eventual Justin Tucker field goal that all but put the game away. I'm sure the Ravens will want to get Beckham more involved, but he'll be plenty valuable to them if he keeps making key third-down receptions."

After the game, Head Coach John Harbaugh gave Beckham a wooden spear to honor that late-game 29-yard catch (the Ravens' longest reception of the game) that helped finish off the Texans.

Steelers All-Pro DT Cam Heyward Likely Headed to IR, Would Miss Week 5 Meeting With Ravens

The Ravens weren't the only AFC North team to see star players suffer significant injuries on Sunday.

Steelers three-time All-Pro defensive tackle Cam Heyward suffered a groin injury in Pittsburgh's 30-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and is expected to miss multiple weeks. Heyward is likely headed to injured reserve – which means he would be out for at least four games – and surgery is a possibility, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo.

Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (hamstring) and tight end Pat Freiermuth (chest) also left the game early with injuries.

Browns two-time All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Cleveland's 24-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens play at Cleveland in Week 4 and at Pittsburgh in Week 5.

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