Ravens fans are quite familiar with Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan's aggressive mindset. Ryan dialed up the heat for four years as the Ravens'* *defensive coordinator, and he hasn't stopped since.
Now Ryan is on the other side, and he may be licking his chops looking at Baltimore's offense this Sunday.
The Ravens will be starting rookie first-round pick Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, could start rookie fourth-round pick Alex Lewis at left guard, and will have quarterback Joe Flacco playing in his first full game since last year's season-ending knee injury.
"I definitely wouldn't be surprised if they [bring a lot of pressure]," Stanley said. "I'm not going to overthink it or try to think about that a certain way, but I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to bring it extra on our side."
"He'll probably blitz a lot," Lewis added. "Blitz and twist; that's what we've been preparing all week for."
Head Coach John Harbaugh saw Ryan's mentality up close, so he knows what to expect. Ryan uses some exotic blitzes, but some of it is just Ryan's personality, Harbaugh said.
"He certainly is not afraid to call something up," Harbaugh said. "He is willing to risk for reward – that is kind of his M.O.
"He wants to play great run defense, and he wants to force incompletions on first down and get you into third-and-long. That is what he wants to do, so he can heat it up. He has been very successful for a long time doing that."
Ryan didn't get a whole lot of sack production from his defense last year. The Bills netted the second-fewest sacks in the league (21). Outside linebackers Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams tied for the team lead with five sacks, and Williams is now playing in Miami.
Buffalo drafted pass-rushing outside linebacker Shaq Lawson in the first round, but he is out with an injured shoulder. Two other key defensive players, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, and rookie inside linebacker Reggie Ragland (knee) also won't play because of suspension and injury, respectively.
But even though Ryan may have one arm tied behind his back, it still may not stop him from trying.
"I think Rex always likes to come after people," Flacco said. "That's in his nature. First game of the season, I think he'll probably do that a little bit just to see if we're prepared for picking up some of the blitzes and things like that.
"At the end of the day, I wasn't running a 4.4 [40-yard dash] before I got hurt anyway. If I run a 6.0 flat right now, it doesn't really matter. I don't think he's going to blitz me just to see if my knee can hold up. But maybe."
On Wednesday, Ryan was asked straight up whether he plans to test Baltimore's rookie(s) and quarterback. Ryan laughed and said he's not handing over the game plan, but spoke highly of Stanley.
"There is a reason why they drafted the kid out of Notre Dame," Ryan said. "This just in, he's pretty darn good."
Talented rookie tackles don't always start right away, and they don't always have immediate success.
Last year, two of the top three offensive tackles drafted were bumped inside to guard. The Giants' Erick Flowers started his first game at left tackle and gave up four quarterback hurries and one hit. In 2014, the first tackle off the board, the Rams' Greg Robinson, didn't start his first game until Week 6.
A rookie left tackle and rookie left guard would add another level of difficulty. Then again, the Ravens won a playoff game in Pittsburgh with undrafted rookie James Hurst at left guard and fifth-round rookie John Urschel at right guard.
"If [Lewis] does start, that is going to be unusual," Ryan said. "I've never seen it before where two [rookies] start on the offensive line, because that is tough. There's so much to it. Those two guys, I'm sure have done a great job studying and things, but it's not easy, that's for sure."
Stanley stood up to the pressure in the preseason. He didn't surrender a single sack or hit in three games and 81 snaps, earning media praise as the preseason's best rookie.
The Notre Dame product said a lot of the nerves that one would think he should have entering his first NFL regular-season game, at the critical left tackle position no less, have "gone away thanks to the preseason."
"[It gave me] a lot of confidence," Stanley said. "I know I can pass block in this league. That was a question that's been lingering over my head before the preseason started. I knew I was good, but can I block in this league? Just being able to play has really answered those questions for me, and now it's just getting better from this point."