Five thoughts on the Ravens’ 59-10 win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium:
A new season began with what amounted to a real-life fantasy. Lamar Jackson and the offense put up three touchdowns in the first 11 minutes and never slowed down. Rookie wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown caught scoring passes of 47 and 83 yards on his first two touches in the NFL. The running game produced gain after gain, in the process flattening Miami’s defensive front. Records were set, expectations exceeded, exclamation points added. Safety Earl Thomas III, the Ravens biggest offseason acquisition, intercepted a pass to end his first series with his new team. The defense as a whole was too fast, strong and unpredictable for an overwhelmed Miami offense. The Ravens literally couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season, and it made for a sweat-free afternoon (figuratively, not literally, it was way-hot) on the way to a 1-0 record. The rebuilding Dolphins might be the NFL’s worst team, but that won’t keep this impressive victory from bolstering a young Baltimore team’s confidence in many areas. What’s wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing.
The biggest question about the Ravens in 2019 is how much Jackson has progressed as a passer. The subject has been talked to death, and a lot is riding on the answer, no doubt. Well, one game isn’t enough of a sample size for a definitive answer, but Jackson’s performance certainly was in keeping with what the Ravens have said all along, namely, that Jackson would be vastly improved. Let’s just say his haters had a bad day. On the Ravens’ 89-yard scoring drive to open the game, Jackson hit several of the “layups” he missed too often for anyone’s tastes in 2018. After hitting Brown in stride on a crossing route that Brown turned into a touchdown, he lofted a perfect deep ball that hit Brown in stride for another score. Jackson ended up connecting on his first 10 attempts before finally missing one, and he continued to make on-target throws, sometimes in tight coverage, ending the day with eye-popping numbers: 17 of 20, 324 yards, 5 touchdowns. Meanwhile, he barely ran the ball at all. Put simply, he destroyed Miami with his arm, not his legs. He didn’t say this but might as well have: “Next question, please.”
The only setback for the Ravens on an otherwise gleeful afternoon was veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith’s early departure from the game due to a knee injury. After a teammate rolled into him, he was helped from the field and didn’t return. It doesn’t look like a season-ending injury, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said, but Smith might be out for a bit, and it was interesting to see Anthony Averett, not Brandon Carr, replace him. Carr is a solid veteran coming off a strong season, but he might end up taking the brunt of the snaps at slot corner, where starter Tavon Young is out for the season. The Dolphins definitely went right at Averett, who had some good and bad moments but generally survived his first extended experience at outside corner in the NFL. We’ll see how long Smith is out and what the coaches decide to do, but Averett, 24, is a second-year player whom the Ravens like and want to develop because there are no assurances about how long Smith, 31, and Carr, 33, will be in Baltimore after this season.
Bradley Bozeman won the Left Guard Derby, opening the season as the starter at the one position on either side of the ball that was up for grabs. He fit right in, excelling with the rest of an offensive line that pounded and completely dominated Miami’s defensive front. Jackson had all the time he needed pretty much whenever he dropped back to pass, and the Ravens’ running backs, led by Mark Ingram II, totaled 190 yards on the ground. “The offensive line did great; I barely had any pressure,” Jackson said. A lot of people, myself included, thought veteran James Hurst might end up playing left guard, but it seems the Ravens are committed to keeping him in the “swingman” backup role and developing new blood to start. Bozeman, a 2018 sixth-round pick, had a solid preseason and certainly followed that up impressively in this game. The uncertainty at one position led to plenty of concerns about the O-line being expressed as the season opened, but it was a team strength Sunday.
Quick Hits: Don’t be fooled by the fact that the Ravens’ amassed just three sacks. They also had 12 quarterback hits. They were all over the Dolphins’ quarterbacks. … The Ravens already had a huge lead when they successfully executed a fake punt in the second quarter, setting up another score. They also scored a touchdown on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. Were they guilty of running up the score? Please. This is the NFL. Teams are always trying out new plays and putting others on film for opponents to mull … The Ravens’ defensive interior completely stuffed Miami’s running game, which totaled just 21 yards ... Aside from the fake punt, the Ravens’ special teams also contributed a fumble recovery and strong kickoff and punt coverage. It’s a point of emphasis for the organization to perform better overall on special teams in 2019.