Mike Preston: Despite big win in season opener, Ravens still have problems to solve

By Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

BALTIMORE - As the Ravens celebrated their 32-point win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, coach John Harbaugh kept the performance in perspective. The Ravens still have a lot of work to do, and some of the same problems that surfaced last year showed up again in the season opener.

The outcome after the first half Sunday was predictable and the game was about as exciting as a preseason exhibition, but the Ravens should have learned lessons on both sides of the ball. Buried underneath all those offensive yards and their secrecy surrounding their young receiving corps were several problem areas and one burning question.

Where was the pass rush?

And here's another: Didn't we see this last year?

The Ravens sacked Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield twice and hurried him six other times, but that was the result of tight coverage. Creating a pass rush, especially with the front four, was a major priority for the Ravens during the offseason, which is why they signed defensive ends Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.

Both were solid Sunday, but not spectacular. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who led the team in sacks last season with 9 1/2, will get his share of pressures this season, but fellow outside linebacker Pernell McPhee seemed lethargic. Backup Tyus Bowser was solid and appears ready to have a strong season.


Until then, maybe the Ravens have to start blitzing and developing more pressure packages, like they did in 2019. The Ravens also allowed Cleveland to rush for 138 yards on 27 carries, including 80 yards in the first half. There were times when some members of the Ravens' front seven got caught out of position or failed to hold the edge, but the proper adjustments were made at halftime.

"There were a lot of adjustments. A lot of the protocols on the sideline were unique. It was different," Campbell said. "We're used to certain things, and then you have to adjust. And I'm sure that affected a lot of us on the sidelines. I know it (affected) me. But you have to figure it out. There are going to be adjustments throughout the whole year, but I'm glad that we were able to find a way to win the game."

The major concern involves rookie inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. Both have excellent speed and instincts, but what will happen when teams run directly at them? There is also the proverbial rookie wall, which most young players hit late in their first NFL season.

Queen, who led the team in tackles Sunday with eight, including one sack, knows his technique can compensate for his lack of bulk and experience. Some of his tackles against the Browns were deep off the line of scrimmage. Queen said he still wants to work on "everything in my game."


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