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Ravens Must Avoid Poor Stretch Following Strong Start

Vinny & Haynie
September 17, 2019 - 2:31 pm

By Tim Barbalace

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The Ravens are off to a 2-0 start to begin their season by knocking off the Dolphins and Cardinals. Lamar Jackson has performed better than anyone could have imagined, and the offense has gained the third-most yards (1,083) in NFL history through the first two games of the regular season. There hasn't been much to complain about to open the season, but Baltimore experienced auspicious beginnings over the last three years followed by similar struggles.

In 2016, the Ravens began the season 3-0 but proceeded to drop their next four games and missed the playoffs at 8-8. In 2017, Baltimore went 2-0 at the start of the year and outscored their opponents 44-10. The team then dropped five of their next seven games and failed to make the playoffs at 9-7.

Last season, the Ravens won their season opener against the Bills 47-3 and went 3-5 after Week 1. The team did advance to the postseason for the first time since 2014 thanks to a 6-1 finish to the regular season after Lamar Jackson took over as starting quarterback. 

In each of those three seasons, Baltimore was under .500 through their first seven or more games. That removed the margin for error which forced the team to have to go on a run. The Ravens hope this won't be a deja vu season as they enter a tough part of their schedule.

In their next six games, the Ravens will play at Chiefs (2-0), vs. Browns (1-1), at Steelers (0-2), vs. Bengals (0-2), at Seahawks (2-0) and vs. Patriots (2-0). Baltimore also has games vs. Texans (1-1), at Rams (2-0), vs. 49ers (2-0), at Bills (2-0) and at Browns (1-1). Two games is undoubtedly a small sample size, but the Ravens seem to have their work cut out for them.

What is different this season is Lamar Jackson. Jackson has improved leaps and bounds over his rookie season. He has thrown for 596 yards with seven touchdowns and no turnovers.

Mark Andrews looks primed for a breakout season as he has 16 receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Marquise Brown's career began with two long touchdown receptions against the Dolphins and he followed that performance up with eight catches for 86 yards vs. the Cardinals, including a 41 yard reception to put the game on ice. Mark Ingram has been as good as advertised as he has averaged 5.7 yards per rush.

Defensively, Baltimore's much-scrutinized pass rush has been able to register 21 quarterback hits and six sacks. The Ravens have allowed 41 rushing yards on 1.8 yards per carry. Matt Judon and Marlon Humphrey are ascending players that have lived up to that billing, while Pernell McPhee is having a resurgent start to the season.

This isn't a team that is absolved from questions. What other receiving options can the team count on besides Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown? Can the offensive line provide protection for Lamar Jackson and create holes in the run game?

Are there reasons for concerns in the secondary following Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young's injuries and after seven passing plays of 20 yards or more were given up against the Cardinals? Will the Ravens pass rush be able to provide pressure throughout the season consistently? 

Sure, the Ravens couldn't ask for a better start to the year being 2-0 and a game up in the AFC North. Ben Roethlisberger's season-ending right elbow injury makes the path to repeating as division champions easier, but as we know Baltimore has issues of their own they need to sort out. The Ravens also have plenty to feel good about and hopefully will leverage their strengths to keep their momentum going instead of having a familiar downhill slide.