Ravens Will ‘Have An Answer’ for Dolphins’ in Week 2

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Getty Ravens QB Lamar Jackson get sacked in a regular season game on November 11, 2022.

Through the first nine weeks of the 2021 NFL regular season, the Baltimore Ravens were 6-2 and sitting atop the AFC conference in the first place of the playoff standings.

Fresh off a come-from-behind win over the Minnesota Vikings at home where they overcame a pair of double-digit deficits, the Ravens headed down to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins in primetime on a short week to kick off Week 10 on Thursday Night Football.

The last time the team played in Miami before that was in the 2019 season opener when Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson got off to an explosive start to his eventual unanimous league MVP-winning season. He carved up the Dolphins’ defense to the tune of 324 passing yards, five touchdowns, just three incompletions, and a perfect passer rating.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the same defense he faced when he went down to his home state of Florida riding high. The Dolphins not only handed the Ravens a debilitating and humbling 22-10 loss, they essentially provided the rest of the league the blueprint of how to take advantage of their banged up and underwhelming offensive line and the porous pass protection that came with it.

Miami utterly befuddled the Ravens’ offense and kept them from finding the endzone let alone any semblance of a rhythm on that side of the ball with relentless all-out a.k.a Cover 0 blitzes. Even when they weren’t bringing extra rushers and dropped front seven players into underneath coverage to take away the quick outlet passing lanes, the Ravens’ offensive line still struggled to pick up the rushers that did come off the edge or up the middle.

Dolphins safeties Jevon Holland and Bradon Jones had an absolute field day as disruptive forces at and behind the line of scrimmage. Holland recorded a sack and quarterback hit on Jackson and they both prevented him from getting out of the pocket and to the edge to use his legs to gash their defense.

Miami blitzed him on 31 of his 50 dropbacks, sacked him four times, and held him to just 15 of 27 completions for 139 yards, one touchdown, and one interception with a 66.7 passer rating.

Even though the Ravens won their next two games following that loss, the glaring weakness, and inefficiencies that the Dolphins exposed eventually caught up with them. They would go on to lose six straight games to end the year and lost Jackson to an ankle injury along the way.

Both teams underwent major makeovers this offseason and loaded up at key positions on both sides of the ball. They are both coming off commanding victories in their respective season openers and will face each other in Week 2. The game will take place in Baltimore and is going to be the Raven’ season opener.

After having a whole offseason to study, self-scout, and fortify their offensive line, the Ravens believe they are better equipped and will have a plan for how to deal with the Dolphins’ heavy pressure packages or disguises if they decide to deploy them this time around.

“We would have been negligent if we hadn’t worked on it,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a press conference on September 14, 2022. “It was something we needed to get a lot better at, and we studied it the whole offseason. We’ll have a plan for it and hope it works because these guys are probably the best in the league at doing it right now. They do it more than anybody, they do it better than anybody and it’s just something they’re committed to.”

Jackson said the Dolphins caught the Ravens “off guard” and agrees with his coach that they will be better prepared on Sunday, September 18, 2022.

“We hadn’t really gone over defenses doing all-up zero against us – like, just all-up flat-out zero. But I feel like we’ll have an answer for it this year. We watched film – watched a lot of film on those guys – because we don’t want it to happen again,” Jackson said in a press conference on September 14, 2022. “Other teams did zero [blitz], but it was just the way they did it that kind of affected us. But like I said, we’ll have an answer this time around if they do the same thing.”

Potential Contingency Plans

While the Ravens aren’t going to divulge their game plan to counter any all-out pressure packages or disguises, some possible answers could lie with their improvements and health in the offensive trenches and making them pay for sending the house by hitting big plays over top in the passing game.

Miami will still have three-time Pro Bowler and an elite ball hawk, Xavien Howard, on one side but with eight-year veteran Byron Jones out for the first four weeks of the season on the PUP list, the other side and slot could be susceptible to being attacked. The Ravens’ wide receivers stepped up in their season-opening win over New York Jets and will likely have the opportunity to do so again when the Dolphins come to town.

With his running game struggling to find traction and the defense loading the box, Jackson took to the skies to attack the Jets secondary in Week 1 and made them pay dearly for daring him to beat them with his arm. According to NFL on CBS, he led the league in passing touchdowns with 15 or more air yards by doing so on all three of his scores.

Spencer Shultz of Baltimore Beatdown offered up some more potential responses to take advantage of the Dolphins’ over-aggressiveness. He suggested the utilization of one or more of their most athletic blockers in space block on screens or staying behind to block to give Jackson the extra second or two he needs to hit one of his receivers who will either be streaking wide open or in one-on-one coverage down the field.

Starting Running Back Full Participant In Practice 

For the first time this year and since before he suffered a season-ending knee injury that was more extensive than the run-of-the-mill ACL tear, J.K. Dobbins was a full participant in practice when the team took the field on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, according to the team’s initial injury report.

The third-year pro was a game-time decision for the season opener before ultimately being declared inactive. Now he appears to be on track to make his 2022 debut and play his first game in front of a packed home crowd at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens sorely missed the presence of Dobbins and his co-bell cow Gus Edwards last year after they both went down before last season even got underway and they only rushed for 63 yards against the Jets in Week 1. He could bring a much-needed boost to their ground game and pair well with veteran Kenyan Drake who started in his place last week to help the offense run the ball better, pick up blitzes in pass protection, and contribute in the passing game on screens and catching passes out of the backfield.

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