The Baltimore Ravens will look to continue their strong start to the 2022 campaign on Sunday, September 18 with their home opener in Week 2. They will host the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium and it will be broadcasted on CBS at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
Both teams are coming off commanding wins in Week 1 and the Ravens will be looking to avenge a debilitating 22-10 loss from Week 10 of the 2021 season where the Dolphins upset them in primetime in a game where they were heavily favored. This game features several interesting storylines, key matchups, and could playoff implications down the road since they’re both AFC teams.
Combating ‘Cover 0’ Blitz
The Dolphins stunned the Ravens on a short week in a primetime matchup on Thursday Night Football by deploying an ultra-aggressive pressure package in which they sent all-out aka ‘Cover 0’ blitzes on 31 of Jackson’s 50 dropbacks. According to Pro Football Reference, they sacked him four times, hurried him four times, knocked him down twice, and pressured him 11 times.
The Ravens spent time in the offseason reflecting and devising a plan to counter such situations going forward after several teams copied Miami’s blueprint to give their offense fits down the stretch last season. Earlier this week, Jackson told reporters that the team will “have a plan” to combat the Dolphins’ defense when they send or simulate all-out pressure. That plan could include shorter dropback paired with quicker throws, keeping more players back to block, and taking shots deep down the field since their wide receivers will often be in one-on-one coverage.
“They play cover zero, but they also play a lot of other things,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said in a press conference on September 15, 2022. “They do a nice job with it. It’s going to come down to preparation, communication, and execution. So, if we’re good in those areas, I like our chances.
“If they’re going to basically roll the dice on having everyone up [in the box] and you have to be able to hit them (big plays). I think that’s definitely something you look forward to.”
Possible Return of Key Starters
The Ravens lost a pair of key depth pieces in their season-opening win over the New York Jets when veterans Ja’Wuan James and Kyle Fuller suffered season-ending injuries. However, this week they could be getting back a pair of key starters who are coming off injuries that ended their 2021 season before it even began.
Third-year running back J.K. Dobbins was a full participant in practice all week and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters was a full participant on Thursday and a limited participant on Wednesday and Friday. They were both game-time decisions last week before being listed as inactive but could be making their 2022 debuts against the Dolphins.
Even though he’s not a starter, Ravens’ rookie defensive tackle Travis Jones is slated to make his regular-season debut after he sat out Week 1 as he recovered from a hyperextension injury in his knee. He was a full participant in practice on Thursday and Friday and will bring another powerful pass rushing and run stuffing presence to an already beastly interior defensive line that dominated in the season opener.
Avoiding Slow Start On Offense
Even though the Ravens wound up beating the Jets by double digits in Week 1 in a 24-9 victory, it took their offense a while to get in gear and find a consistent rhythm. Part of the reason for their slow start can be attributed to the fact that they hardly played any of their opening-day starters in the preseason outside of some offensive linemen fighting for starting and primary backup jobs.
However, they can’t afford to get off to a sluggish start against a new-look Dolphins team whose offense has several explosive playmakers at its disposal and can build up a lead quickly if they aren’t careful and don’t control the pace of the game.
History of Matchup
The Ravens lead the all-time series between the two teams in the regular season 10-7 and have three of the last five and prior to that, they had won five straight dating back to 2008. The last time they met prior to last year’s upset was in 2019 in the first game of Lamar Jackson’s unanimous MVP season.
In his first career game in his home state, the Florida native carved up the Dolphins’ defense for 324 passing yards and a whopping five touchdowns with no interceptions and just three incompletions.
Final Injury Report
The Ravens have several players listed on their injury report but only two, wide receiver James Proche and left tackle Ronnie Stanley, are listed as doubtful to play.
Starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey and primary backup corner Bradon Stephens who both had strong outings against the Jets missed some practice time this week but are listed as questionable which usually means they’re still likely to play. If they are limited or wind up being inactive, the Ravens still have faith in their depth at the position which includes fourth-round rookies Jayln Armour-Davis and Damarion ‘Pepe’ Williams.
Stanley will likely miss his second straight game to start the season despite having practiced twice this week albeit on a limited basis. With James who started in his stead against the Jets out for the year, do-it-all utility offensive lineman Patrick Mekari will most likely be making his first start at left tackle since he was in college at the University of California. The fourth-year pro played well to close out the game in Week 1 and the team has faith that he’ll be able t perform at a high level if called upon again.
“I talked to him after the game, I always appreciate that,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a press conference on September 12, 2022. “He plays all the positions. You never really know where he’s going to be called on to play. That’s why he’s so valuable. He played very well.”
“It’s probably pretty darn rare. He’s played all five in practice I promise you, plus tight end,” Harbaugh said in a press conference on September 16, 2022. “He’s just that kind of player. He plays well at every spot, and now he’s playing left tackle, arguably the physically toughest position to play on the offensive line. [We’re] very grateful that he’s on our team, and he is who he is.”
The only player that the Dolphins have already ruled is backup tight end Cethan Carter who missed the entire week of practice with a concussion. The biggest injury-related question mark for Miami is the status of their starting left tackle Terron Armstead who missed a practice and was limited in the other two his week leading up the game.
Matchups to Watch
QB Lamar Jackson v Dolphins Blitz
The former league MVP will need to make Miami pay for sending the house by taking advantage of the one-on-one matchups his pass catchers will often have in man coverage down the field. It will require him to throw with anticipation and both stand tall and step up in the pocket as well as throw accurately on the run. He did all of those things in Week 1 and will need to do it again against a defense that won’t just crowd the box like New York but will be sending and simulating pressure in an attempt to confuse him and his protection.
WR Rashod Bateman v CB Xavien Howard
The battle between the Ravens’ 2021 first-round pick and the three-time Pro Bowler will be the top individual matchup to keep an eye on in this game. Bateman bounced back from a slow start against the Jets getting behind their defense for a 55-yard touchdown.
Howard was only targeted twice in Week 1, didn’t give up a catch on either, and recorded a pass deflection and two solo tackles. Bateman was one of the few Ravens on offense that had some success against the Dolphins in the 2021 matchup and caught five of his eight targets for 52 receiving yards and will be looking to have an even better outing this time around.
“I feel like we just have to find the holes in the defense to be successful,” Bateman said in a press conference on September 14, 2022. Last year, I just felt like we didn’t execute well, and this year, I think we just have to execute way better.”
Ravens Pass Rush v Dolphins O-line
Led by their extremely and consistently disruptive defensive line, the Ravens pass rush relentlessly pressured former franchise quarterback Joe Flacco and sacked him four times last week. Dolphins’ third-year signal caller Tua Tagovailoa is more mobile than the 16-year veteran, he is still more of a pocket passer than a dynamic dual threat and he will be playing behind a banged-up offensive line.
After placing starting right tackle Austin Jackson on injured serve earlier in the week, Miami will be starting Greg Little in his stead. Even if Armstead plays, he won’t be at full strength which will make keeping the likes of Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston at bay quite the doubting task. However, much like last week, the majority of the pressure will likely be generated from up the middle where Michael Pierce, Calais Campbell, Justin Madubuike, and Travis Jones will wreak havoc upon the underwhelming interior of the Dolphins’ offensive line.
Ravens O-Line v Dolphins Pass Rush
This game will be decided by who wins the war in the trenches and the Ravens will need their remodeled offensive line to hold up much better this time around than last year’s unit fared in 2021 against a defense that is bringing back all of their core players and even added former three-time Pro Bowler Melvin Ingram this offseason.
Mekari and starting right tackle Morgan Moses will need to hold their own against Ingram, second-year pro Jaelan Phillips, and Emmanuel Ogbah. Rookie starting center Tyler Linderbaum will have another stiff test this week with former first-round defensive tackle Christian Wilkins after he had to face Quinnen Williams last week and held his own for the most part.
Ravens Secondary v Dolphins Wide Receivers
Miami has the fastest and one of the most dynamic wide receiver tandems in the league with 2021 first-rounder Jaylen Waddle and six-time Pro Bowler Tyreek Hill who combined for 177 yards from scrimmage in their team’s Week 1 over the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins will attempt to get the ball in their hands in a myriad of ways which will include the occasional handoff off of jet or orbit motion but it will be up to the Ravens’ secondary to limit their impact and keep them from making big plays down the field and after the catch. It will be easier said than done but they have the players and scheme to make it happen as long as they communicate, tackle well in space, and make plays on the ball when it comes their way for potential turnover opportunities.
The Ravens will avenge their loss from last season and check off the second game of their AFC East gauntlet to start the season with another victory. The run game will get back on track with the return of Dobbins who will rush for 100 yards and a touchdown in his first career game playing in front of a full home crowd.
Jackson will make the Dolphins pay for attempting so many Cover 0 blitzes by throwing three touchdowns that traveled more than 20 yards downfield. Peters will intercept Tagovailoa in his first game back since his injury and take it to the house for a defensive score.
Final score: Ravens 38 Dolphins 20