For all of the chatter surrounding the Ravens' season opener against the New York Jets on Monday night, there seems to be several threads of mutual respect between the teams.
That was evident during Thursday's conference calls with Jets coach Rex Ryan and linebacker Bart Scott, a pair of former Ravens who were effusive in their praise of their opponent's offensive makeover.
Asked to compare the current Ravens offense to the ones he practiced against as a member of the defense, Scott replied, "It was a one-dimensional offense. They really didn't have an identity other than running the ball. Now they're a balanced attack. I think they're a respected attack, and they have the capability to make a lot of noise. They can throw the ball. Now you can't just stack eight in the box because they've got guys one-on-one. They've got guys who can win the one-on-one battles. So you can't just drop eight in the box and say, 'We're going to take [running back] Ray Rice away and single up everyone else.' Because now, you see the re-emergence of [tight end] Todd Heap, and now he's going to get a lot of single coverage with a lot of linebackers and safeties, and I would think they think that's to their advantage."
Ryan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, singled out Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco, both of whom were rookies in Ryan's final season in Baltimore.
"They're outstanding," Ryan said. "And you know, it's funny to see … both of them were excellent players when I was there, their rookie years, but you saw how they matured last year. Obviously, Ray Rice being a Pro Bowl running back his second season, and then the way Joe improved, they really did a great job. I think you've got to credit the coaches as well – [offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron and all those guys, [running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery. Those guys did a great job there and the players really responded. But both of them are terrific young players."
In a few ways, the Ravens and Jets offenses mirror each other: potent rushing attacks behind young, powerful offensive lines. The resemblance was not lost on Scott.
"When you think about these two teams, you think about two teams that have a chance to win a Super Bowl, that have proven offenses, that have solid defenses and solid special teams," he said. "That's usually the formula to winning a championship, and we're one of those teams. … They got everything that they always wished for. They always wanted to get the firepower on the offensive side. The team is making the shift from a defensive-led team to more of a balanced team."