The Ravens will open the defense of their AFC North title Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Here’s what you need to know about their NFL season opener.
Time: 1 p.m. Sunday
TV: CBS/Ch. 13 (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, Jay Feely)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) and 98 Rock (97.9 FM) (Gerry Sandusky, Jarret Johnson)
Betting line: Ravens by 6½ (as of Thursday afternoon)
1. What will Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense look like?
After Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback for Joe Flacco last season, the Ravens bucked modern NFL trends by running the ball more than any other team in the league. The strategy worked, helping the Ravens control the clock as they made a late-season playoff push, but the defense was the team’s foundation.
With Jackson expected to step forward as a passer this season, the offense could again look radically different under coordinator Greg Roman. Coach John Harbaugh has not been shy about its potential, calling it potentially “revolutionary,” but there are enough new pieces that the offense’s introduction will probably require some patience.
2. Will the Ravens defense slip at all?
The Ravens were the NFL’s top-ranked defense last season, but the group that takes the field Sunday will have new faces at key positions.
At middle linebacker, Patrick Onwuasor will have to step up with the departure of C.J. Mosley, a four-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection who signed a record deal with the New York Jets in the offseason. Former Seattle Seahawks star safety Earl Thomas has replaced Eric Weddle, a vocal leader in Baltimore. Pass rusher Terrell Suggs left the Ravens after 16 seasons to join the Arizona Cardinals.
There are budding stars, though. Marlon Humphrey could continue to emerge as a lockdown cornerback, while defensive tackle Michael Pierce and outside linebacker Matthew Judon will be counted on to produce in the final year of their rookie contracts.
3. Do the Ravens finally have a go-to receiver?
The Ravens’ past two drafts have given Jackson a number of receiving options. At tight end, Mark Andrews was maybe the offense’s most consistent player during training camp, building on a record-breaking rookie season. Hayden Hurst, the Ravens’ top pick in 2018, is fully healthy and in line to bounce back from a disappointing rookie season.
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Elsewhere, Willie Snead IV figures to be heavily relied upon as a slot receiver, but the Ravens have high hopes for a pair of rookies, too. Third-round pick Miles Boykin has impressed with his size, speed and chemistry with Jackson and should play significant early snaps. First-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is probably the Ravens’ fastest player and, when healthy, has game-breaking potential.