Ravens offense determined to fix mistakes after sloppy season opener: ‘This week was a lot better’

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Odell Beckham Jr. called the performance by Ravens wide receivers against the Houston Texans on Sunday an “undercooked appetizer.” Lamar Jackson said he found himself at times asking, “What are we doing?”

The Ravens won anyway, but the victory also came against a rookie quarterback (C.J. Stroud), rookie coach (DeMeco Ryans) and an offensive line that was missing three of its starters.


Now comes a trip to Cincinnati to face the AFC North rival Bengals, who reached the AFC championship each of the last two years and have won three in a row against Baltimore at Paycor Stadium. The Bengals are also coming off an embarrassing 24-3 loss in rainy Cleveland against the Browns in which quarterback Joe Burrow threw for a career-low 82 yards before being benched in the fourth quarter.

“We know what we put on film on Sunday wasn’t us,” Burrow told reporters Thursday. “We’ve proven that in the past. So, we’ve got to go out and prove it again.


“Everybody’s got bad games, that’s going to happen and what makes you who you are and hopefully makes you the player that you are is how you respond to games like that and how consistent you can be afterwards.”

The same can be applied to the Ravens in a performance that, in the words of offensive coordinator Todd Monken, features “too much drag.”

“It’s a new system, little bit of rust probably, communication part of it, anxiety of playing, Lamar for the first time in a game hearing my voice when he has to do it,” Monken said of Baltimore’s discombobulated offense that featured just 265 total yards, including 155 through the air, and a league-high-tying six penalties. “We just need to play a lot better.

“The only reason you look back is to correct [stuff]. You look back and say that has to be fixed, that has to be better, that has to be better. That’s what the word coordinator means. It means fix it.”

That’s easier said than done against a Bengals team that has won two straight meetings, including the postseason. In the wild-card round, defensive end Sam Hubbard returned a fumble by backup quarterback Tyler Huntley 98 yards for the decisive touchdown. A week before that, the Bengals led 24-7 at the half before winning 27-16 with many of the Ravens’ starters sitting because their playoff position was all but assured.

This time, Baltimore could be without as many as a half-dozen starters, albeit for a different reason.

Running back J.K. Dobbins is already out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon against the Texans. Safety Marcus Williams will also be sidelined for “a while,” coach John Harbaugh said, because of a pectoral injury. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee), center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (foot) all did not practice Thursday. Tight end Mark Andrews (quad) was limited and said only “God willing” when asked about the chances of him playing Sunday, though he was seen running routes in drills during the open portion of practice.

With Linderbaum and Stanley possibly out, that likely means Patrick Mekari will start at left tackle and Owings Mills native and former Chicago Bears starter Sam Mustipher will take over at center.


“We know if one [guy] goes down, the next man’s gotta fill the void,” Beckham said Thursday. “It’s just a mentality thing that the very good teams have, and I know we have that here.”

Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass during warmups before Sunday's season opener against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.

What they don’t yet have is continuity on offense, though Beckham said it was a lot better this week in practice.

“I feel like we had a good first, sloppy game, and you still put up 25 points,” he said. “The bad thing is there was a lot of mistakes, a lot of miscommunications. The good news is there’s room for improvement. This week was a lot better week as far as being locked in with each other and on the assignments. … Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Among the issues, Monken said, was getting in and out of the huddle quicker, lining up correctly and players knowing their responsibilities on plays.

All are important in any week but will be paramount against an aggressive Bengals defense that allowed the second-fewest touchdowns (17) and the lowest completion rate (58.9%) in the league last season. Only four teams had more quarterback knockdowns than Cincinnati, which boasts a strong defensive front led by end Trey Hendrickson and tackle D.J. Reader.

Last week, Jackson faced a heavy dose of presnap pressure looks from the Texans and was sacked four times, fumbled twice and threw an interception.


“One, I think [being in] the second week will help,” Monken said. “I think every day that we practice in the same system, the more he hears the calls, what the expectations are, as we get better with our communication across the board, because everybody had a hand in that, including myself. He’d be the first to admit that we all can do it better and he could do it better.

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“The difference is, the ball’s in his hands every snap and the play call’s in my hands every snap, so you’re constantly trying to evaluate what you can fix.”

Another adjustment they’ll have to make is adapting without Dobbins, who was the team’s second-leading rusher last season behind Jackson. But it’s not the first time they’ve had to do so, with Dobbins having missed more than half of his pro games.

His void will be filled by Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and veteran Melvin Gordon III.

“I’m very confident in the guys we have stepping in there as well,” Harbaugh said this week. “We have very good players stepping in, and they’re excited for their opportunity.”

Added Edwards: “We can make plays. I bring a physical aspect; Justice is more speed and agility. I’m excited for him, too, because I know he’s primed to have a good year. He’s been working his tail off, too, I’m excited to see what he does.”


Injury report

Humphrey (foot), Linderbaum (ankle), Stanley (knee) and Williams (pectoral) did not practice Thursday, while Andrews (quad) was limited for the fifth straight practice.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (calf) and safety Dax Hill (hand) were full participants Thursday. Linebacker Markus Bailey (knee) and defensive ends Joseph Ossai (ankle) and Camp Sample (ankle) were limited, while reserve running back Chris Evans (hamstring) did not practice.