It’s hard to describe what transpired in the Ravens’ 33-27 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night. One thing to take away for certain from an eventful season opener is the struggles of the Ravens’ new-look offensive line.
The Raiders harassed quarterback Lamar Jackson throughout the game, forcing the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player into making costly mistakes. Jackson was pressured on 54.5% of his drop-backs, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, while Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was pressured on just 20.3% of his. Jackson had a hard time going through his progressions, needing to constantly scramble from a collapsing pocket.
All that pressure eventually led to a game-changing play. After the Ravens secured an improbable interception in the end zone on the Raiders’ opening possession of overtime, Jackson and the offense had the chance to win the game. On third-and-7 from the Ravens’ 33-yard-line, Jackson watched the Raiders defense close in around him, forcing him to step up in the pocket. Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib came flying off the edge, knocked running back Ty’Son Williams to the side and hit Jackson, forcing the quarterback’s second fumble of the game.
Three plays later, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr connected with Zay Jones for the game-winning 31-yard touchdown pass on a busted coverage.
“Sometimes you can’t go through your reads and have to make something happen,” Jackson said. “That’s what I tried to do on the last one. I will try to hold on to the ball the next time.”
Ravens offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva both had a hard time stopping the pass rush. Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby routinely pushed through the offensive line for two sacks, six tackles, five quarterback hits and nine quarterback pressures.
“Maxx did a great job,” Jackson said. “I knew he wanted to get a sack on me.”
The Ravens offensive line entered the season with plenty of question marks after the trade of right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs. Stanley played his first game since suffering a season-ending ankle injury in November, while Villanueva, 34, made his first start at right tackle after spending six seasons in Pittsburgh on the left side. Kevin Zeitler was signed in free agency to play right guard, and Bradley Bozeman shifted from left guard to center, where he played in college at Alabama. With rookie third-round draft pick Ben Cleveland inactive Monday night, second-year player Tyre Phillips started at left guard after an uneven rookie season on the right side.
Phillips’ knee injury Monday night might complicate the offensive line situation even further. The third-round pick in 2020 was carted off the field in the second quarter when he got rolled up on from behind during a running play. Ravens coach John Harbaugh did not have any update on Phillips’ status after the game.
New running backs step up
With J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards out for the season because of knee injuries, Ty’Son Williams made his NFL debut Monday night and managed to hold his own as the Ravens’ starting running back.
An undrafted free agent in 2020 who spent all of last season on the practice squad, Williams ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt.
“It felt good,” he said of his debut. “We played well, but we still have a few things to clean up. I’m just ready to get back to work and hopefully get this first win coming up.”
Williams got his debut going on an impressive note when he burst through the middle for a 35-yard touchdown run to put the Ravens up 7-0 during the final two minutes of the first quarter.
“Ty’Son, Latavius [Murray] and [Trenton] Cannon stepped up tremendously for us,” Jackson said. “Ty’Son did a great job out there, then Latavius scored. They came out and helped us out a lot. They stepped up when they were supposed to.”
Murray, who was thrust into the offense three days after signing a one-year deal, had 10 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown. Murray’s biggest run of the night came in the fourth quarter, when he pushed his way into the end zone for an 8-yard score that gave Baltimore a 24-17 lead.
The Ravens’ running back room had been depleted during recent weeks because of injuries but Williams’ performance should give the team some optimism moving forward. Baltimore still has newly acquired running backs Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman on the practice squad as they work their way back to football shape.
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“Le’Veon, he’s been in great shape, but he has to get in football shape a little bit,” Harbaugh said before Monday’s game. “[He] has to get his sea legs a little bit, football-wise, but he looked good yesterday at practice. Freeman was in camp, so he’s in shape. Football shape does mean something. Now, we have to get them up to speed with the playbook.”