xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Ravens vs. Browns scouting report for Week 1: Who has the edge?

The Ravens go into Week 1 with many advantages over the Cleveland Browns, but they’re facing a dangerous opponent with a new coach and stars on both sides of the ball.

RAVENS PASSING GAME: The Ravens operated a low-volume, high-efficiency passing offense in 2019. Lamar Jackson finished third in the NFL in passer rating at 113.3 and led the league with 36 touchdown passes against just six interceptions, remarkable statistics for a player whose passing skills were picked apart going into the season. Tight end Mark Andrews was Jackson’s top target, leading the team with 64 catches, 852 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He aims to become the league’s best at his position. Meanwhile, the Ravens hope for significant steps forward from second-year wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin and immediate production from rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche. Brown, a popular breakout candidate, is fully healthy after he spent last season recovering from foot surgery. The Ravens offensive line did a superb job protecting Jackson in 2019, with tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. ranking among the best pass blockers in the league.

Advertisement

BROWNS PASSING GAME: Cleveland ranked 22nd in passing offense in 2019 as quarterback Baker Mayfield took a significant step backward in his second season. Mayfield threw 21 interceptions and finished with a subpar 78.8 passer rating, but he did produce one of his best games in a Week 4 win over the Ravens. Jarvis Landry (83 catches, 1,174 yards, 6 TDs) was the Browns' most effective receiver, while superstar addition Odell Beckham Jr. struggled to find consistent chemistry with Mayfield. The Browns rebuilt their disappointing offensive line around rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., the 10th overall pick in the 2020 draft, and new right tackle Jack Conklin.

EDGE: Ravens

Advertisement
Advertisement

RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens smashed the all-time rushing record for a season, finishing with 3,296 yards, almost 1,000 more than any other team in 2019. Jackson led them with 1,206 yards, a single-season record for quarterbacks, and averaged a league-best 6.9 yards per carry. No. 1 running back Mark Ingram II added 1,018 yards, led the Ravens with 10 rushing touchdowns and served as the team’s most prolific receiver out of the backfield, while Gus Edwards gained 711 yards, averaging 5.3 per carry. As if the Ravens did not have enough talent, they added J.K. Dobbins, who rushed for 2,003 yards at Ohio State last season, in the second round of the draft. He looked ready to contribute immediately in training camp.

BROWNS RUNNING GAME: Cleveland was one of only three teams to outrush the Ravens in a game last season, as Nick Chubb rolled up 165 yards and three touchdowns in that Week 4 blowout. Chubb (1,494 yards, 5 yards per carry, 8 TDs) is perhaps the best pure runner in the league, and he’s complemented by Kareem Hunt, a dangerous receiver out of the backfield who’s averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his career.

EDGE: Ravens


RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens were not happy with the way they defended outside runs, particularly against the Browns. So they added two excellent run defenders, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, to a front seven still anchored by Brandon Williams, who will return to his classic nose tackle role. They also used their first-round pick on LSU middle linebacker Patrick Queen, who’s expected to start immediately and use his speed to make tackles sideline to sideline. The Ravens finished fifth in run defense last season but allowed a disappointing 4.4 yards per carry.

Advertisement

BROWNS RUSH DEFENSE: Cleveland struggled against the run in 2019, ranking 30th in the league and surrendering five yards per carry. Leading tackler Joe Schobert then departed for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the offseason. The Browns do have a few standout run defenders in defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, defensive ends Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon and strong safety Karl Joseph. Inside linebacker Mack Wilson did not practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a knee injury.

EDGE: Ravens


RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens went from below average to among the best in the league after they traded for cornerback Marcus Peters midway through last season. They allowed just one of their final eight opponents to throw for more than 200 yards as Peters and fellow cornerback Marlon Humphrey both made first-team All-Pro. The Ravens will benefit from the return of nickel cornerback Tavon Young and the depth provided by veteran Jimmy Smith, who could also play snaps at safety. The biggest question they face is how unproven safety DeShon Elliott will fill the hole left by the abrupt release of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Earl Thomas III. The Ravens also hope to bump up their pass-rush production with Campbell and Wolfe bolstering the front seven. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon, playing this season under the franchise tag, led the team with 9½ sacks and 33 quarterback hits in 2019.

BROWNS PASS DEFENSE: Cleveland ranked 17th in pass defense last season, suffering from Garrett’s six-game suspension for swinging his helmet at Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. Garrett, who had 10 sacks in 10 games, received the second best pass-rush grade among all edge defenders, according to Pro Football Focus. The Browns hope for a better season from cornerback Denzel Ward, who looked like a budding star two years ago, but they’re already dealing with injury questions in their secondary as cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson both missed practice Wednesday and Thursday.

EDGE: Ravens


RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Justin Tucker made 28 of 29 field-goal attempts to earn his third All-Pro selection in 2019. Sam Koch punted just 40 times, easily a career low, but put 21 of those inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, a rate that would have ranked second in the league if he had enough kicks to qualify. But the Ravens weren’t satisfied with their performance on kickoff and punt returns. Proche, the rookie from SMU, could give them a boost with his sure hands and ability to turn upfield quickly.

BROWNS SPECIAL TEAMS: Austin Seibert made 25 of 29 field-goal attempts in 2019 but missed five extra-point tries. Punter Jamie Gillan ranked 13th in the league with a 41.6-yard net average and put 28 of 63 kicks inside his opponent’s 20-yard line. The Browns will rely on a new return specialist in JoJo Natson, who averaged 7.8 yards on punt returns and 22.2 yards on kickoff returns for the Los Angeles Rams in 2019.

EDGE: Ravens


RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens are regarded as a top Super Bowl contender after they led the league with 14 regular-season wins in 2019. John Harbaugh won NFL Coach of the Year for the first time and will again work with offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, both rated among the best in the league at their jobs. With Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP, at the center of everything, this is a confident group going into Week 1.

Advertisement

BROWNS INTANGIBLES: Cleveland underwhelmed lofty expectations with its 6-10 record in 2019. The Browns will turn to longtime Minnesota Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski to right the ship. Stefanski is a respected figure around the league, and he’ll work with some exceptional front-line players. But until the Browns (Mayfield in particular) perform consistently on the field, they’ll be treated as little more than an interesting wild card in the AFC North.

Advertisement

EDGE: Ravens


PREDICTION: This is a dangerous opener for the Ravens given the Browns' star power and the possible absence of home-field advantage in an empty M&T Bank Stadium. But the Ravens remain a more talented team with a more established coaching staff and game plan. So go with what we know and expect them to pull through in a tense affair. Ravens 30, Browns 24.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement