Thu, 01 Oct 2020

Ravens' Upgraded Defense Is Lights Out in Week 1

Baltimore Ravens
14 Sep 2020, 23:25 GMT+10

Ryan Mink

The Ravens unit that got the love from the front office this offseason was the front seven, and it didn't take long for those improvements to reveal themselves.

While fans (and the Cleveland Browns) probably didn't expect to see 6-foot-8 defensive end Calais Campbell dropping into coverage in Sunday's season-opener, they expect to see an even better defense than the one that finished last year near the top of the rankings.

Baltimore delivered and more, holding the Browns to just six points, 306 yards and notching two turnovers in a Week 1 blowout.

"Six points against this offense is very, very good," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "And, really, the fact that we did contain their weapons was probably the key thing."

Like Baltimore's defensive upgrades, the Browns underwent an offensive makeover this offseason. Cleveland signed one of the NFL's leading tight ends last year in Austin Hooper, inked an expensive right tackle in Jack Conklin, and drafted a left tackle in the first round in Jedrick Wills Jr.

When added to wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and one of the league's top running back tandems in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns gave third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield plenty of protection and toys.

Baltimore's defense still made it a long day for Mayfield. Mayfield was picked off on his first drive of the 2020 season, held to just 189 yards passing, and completed just over 50 percent of his passes.

The big question heading into the game was whether Baltimore's run defense would be improved given the additions of Campbell, defensive end Derek Wolfe and rookie linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison.

The Ravens hadn't forgotten that Chubb gashed them with 165 rushing yards and three scores at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 4 last year. This time, however, he had just 10 carries for 60 yards, and lost a fumble to Queen.

Baltimore still had its hands full with the Browns' rushing attack early, as a couple of runs broke out along the right edge. It looked like Campbell was late getting onto the field for one. The Browns finished with 138 rushing yards on the day.

"We gave up more rushing yards than we wanted to. Our guys are not going to be happy about that," Harbaugh said. "I already know they're not, because I've seen them, and that's how they feel about it. But those are two excellent [running] backs. They see the field. They make great cuts. The offensive line is very adapted to running that scheme."

Baltimore's secondary is arguably the best in the league and it flexed its muscles in Week 1. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters were lockdown on the outside, and slot cornerback Tavon Young was a very welcomed addition after missing last year due to injury. While some penalties surrendered first downs, the unit didn't give up much.

Beckham had just three catches for 22 yards on 10 targets. Landry caught five for 61 yards and Hooper was held to just two receptions for 15 yards in his Browns debut.

"We kept the receivers pretty much under control, which was big, because we know how good those guys are," Harbaugh said. "Just a few plays in there, here and there. So, I was happy with that. We also know we can really improve and get so much better."

The Ravens' other new defensive pieces also stood out in Week 1. Queen led the team with eight tackles and recorded a sack and forced fumble when he ripped the ball out of Chubb's hands. Harrison started the game next to Queen and had four tackles and a pass deflection. Wolfe had a pair of quarterback hits. Safety DeShon Elliott laid a huge hit on Hunt that sent the Ravens' sideline into a frenzy.

Wink Martindale's unit didn't have the Ravens' defense-loving crowd to hype them up. M&T Bank Stadium would have been absolutely rocking Sunday afternoon. But they brought their own noise to the Browns offense anyway.

"It is B.Y.O.E - bring your own energy," Campbell said. "And that's what we did today."

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