GAME OVERVIEW ::
By Hilow >>
- When asked about his role through the air this season, running back J.K. Dobbins responded, “You’ll see.”
- Newcomer OC Todd Monken brings layered passing concepts and a general shift in offensive identity to Baltimore.
- The Ravens completely retooled their pass-catching corps and now boast a wide receiver room with all three starters being former first-round draft picks in Rashod Bateman, Zay Flowers, and Odell Beckham Jr.
- John Harbaugh has been known for “statement games” throughout his tenure in Baltimore – this game very well could be one of those games.
- First-time head coach and former 49ers defensive coordinator and defensive rookie of the year DeMeco Ryans inherits a defense with significant speed, talent, and youth in Houston.
- Rookie EDGE Will Anderson is going to be a problem in this league.
- Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is likely the limiting factor in what should be Houston’s offensive philosophy – control the ball, limit mistakes, and exploit mismatches over the short area of the field.
HOW HOUSTON WILL TRY TO WIN ::
Head coach DeMeco Ryans and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik both come over from the 49ers to form the youngest coaching staff in the league in conjunction with defensive coordinator Matt Burke. Slowik is a Kyle Shanahan coaching tree disciple and should carry those principles into his first stint as an offensive coordinator. When combined with Ryans as head coach, we should see an offense designed at maximizing efficiency and time of possession by generating mismatches and space in the short areas of the field. It is likely they stress minimizing mistakes and controlling the clock on offense while their young and athletic defense attempts to keep them in games. That may or may not prove difficult with a rookie quarterback, first-time playcaller, and relative youth up and down the roster.
Getting the run game established against the Ravens could prove an issue here after the Ravens continued their dominance against the run in 2022. Last year, the Ravens ranked third in yards allowed per carry (3.9), fourth in yards allowed before contact (1.19), and 12th in yards allowed after contact (2.67). Nose tackle Michael Pierce continues to be one of the best run-stoppers in the league and the Ravens were able to post those numbers with Pierce missing all but the first three games of the 2022 season. Yeah, this is not the best matchup for Slowik and the Houston rush game to see to open the season. The other side of that argument is the robust expected workload for second-year running back Dameon Pierce, who saw an absolute stranglehold on the usage with the starters in the preseason. If we consider only preseason usage as an indicator of what to expect in the regular season, Pierce should be considered one of the final remaining workhorse running backs in the league. Whether or not that usage continues into the season remains to be seen, but Pierce appears set for true elite volume this year. Journeymen Devin Singletary and Mike Boone are on hand to soak up any change of pace duties left behind by Pierce.
The Houston pass offense is one of the youngest groups in the league, helmed by rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud with a pass-catching corps consisting of second-contract tight end Dalton Schultz, veteran wide receiver Robert Woods, third-year breakout candidate Nico Collins, and slot duties likely to be split between Noah Brown and effective rookie John Metchie. Expect an aerial offense designed to generate mismatches within the first five to seven yards of the line of scrimmage, which likely benefits Collins and Schultz the most. The Baltimore linebackers and secondary received a shot of adrenaline this offseason through the additions of Roquan Smith, Jadeveon Clowney, Arthur Maulet, and Rock Ya-Sin, with the biggest concern for the Ravens being the amount of turnover instead of the level of talent. That could provide enough room for Houston to take advantage of communication errors that might occur early in the season, but this Baltimore defense is rock-solid on paper.