It’s one game, right?
It’s one week. It’s the smallest sample size that exists in the NFL. It’s no different than a Week 16 game against the Giants last December and be honest, you don’t remember a single frickin’ thing about that game.
In the same way, we absolutely should not spend more time freaking out about the Ravens’ Week 1 game in 2021. One game is one game is one game is one game.
So there’s that. What else do you want to talk about? Machine Gun Kelly pretending to fight Conor McGregor? The continued crisis of no green bananas in America? Why Clive Owen was both a terrible AND perfect casting decision for the role of Bill Clinton?
Or we can get back to the topic at hand, I guess.
The big-picture question that I saw popping up a bit as the Ravens inexplicably lost to the Raiders in their season opener was both hyperbolic and yet strangely relevant. The question was something along the lines of, “Could this season quickly spiral away?” The question acknowledges the many issues facing the Ravens (most notably their injury troubles) and the significant odds against them avoiding an 0-2 start with the Chiefs set to come to town.
It’s also of course wildly hyperbolic. Did I mention we’re talking about ONE G-D FOOTBALL GAME? And a game in which the Ravens had so very many things go wrong and were still just a few seconds/yards away from winning it in regulation? This is crazy!
Which is why I am so very comfortable in saying this. I mean, beyond even a shadow of a doubt. Could the Baltimore Ravens’ season quickly spiral away? Not a chance … that I can confidently say no.
Even if we work under the assumption that the Ravens will get off to an 0-2 start (which is a reasonable assumption but is very far from a sure thing), the schedule does not appear to be particularly daunting in the weeks that follow. Trips to Detroit and Denver and a home game against the Colts are no sure things, but neither is a loss to the Chargers. The most reasonable assumption that can be made is that they’d be 3-2 after five games.
But looking at the schedule alone does not tell the full story, of course.
The full story is that the offensive line appears to be an unmitigated disaster, particularly the part that we all thought would be an unmitigated disaster. The Ravens’ decision to commit to Alejandro Villanueva as their starting right tackle this offseason was among the most illogical decisions they’ve made (post Anquan Boldin era). It would be like if the Orioles were attempting to win this season and had acquired only Matt Harvey and had attempted to pass that off as having addressed their starting rotation.
Alejandro Villanueva was never the answer at right tackle because Alejandro Villanueva has never been an answer at right tackle (and wasn’t even an answer at the position he actually played). What we saw Monday night MIGHT be worse than could be expected but if it was, that’s truly saying something about how strikingly terrible the performance was. The understatement of the century is that if the Ravens continue to get such poor offensive line play, opponents won’t likely matter. No one can survive it.
So can we fathom a way the line play improves? I’m … not really sure. Tyre Phillips’ trip to IR erases the only internal option they might have had, leaving us to wonder whether the Ravens will use one of their current available roster spots on a street free agent like Mitchell Schwartz (not that we even know when he’ll be ready to play) or if there’s a trade that can be made. They’ll probably have to stick it out with Villanueva at least for now and MAYBE he can improve? I truly have no reason to believe he can but Kevin Garnett did tell us that anything is possible once, so if under oath I’d be legally forced to say that it could occur.
The other issues facing the Ravens seem more solvable. Yes, there were a slew of defensive issues (none more difficult to forgive than Tavon Young’s, but everyone has tough games). But they are expected to get both Derek Wolfe and Jimmy Smith back and that will go a long way.
The backfield is a mess. They clearly have some trust issues with Ty’Son Williams (in terms of being a primary back) due to ball control/blocking issues. That’s pretty freaking reasonable considering, you know, he had never played an NFL game before and as of a few weeks ago they had no intention of him being someone who would actually play. Yet it feels like there’s just enough there that given a bit of time, the backfield can stabilize. Latavius Murray seems to be the most likely bet to be the “lead” guy, but there’s every reason to think that there will be a true committee approach all season and that they can find ways to keep themselves afloat.
And they’ll need to, because it directly impacts the other issue from the opener that we don’t really want to talk about. You know, the “what the hell happened to Lamar Jackson” issue. The “he absolutely made some incredible plays and we acknowledge that the bar is really high for him but still, you can’t make those spectacularly bad throws in the second half and turn the ball over multiple times” issue. And the “what the hell happened to the read option?” issue. And that’s the one that you have to hope is related to the Ravens’ lack of trust in their backs.
Because the answer CANNOT be that the Ravens and/or Lamar Jackson are purposely trying to make sure Lamar Jackson runs less. That would be as dumb as committing to Alejandro Villanueva as your starting right tackle.
So yeah, there’s reason to think the Ravens will get this all straightened out in the coming weeks. But am I certain that will be what will happen? Equally as certain as I am that Alejandro Villanueva is the answer.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox