Raiders Coaches Preparing Extensively for Ravens Offense
Ravens fans aren't the only ones watching Lamar Jackson highlights from 2020. According to Adam Hill of The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders have been watching film of Jackson all summer in anticipation of the Week 1 matchup.
"Gruden and his staff put together a film of nearly 400 plays from last season that showed Jackson inflicting damage on the defense in a variety of ways, a reel the Raiders have been watching throughout the summer," Hill wrote.
Jackson and the Ravens' offense is one of the most challenging tasks for any team to prepare for. Both Rams Head Coach Sean McVay and 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan are on record about the level of difficulty.
Even with a full offseason of prep and another year of film on Jackson, Raiders defensive lineman Gerald McCoy told Monday Morning Quarterback's Albert Breer that while you can prepare for the scheme, you can't prepare for Jackson.
"There's nothing you can do to prepare for Lamar Jackson," McCoy said. "He was the league MVP for a reason. I don't care what the scheme is. He is the scheme. So the scheme is what it is. But that guy is so incredible. He's not from Earth. He's not human. . . And then when you think you've got him corralled, he does all these different whatever-it-is-he-does things, and boom, he's 60 yards downfield. That is hell to deal with. So there is no comparison to Army or Navy; this is Lamar Jackson we're talking about."
The run game is always talked about with the Ravens and this matchup is no exception. According to The Athletic's Tashan Reed, the only defensive tackle on the Raiders roster that is a "true nose tackle" and over 300 pounds is Johnathan Hankins. Compare this with the Ravens' starting offensive linemen, who all are at least 6-foot-4 and 310 lbs., regardless of who starts at left guard among Ben Cleveland, Tyre Phillips or Ben Powers.
While the run game gets all the glory, Raiders Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley made sure his team takes note of where tight end Mark Andrews will be on the field.
"There's some teams that you play that you have to have great awareness where people are, and I think he's one of those guys," Bradley said. "Like a [Travis] Kelce, where is he? Darren Waller, where is he on the field? And he's one of those guys."
Pundits Predict Ravens Will Spoil Raiders*'* Stadium Opening
Finally, after an entertaining weekend of football, all eyes turn to the Las Vegas Raiders opening their new stadium to fans and the Baltimore Ravens. And though the Ravens have been flashing across national headlines due to a slew of season-ending injuries, most pundits predict the Ravens to leave Vegas with a positive record.
One reason for such confidence in the Ravens, despite the tumultuous summer, is the coaching staff.
"Yes, the Ravens had a somewhat disastrous summer with injuries," The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia wrote. "But they're still well-coached, and they're still talented. The Raiders are breaking in a new-look offensive line against the most blitz-heavy defense in the NFL. I like Baltimore here. The pick: Ravens (-4.5)"
"However, the Ravens are usually at their best in situations like this," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Harbaugh will have the team ready to play and Jackson loves the prime-time stage. You get the sense watching and listening to Jackson the past few weeks that he's ready to go and he's ready to put some questions to rest."
Zrebiec and Kapadia aren't the only ones from The Athletic taking the Ravens, either. Among the eight others who predicted the outcome of this game, seven picked the Ravens.
As for other experts, ESPN's Anita Marks, Joe Fortenbaugh and Seth Walder, along with Football Outsider's Aaron Schatz, see quite a game from the Ravens unfolding.
"Picks: Ravens -4, Ravens team total over 27.5 points, Andrews over 57.5 receiving yards, Andrews TD (+750), Watkins over 39.5 receiving yards, Jackson TD (+116)," ESPN's crew wrote.
While it's unsurprising to see Ravens-related websites such as Baltimore Beatdown come to a consensus in taking the Ravens, it is noteworthy that Raiders Wire's Levi Damien also expects the Ravens to win.
"[The Ravens] haven't just won their season openers," Damien wrote. "They have destroyed their opponents. No team has scored more than 10 points on them and they have outscored their opponents by an average of over 30 points per game! That margin has only gotten more vast the past three seasons with Lamar Jackson at QB. The Ravens have outscored their opponents 144-19. That's an average margin of victory of nearly 42 points. Result: [Raiders] Loss (0-1)."
While most pundits are predicting the Ravens to win, not all are on board. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the same individual who said, "this might be the year that everybody figures out Lamar Jackson," picked the Raiders for his "top upset for Week 1."
"As for me, I'll go Raiders (+4.5) over the Ravens," Fowler wrote. "Las Vegas went 2-6 at home last season and will be eager to rebound now that fans will occupy Allegiant Stadium for the first time. Many people are predicting the Raiders to finish last in the AFC West. Here is a chance to prove they are indeed not a hot mess - especially against a Baltimore team already battered by injuries."
Common Bold Predictions for New Starting Running Back Ty'Son Williams
The Ravens have made do with whoever is starting in their backfield. In each of the past six seasons, a different ball-carrier has led the team in rushing yards. This won't be changing either, as running back J.K. Dobbins is out for the 2021 season.
Despite this, Bradley knows Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will have his unit ready to run over the competition if you're not paying attention.
"But again, having a relationship with Greg [Roman] and knowing him, he'll adjust," Bradley said. "And it's not going to slow them down at all. They'll just put pieces in there. This is the NFL, and everybody is extremely talented. The guys they signed, extremely talented, so we know we are going to get their best shot."
With the injuries pushing running back Ty'Son Williams to become the expected starter, many are interested in what he has has to offer. But some in the Baltimore media haven't stopped at just "interest" in Williams; they've all predicted the new starter to eclipse a similar goal of 100-yards rushing.
"In his first game as the No. 1 running back, Ty'Son Williams goes for over 100 yards and a touchdown," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Frank Platko.
"Williams will have a few things working in his favor," wrote Ebony Bird's Justin Fried. "He'll, of course, be the de facto lead back in the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack, and his opponents haven't exactly fared well against the run in recent years either. ... Still, we're going bold and optimistic (sticking with the theme) and predicting that Williams takes the NFL world by storm by rushing for over 100 yards in Week 1."
Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher also has Williams going for 100 yards in his debut.
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer and Childs Walker are making predictions on Williams' season.
"Ty'Son Williams will gain at least 1,000 rushing yards," Shaffer & Walker wrote. "We know the Ravens will run often, and we know they'll spread carries around. We know backs of all styles and experience levels have thrived when playing off Jackson. Few projected Williams to make the Ravens' 53-man roster after he spent most of last season on the practice squad, but he put himself ahead of Justice Hill with his hard running and durability before Hill tore his Achilles tendon."
Among the unending list of things to watch for tonight, Williams ranks near the top. PFF's Andrew Erickson sees him as a real threat against the Raiders.