Baltimore Ravens: Takeaways from Monday's Win over the Bengals
To say that the Baltimore Ravens' performance in their season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals was impressive would be an understatement. In a game that was expected to be close throughout, the Ravens dominated the Bengals in all facets of the game, cruising to a 44-13 victory.
There are several positives and very few negatives to take away from the win over Cincinnati. With Monday night being the first game of the season, there are a lot of observations that can be made about the Ravens.
Here are some takeaways from the season-opening win over the Bengals:
This will be Joe Flacco's breakout year
Entering his fifth season in the NFL, it appears that quarterback Joe Flacco is poised to break onto the scene. While he has made the playoffs in all four years of his NFL career, Flacco has yet to reach his full potential.
But one thing is for certain after Monday night's performance: Flacco is quickly reaching his ceiling. In Monday's game, Flacco completed 21-of-29 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. It was quite clear that the reason for Flacco's success was the installment of the new no-huddle offense.
Flacco handled the new offense with ease, and it allows him to evenly distribute the ball to several different receivers with ease. If Flacco can maintain performances like he did against the Bengals, 2012 could be a special year for him.
Justin Tucker is an improvement over Billy Cundiff
Undrafted rookie Justin Tucker won a heated battle with veteran Billy Cundiff for the team's kicking job in training camp. Ever since he won the job after the third preseason game, Tucker has looked and played the part.
Tucker's displays confidence in his kicks, which translated to him converting all three of his field-goal attempts in the season opener. Tucker also recorded six touchbacks on nine kickoffs. Tucker's touchback rate of 66.6 percent is an improvement over Cundiff's 57.9 rate last season.
Jacoby Jones will play a key role in the offense
When the Ravens signed wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones in the offseason, it appeared that he would be used primarily on special teams with offense being an afterthought. However, Jones quickly emerged as the team's third receiver in training camp, and he was on the field for a large portion of the offensive plays Monday night.
Jones, who caught just 31 passes for the Houston Texans last season, caught three passes for 46 yards against the Bengals. While he didn't have a rush attempt, he was used as a decoy/aid on reverse plays, something the Ravens plan on doing several times this season.
Jones provides an added dynamic to the Ravens' offense, as his speed makes him a threat as a receiver and on reverse plays as a ball carrier.
The offensive line is still a work in progress
The offensive line was one of the weak points for the Ravens in training camp and the preseason, and that struggle culminated with a complete rearrangement of the line prior to kickoff on Monday night. The projected offensive line for the game was: LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Bobbie Williams, C Matt Birk, RG Marshal Yanda and RT Michael Oher.
However, the starting offensive line for the Ravens turned out to be: LT Michael Oher, LG Ramon Harewood, C Matt Birk, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Kelechi Osemele.
Leaving McKinnie out of the lineup wasn't too surprising, as he had an up-and-down training camp that included a disagreement with the Ravens over his contract. But the big surprise was the addition of Harewood, who was playing in his first NFL game after missing the past two seasons due to injury.
Harewood filled in for Williams, who struggled throughout the preseason and was on the hot seat during training camp. But with no indication of Williams' play worsening, it seemed like a given that he would play. However, that was not the case and Harewood earned the start. As a whole, the offensive line played fairly well given the last minute changes.
When the Ravens play the Eagles on Sunday, the offensive line could look different yet again. If McKinnie and Williams continue to struggle during practice this week, Harewood and Osemele could both earn their second career starts.
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