The Baltimore Ravens' 44-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener was about as good as it gets. The team was successful in all facets of the game, and the new no-huddle offense greatly exceeded expectations.
However, while the Ravens won by 31 points, they only had a 17-13 lead midway through the third quarter. The offense looked quite impressive, but the defense was just average, despite only giving up 13 points.
While there are a plethora of positives to talk about, here are some negatives to take away from the season-opening win for the Ravens:
The Offensive Line Is Still a Mess
During training camp and the preseason, the offensive line was one of the main stories for the Ravens. That was primarily because veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie struggled with weight and contract issues, and Bobbie Williams failed to live up to expectations as the team's starting left guard.
That prompted the Ravens to completely change up the starting offensive line on Monday night, sitting McKinnie and Williams in favor of rookie Kelechi Osemele and third-year G/T Ramon Harewood. Both earning their first career starts, Osemele and Harewood did fairly well. Harewood was just average, but Osemele looked quite comfortable, despite being a rookie.
It's unlikely that Harewood will be the starter for an extended period of time, but Williams could reassert himself into the starting role. Another possibility is moving Osemele to left guard, Michael Oher back to right tackle and allow McKinnie to continue his previous role as the starting left tackle.
The offensive line is going through a period of uncertainty, and it will take time before the team finally decides on the final starting line for the rest of the season.
Kick Returning Continues to be a struggle for the Ravens
For years, the Ravens have struggled to find a top-tier kick returner to give an added dynamic to the team. The team has always been an average team when it comes to kick returning, but the addition of wide receiver/return specialist Jacoby Jones was supposed to change that. However, Jones was not the team's kick returner on Monday night.
That job went to rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who struggled with the task of starting at kick returner. On four returns, Thompson's longest was just 27 yards and his average was only 22 yards per return. Thompson lacked the explosiveness that he shows at wide receiver, and his field vision was quite poor.
Thompson often ran straight up the middle instead of trying to use his speed to bounce to the outside. If Thompson continues to struggle returning kicks, Jones may have to take over the role.