Flying with the Flock: Ravens at Texans Week 1 Preview
RAVENS AT TEXANS WEEK 1 PREVIEW – The first week of the NFL season is all about building confidence. And the Houston Texans are a walking pat-on-the-back. With a first-year head coach, offensive coordinator, and rookie quarterback, the Texans are among the league’s least experienced teams.
New Look Ravens?
In some ways, the Ravens can relate. While Lamar Jackson is a half-decade removed from his rookie year, this offseason he faced the challenge of learning and installing a brand-new offense. This Sunday Todd Monken unveils the attack he hopes will get the Ravens over the hump.
But don’t expect it all to come together on the very first day. I think Lamar will play well and the Ravens will comfortably win, but to expect this offense to immediately take the league by storm is presumptuous.
This is a drastically different scheme than what Lamar Jackson has run since entering the NFL. And while the additions of Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, and Nelson Agholar are all going to pay dividends down the line, right now, Jackson must deal with a lot of unfamiliarity. And it doesn’t help matters that his favorite target, Mark Andrews, is questionable with a quad injury.
A Potential X-Factor
The forgotten man on this Ravens offense is J.K. Dobbins. Following a rookie season full of flashes, he seemed primed to explode as the lead man in the Ravens backfield. But a devastating ACL tear robbed him of his 2021 campaign and hindered him last season.
If Dobbins’ breakout was simply postponed rather than nixed altogether, this Ravens offense could put defenses in a bind.
It’s apparent that Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans will have his work cut out for him.
Last season Ryans coordinated a 49ers defense that ranked first in DVOA and scoring. And while he inherits a Texans roster that is considerably less talented than San Francisco’s, Ryans has had an entire offseason to prepare for Jackson. Which is great until he starts juking everyone on the team.
All jukes aside, (OK, now I’m done) the Texans have some sneaky, young talent.
Second-year safety Jalen Pitre will look to follow up a strong rookie season in which he was the only player to record five interceptions and 100–plus tackles.
Defensive end Jonathan Greenard is an underrated pass rusher who had the 12th-highest pass rush win rate a season ago, per PFF. And of course, the third overall pick, Will Anderson, will be hungry to establish himself by sacking one of the sport’s biggest stars in his first game.
A Piercing Attack
Houston’s offensive coordinator, Bobby Slowik, is another inexperienced, unknown commodity. But he, like Ryans, comes from the 49ers, so odds are he picked up a thing or two on his way out the door — likely including an emphasis on the run game.
Second-year running back Dameon Pierce is a fun player to watch and a tough man to tackle.
He was third in the league a season ago in rushes per broken tackle, a skill that earned him the NFL Network’s Golden Scepter, the award given to the league’s angriest rusher. If the Texans were to somehow pull off the upset, it would likely be due to some Pierce heroics.
Mask it, Mike
With Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen, and an imposing interior D-Line, Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald won’t be stressing about Pierce and the Texans’ run game.
His concern will be trying to mask a borderline-incompetent cornerback group as they try to stay afloat without their all-pro life preserver, Marlon Humphrey.
I mentioned in the season preview how Macdonald isn’t a coordinator who relies heavily on man coverage, but at some point, he’ll have to depend on some combination of Brandon Stephens, Rock Ya-Sin, Arthur Maulett, and Jalyn Armour-Davis holding up, which is frankly terrifying.
But I don’t anticipate any shocker. The Ravens typically get off to hot starts in the Lamar Jackson era, and I don’t expect a 10-point underdog on the first day of their rebuild to buck the trend.
Final Prediction: Ravens 27, Texans 13