The Browns are hoping to put their dud of a season opener behind them, but earning redemption for a 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins won’t be easy on the road Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
From the Browns’ perspective, there are two ways to view the matchup after quarterback Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes and the Denver Broncos shredded the Ravens 49-27 on Thursday night.
The first one: The Ravens are a shell of the team that won the Super Bowl last season because of all the turnover on their roster, and they might even be susceptible to an upset. The second: The Ravens are still a top team that simply became the victim of one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, and expecting them to be in a funk during their home opener against an AFC North foe would be foolish.
Browns inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is going with the second view. Jackson said his opinion of the Ravens has not changed because of their Week 1 debacle.
“Not at all,” Jackson said. “They accomplished something that no one can ever take away from them. They’re missing some key pieces, but [General Manager] Ozzie Newsome has done a great job over the years of orchestrating a great team. It’s one game. They have 15 more.”
Jeff Zrebiec covers the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun. He discussed the team in the following question-and-answer session:
Q: What’s the mood of the Ravens after their blowout loss to the Broncos?
A: “I think they are obviously a little humbled, embarrassed and even ticked off. They knew what a tough assignment it was to have to go into Denver and play a team that had essentially waited seven months to revenge the playoff loss to the Ravens in January. But just the manner in which they lost — allowing an NFL-record tying seven touchdowns and surrendering the most points in team history — clearly was a major wake-up call. I think they are excited to just move beyond the loss and prove that they are better than what they showed last Thursday.”
Q: Of the apparent flaws that were exposed against the Broncos, which ones do you think could be season-long issues and which ones might be aberrations?
A: “I’m not sure about season-long issues but it clearly is going to take a little while for this team to jell. On offense, quarterback Joe Flacco still has to get comfortable with a different group of pass catchers. On defense, most of the secondary and inside linebacker group has been turned over and there were communication issues galore last Thursday. These guys need to get on the same page and spend more time practicing and playing together because there are so many new faces. The secondary played about as bad of a game as it could play last week so I think that can only improve going forward. But there has to be concern about the group of pass catchers. Anquan Boldin was traded, Dennis Pitta is out most — if not all — of the season and now Jacoby Jones is out as well. That pretty much leaves Torrey Smith, a drops-prone Ed Dickson and a group of guys new to the team, like Marlon Brown, Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark, that Flacco doesn’t have good chemistry with yet.”
Q: Which personnel losses will the Ravens feel the most this season and which additions will be the most important?
A: “Everyone makes the biggest deal out of linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed and that’s understandable given what they meant to the organization and the fact that they are both future hall of famers. But from a pure playing standpoint, I think the losses that hurt the most are Boldin and Pitta. They just made so many plays last year down the stretch and were Flacco’s two most trusted targets. They were good route runners, flourished in the middle of the field and were effective in the red zone. The Ravens really don’t have a replacement for either right now. As for the additions, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil should really help their pass rush. And sort of an under-the-radar-signing, defensive end Chris Canty has really helped them so far. They lost Cory Redding two years ago and they never found an adequate replacement for him last year. I think Canty is that guy, and he played really well throughout the preseason and in Week 1.”
Q: What’s the latest on right tackle Michael Oher’s status and what’s the level of concern for the offense if he can’t play in Week 2 because of his sprained ankle?
A: “Head coach John Harbaugh was pretty tight-lipped about Oher’s status in his news conference Monday. He described Oher as “day-to-day, week-to-week.” All indications are, however, that Oher didn’t suffer a significant ankle injury, and it’s not out of the question that he plays Sunday. Oher has never missed a game in his career, so it’s going to take a lot for him to sit. If he can’t play, there are definite concerns. Rick Wagner, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin, took Oher’s place last week and really struggled. The Ravens think Wagner has some upside, but he’s probably not ready to be a starting right tackle at this stage of his career.”
Q: You closely watched the first four seasons of outside linebacker Paul Kruger’s NFL career. Do you think the Browns will get their money’s worth after signing him to a five-year, $40 million deal in March?
A: “I think they will because in this day and age in the NFL, you can never have enough pass rushers. And Kruger, more than anything, can get to the quarterback. The other thing about him is he seems to still be getting better, which bodes well for Cleveland. Kruger is a real hard worker, he’s played in a ton of big games and he’s also been around some great defensive players. So I think he has a lot to offer a young and improving defense both on the field and in the locker room.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.