When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson at the end of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, I distinctly remember saying that I couldn't wait until Jackson faced Deshaun Watson again at this level. In 2016, the two young stars lit up the Clemson, SC sky with fireworks in one of the biggest quarterback showcases the college football world had ever seen. Watson's Clemson Tigers went home with a scintillating 42-36 win, but each quarterback put on a show that no one will ever forget. Watson threw for 300+ yards and five touchdowns, rushing for 91 yards as well, while Jackson threw for 295 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
I knew on draft day 2018 that these two men were destined to meet often in their careers in games that would have significant meaning at this level. This first NFL matchup between these two brilliant signal callers is just that. There's only one other matchup in Week 11 that features two teams with a winning record (Pats vs. Eagles), so this one will have early afternoon eyes on it all around the country.
The nation's attention is on this game in large part due to these two gunslingers, but there's much more to the show than just the two stars under center. The Ravens, like the Texans, have a talented roster on both sides of the ball and on special teams. After starting the season 2-2, the Ravens have won five in a row, including wins AT Pittsburgh, AT Seattle and a Sunday night win over the New England Patriots in Baltimore. The defense is aggressive and physical under the leadership of defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale, while offensive coordinator Greg Roman has tapped into Jackson's skills with a diverse, unique offensive scheme that leads the NFL in rushing and is second in total offense.
Throw in the fact that the Texans have never won in Baltimore and there's going to be no bigger challenge for the Texans coming off a Week 10 bye. Without further ado, let's get to know the Baltimore Ravens.
2019 Schedule - Record 7-2
W, @ Miami Dolphins 59-10
W, Arizona Cardinals 23-17
L, @ Kansas City Chiefs 33-28
L, Cleveland Browns 40-25
W, @ Pittsburgh Steelers 26-23
W, Cincinnati Bengals 23-17
W, @ Seattle Seahawks 30-16
W, New England Patriots 37-20
W, @ Cincinnati Bengals 49-13
Ravens offense (in 2019):
Rushing yards per game - 197.2 ypg (1st in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 224.4 ypg (20th)
Total offense per game - 421.7 ypg (2nd)
Turnovers lost - 10 (6 INT, 4 fumbles lost)
Projected Ravens starting offense for Sunday's game vs. the Texans:
QB - Lamar Jackson
RB - MARK INGRAM II
WR - MARQUISE BROWN (rookie)
TE - Mark Andrews
TE - Hayden Hurst
TE - Nick Boyle
LT - Ronnie Stanley
LG - Bradley Bozeman
C - Matt Skura
RG - Marshal Yanda
RT - Orlando 'Zeus' Brown
Other key offensive pieces:
WR - Willie Snead
RB - Gus Edwards
RB - JUSTICE HILL (rookie)
FB/TE/DE - Patrick Ricard (will play both ways)
*All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to stopping the Ravens offense:
1. Disciplined eyes. Read your keys and trust what you see. Do not create unnecessary seams in the run defense chasing ghosts.
2. Tackling is always a key but it becomes more of one this week against Mark Ingram's power, Gus Edwards' size and Lamar Jackson's slipperiness.
3. Even though it's usually spinning the dial to change up rush/coverage, spin the dial against the different option/run looks the Ravens will throw at the Texans on Sunday. Change up the option responsibilities throughout the game.
4. Challenge tight ends in the passing game with corners as much as possible. The Ravens don't live and die with their receivers, but they love their three tight ends and use them as such.
5. Similar to rushing Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew in London, envelop Jackson in the pocket as much as possible. He gets rid of the ball quickly or bails in a hurry, so don't give him an escape route out of the pocket.
Ravens defense (in 2019):
Rushing yards allowed per game - 91.2 ypg (8th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 252.9 ypg (20th)
Total offense allowed per game - 344.1 ypg (14th)
Turnovers generated - 14 (8 INT, 6 fumble recoveries - Ravens are +4 in TO margin)
Projected Ravens starting defense for Sunday's game vs. the Texans:
DE - JAYLON FERGUSON (rookie)
NT - Michael Pierce
DT - Brandon Williams
LB - Josh Bynes
LB - Patrick Onwuasor
Edge - Matt Judon
CB - Brandon Carr
CB - Jimmy Smith
S - EARL THOMAS
S - Chuck Clark
CB - Marlon Humphrey
(CB - MARCUS PETERS)
(LB - LJ FORT)
Other key defensive pieces:
DT - Chris Wormley
LB - Tyus Bowser
S - Anthony Levine
*All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to winning vs. the Ravens defense:
1. BALL SECURITY! This one is simple and MOST vital this week. The Ravens secondary lurks at all times, ready to punch one out of a ball carrier's arms every play. Case in point, defensive back Marlon Humphrey's Twitter name is Fruit PUNCH.
2. Manage star defensive lineman Brandon Williams in the run game. I'd say handle him or contain him, but that's a near impossibility. If the Texans can just keep him from dominating the interior game and eliminating the interior run game, it'll be a win for the Texans offensive line.
3. Receivers must be strong from snap to tackle. These Ravens defensive backs will beat receivers up all game long, whether at the line of scrimmage, during the route, at the catch point and/or during the tackle. DeAndre Hopkins knows. Within the first 15 plays of the 2017 matchup, his jersey had been completely ripped off his body.
4. The blitz is coming. Know that up front, welcome it and beat it with quick responses and reactions (hot routes and completions).
5. Keep the running game hammer down hard if the Ravens want to play five or six defensive backs regularly.
The Houston Texans roster in photos.