The Texans will start the season number 22 in Baltimore against one of the most talented teams in the NFL. John Harbaugh's group is a homegrown squad with ONE projected rookie starter and ONE projected free agent starter. Meaning? Meaning it's a group that's been together for a while. That said, there's one major change that could change the fortunes for the Ravens, one way or the other.
Former OC Greg Roman designed the Ravens' offense around QB Lamar Jackson and his electric running abilities. But, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, heading into his 16th season as head coach in Baltimore, decided the offense needed a new direction and a new director.
Enter Todd Monken, former Georgia Bulldog offensive coordinator.
Monken was in the NFL prior to his three year stint in Georgia. He was the OC in Tampa Bay for Jameis Winston and for the Browns in 2019 in Baker Mayfield's 2nd season. However, this Ravens offense features the most potent group of offensive players that Monken's ever had, including his signal caller Jackson.
The sixth year superstar signed a massive contract to stay in Baltimore and that gives the Ravens plenty of hope that they're headed to the Super Bowl. However, Jackson will take this offense out for a spin for the very first time in live action on Sunday against the Texans, as he played zero preseason snaps.
So, head coach DeMeco Ryans will lead the Texans into the proverbial lions' den and they MUST bust the 800 lb monster right in the mouth. If not, it's going to be a long day…like 2019. I don't know about you, but I'm not up for spending three plus hours watching the Ravens have a field day at the Texans expense as I/we did four years ago.
Let's go, it's time to compete. Let's get to know the Texans' opponent in the opener - the talented 2023 Baltimore Ravens.
Week 1 - Houston Texans
Week 2 - @ Cincinnati Bengals
Week 3 - Indianapolis Colts
Week 4 - @ Cleveland Browns
Week 5 - @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6 - @ Tennessee Titans
Week 7 - Detroit Lions
Week 8 - @ Arizona Cardinals
Week 9 - Seattle Seahawks
Week 10 - Cleveland Browns
Week 11 - Cincinnati Bengals
Week 12 - @ Los Angeles Chargers
Week 13 - BYE
Week 14 - Los Angeles Rams
Week 15 - @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 16 - @ San Francisco 49ers
Week 17 - Miami Dolphins
Week 18 - Pittsburgh Steelers
Rushing Yards Per game - 160.0 ypg (2nd in the NFL in 2022)
Passing Yards Per game - 178.8 ypg (28th)
Total offense per game - 338.8 ypg (16th)
Turnovers lost - 21 (8 Fumbles lost,13 INT)
Expected Ravens starting offense for Week 1
QB - Lamar Jackson
RB - J.K. Dobbins
WR - ZAY FLOWERS
WR - ODELL BECKHAM JR.
WR - Rashod Bateman
TE - Mark Andrews
LT - Ronnie Stanley
LG - John Simpson
C - Tyler Linderbaum
RG - Kevin Zeitler
RT - Morgan Moses
*FB - Patrick Ricard
Key Offensive Non-Starters
TE - Isaiah Likely
RB - Gus Edwards
WR - Devin Duvernay
WR - NELSON AGHOLOR
LT - Ben Cleveland
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023
Keys to winning v. the Ravens Offense
- Space. The Most Important Final Frontier - The football field is 53 ½ yards wide and Ravens OC Todd Monken's challenge will be to utilize his explosive group of ball carriers/pass catchers throughout those 53 plus yards. The Texans challenge is to eliminate as much of that space as possible and then, most importantly, TACKLE those players in that space. It's imperative that the Texans bring multiple players to the party but when there's only one available to make that tackle, or miss and look at the back of a Ravens jersey, well, you know the answer. Texans' defenders' angles, pursuit and final wrap up will be as important as anything in this matchup with Baltimore.
- Pitre pounding - At the end of the season, a defensive coaching staff doesn't typically want to see a safety leading the team in tackles. But, Texans S Jalen Pitre is a hugely important part of the run defense. Against New Orleans on the first drive of the game, Pitre moved down in the box against the Saints I formation, 21 personnel. Saints ran an old school lead zone away from Pitre who screamed off the left edge. His speed and explosiveness got him to the ball carrier for no gain. He's so adept near the line of scrimmage; that can't be lost within this defense. I don't want him making 20 tackles a game, but he MUST be involved in stopping Lamar and company in the run game.
- Where there's a Will… - There's a HIGH level of excitement for the debuts of the Texans two highly drafted rookies - C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. But, this will be a different kind of game for Anderson Jr; he's a heat seeking missile nicknamed The Terminator. In his first game, he's going to be flying 100 miles per hour. But, that's not always the way to defend the Ravens, especially in the pass rush. Get too loose on the high side of a pass rush and Jackson will take off through a seam in the pass rush and run for days. So, slow play the pass rush? Not entirely. There's a FINE line to successfully rushing Jackson and Anderson Jr. and company will need to channel their excitement and emotions into an intelligently ferocious pass rush that envelops the star QB in the pocket.
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 92.1 ypg (3rd in the NFL in 2022)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 232.2 ypg (26th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 324.3 ypg (24th)
Turnovers generated - 25 (14 INT, 11 Fumble recoveries - Ravens were +4 in TO margin in 2022)
Expected Ravens starting defense for Week 1
DE - Broderick Washington
NT - Michael Pierce
DT - Justin Madubuike
OLB - Odafe Oweh
ILB - Roquan Smith
ILB - Patrick Queen
OLB - David Ojabo/JADEVEON CLOWNEY
CB - Marlon Humphrey (Injured?)
S - Kyle Hamilton
S - Marcus Williams
CB - Ronald Darby/Jalyn Armour-Davis
*5c - ARTHUR MAULET
Key Defensive Non-Starters
NT - Travis Jones
LB - Malik Harrison
LB - TRENTON SIMPSON
OLB - TAVIUS ROBINSON
S - Geno Stone
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023
Keys to winning v. the Ravens Defense
1. Can they find Roquan? - I still see it in my nightmares. Week three, 2022. Chicago. 58 running ALL OVER THE FIELD, my gosh. The Texans OL couldn't get a hat on Bears Pro Bowl star LB Roquan Smith seemingly all day long. He ran and ran and ran all day, slowing the Texans run game throughout the day. Now, Roquan is in Baltimore with a better front to protect him and, again, allow him to run unabated to the ball all day long. If the Texans want to improve their run game in 2023, it starts in Baltimore and that means finding #0 in purple all day long. Or else. You know what, I've seen the "or else" before so let's not this time, okay?
2.Can they exploit the secondary?- Heading into the 2023 season, the Ravens can claim one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. They still can, but there's one huge question mark with Pro Bowl star Marlon Humphrey. Apparently, he underwent surgery on his foot in training camp and is projected to miss this game. Any help the Texans offense can get, they'll take, but how do the Ravens line up at cornerback in this one? Ronald Darby was signed after the Humphrey injury and Rock Ya-Sin on the other side has struggled throughout his career. Is there a surprise in store? Can the Texans' passing game exploit a Humphrey-less secondary? That depends on a number of things, including their rookie QB. Speaking of…
3. Can he stay calm?- Texans rookie starting QB C.J. Stroud has played in some of the most intense environments any 21-year old could possibly have played in. Rose Bowl. Michigan's Big House. Three seasons at Ohio State, that's more than enough. CFP against Georgia - Ravens OC Todd Monken had a ringside seat for that one. The point is that nothing should rattle Stroud, but in his first NFL start in this place where the Texans have never won, he'll experience something he's never felt before. It's imperative that the Texans youngster stay calm, get some help from his running game and then deliver when he's got open receivers. He can't try to carry the offense, but just keep the train on the tracks. He does that and the Texans offense will be in business.