On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns play their first road game when they take on the Baltimore Ravens. To help preview a few topics from the Ravens’ perspective, we reached out to Kyle Barber from Baltimore Beatdown and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “With the Ravens shutting out a division rival (Cincinnati) 20-0 and logging 4 interceptions on QB Andy Dalton, I'm sure it's really easy to be thrilled with Baltimore's defense. However, and I mean this as no disrespect to the Ravens, but in Week 1 of 2016, I also remember the 49ers shutting out the Rams 28-0, and we know how the rest of their season turned out. While there is no way the Ravens are bad like the 49ers ended up being, my point is to ask this: is the 20-0 shutout indicative of a dominant Ravens defense, or do you think they'll come back down to reality before long?”
Kyle: “What happened against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was a culmination of an incredible defense matching up against a weak offense. I've watched this team, in person, since camp began. The defense bullied the Ravens offense. Then, in the preseason, they put the hurt on teams for four straight games. It is not a surprise to see this team's defense dominate against other teams. But, they may have 'outperformed' in week one. We're talking about a Bengals team which lost Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. This defense has all the tools of a top NFL defense, but, it has been only one week.”
Chris: “Last week, the Ravens' offense didn't have to do much, as QB Joe Flacco completed just 9 passes for 121 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. After missing much of the offseason, how did he look? Is there some concern about whether he's ready to move the offense if Baltimore's defense doesn't get off to that same hot start?”
Kyle: “The reasoning for such a boring offensive display was how the game worked. The Ravens had the Bengals beat. They knew it, the Bengals knew it, the stadium knew it. So, instead of airing out the ball with a quarterback who's only practiced eight times, they ran the ball. They ran the ball for 9:38 seconds on a single drive. They bullied the Bengals, and they didn't want to throw the ball and make a costly mistake to swing the game back into the Bengals favor. I don't believe this offense is top-flight, but they're capable of scoring points. Last week, they had won by the end of the second quarter, and played smart, boring football.”
Chris: “Just going off individual reputations, I'd have to imagine that Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are the best safety tandem in the NFL. Is there a weakness to either of their games?”
Kyle: “I don't believe there is a weakness, at least nothing I've seen exploited. Both Weddle and Jefferson are incredible run-stopping safeties. They're also above-average in the passing game. Furthermore, they're both successful in blitzing, which is quite the tool for a defensive coordinator. These two are blue-chip safeties, and having them both on the same roster is a treat.”
Chris: “It's a shame that Danny Woodhead got injured right away for yet another team, as he's a valuable receiving back for any NFL club. With his injury, is there anyone on Baltimore who you'd expect to take his place in that role? Or will the team just rely even more heavily on Terrance West as a complete back?”
Kyle: “I expect the Ravens to rely heavily on Terrance West and Javorius Allen. Both proved themselves are capable tailbacks. The Ravens promoted Jeremy Langford the other day with the news of Danny Woodhead, meaning he may become more involved. Langford was a 'scatback' for the Bears, and we'll see if he can bring back his former glory.”
Chris: “What would you consider the biggest weakness on the Ravens' offensive line this year?”
Kyle: “The Ravens offensive line is far from complete. While Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda are solidified at left tackle and right guard, respectively, the other three positions are not filled with dominant players. Watch for center Ryan Jensen to receive a penalty or two. Also, right tackle Austin Howard isn't 100% with his health, and he allowed a sack against the Bengals Week 1.”
Thanks again to Kyle for taking the time to answer my questions.