NFL News & Analysis

5 things we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' Week 1 win over the Houston Texans

2RT7D4N Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) runs with the ball after making a catch during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

• Zay Flowers is WR1: The Ravens made sure to get Flowers involved in Week 1, sending 10 targets his way and handing him two carries.

• The Ravens have a decision to make along the OL: With Tyler Linderbaum and Ronnie Stanley trending toward not playing in Week 2, the Ravens will have to decide how they want to use Patrick Mekari, among others.

• Odafe Oweh enjoys his best game yet: It wasn't the highest-graded game of Oweh's young career, but it was his most complete performance yet.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Baltimore Ravens took down the Houston Texans 25-9 to open the 2023 NFL season, but the game left a sour taste in fans' and coaches' mouths after the team suffered four key injuries and looked shaky on offense.

While those injuries will play a key role going forward, there were also plenty of reasons for optimism for the Ravens.

Here are the five things we learned from Week 1.

More 11 personnel

The addition of Todd Monken as offensive coordinator, along with making serious investments at wide receiver this offseason, basically guaranteed that the Ravens would run more 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) in 2023. They did, but their 43.8% Week 1 rate still ranked only 28th in the NFL. However, those numbers include Patrick Ricard being classed as a fullback rather than a tight end.

The Ravens also employed 20 personnel (two running backs, no tight ends) on 15 snaps. On 13 of those snaps, though, Ricard lined up as a tight end, with just two coming as a fullback. If we count those 13 snaps as 11 personnel, then Baltimore's usage in that grouping jumps to 64.1%, which would rank 15th in the league.

Zay Flowers is WR1

With tight end Mark Andrews out, many expected this to be a game in which Isaiah Likely took over. Instead, the Ravens' game plan was to put the ball in Zay Flowers hands early and often. Flowers recorded 10 targets and two rushing attempts, giving him the most touches of any skill position player on the roster. He turned those touches into 87 yards, including four forced missed tackles as a receiver, earning a 78.2 PFF grade in his debut. While six of his targets came behind the line of scrimmage, he also had a reception on a throw between 10 and 19 yards downfield and one on a 20-yard pass, so the Ravens will feature him at every level.


Offensive line injuries are a problem

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum both left the game due to injury, with head coach John Harbaugh describing them as week-to-week. It’s unlikely we see either of them against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, raising the question of how the team plans to replace the duo.

Were it simply a case of Stanley being hurt, backup offensive lineman Patrick Mekari would be the replacement. He earned a 79.4 PFF pass-blocking grade on a very limited sample size of just six snaps in Week 1 but did post an 80.3 PFF pass-blocking grade on 221 pass-blocking snaps in 2022.

Mekari also has experience at center, starting seven games for the Ravens there in 2020. That’s where the Linderbaum injury complicates things. Will the Ravens simply replace Stanley with Mekari and Linderbaum with backup Sam Mustipher, or do they get creative and move multiple players around? With how solid Mekari has been in pass protection, I would lean toward playing him at left tackle this week.

Marcus Williams‘ injury potentially changes Kyle Hamilton’s role

When Williams was on the field in the first half, Hamilton lined up all over the field. He was a deep safety on 16 snaps, in the slot or covering at outside cornerback on seven snaps and in the box for 13 snaps. But with Williams out in the second half after suffering a pectoral injury, Hamilton played deep on 27 snaps, compared to three in the slot and 11 in the box.

Hamilton impressed closer to the line of scrimmage as a rookie, earning an 87.6 grade in his debut campaign, and looked good in the season opener on Sunday on his way to a 77.5 PFF grade. He’s a good player regardless, but Williams' injury forcing him to spend more time deep takes away a matchup weapon for the Ravens' defense and likely reduces his potential to make game-changing plays, given his success closer to the line of scrimmage.

Odafe Oweh had his best game in the NFL

Oweh has previously graded out better than he did in Week 1, but those were games where he had a small number of splash plays. His performance against the Texans was the most complete he has looked since entering the NFL. And considering his improved performance late last season, there should be some optimism surrounding Oweh's 2023 season.

Unlike last year, when the Ravens asked him to take some of the injured Tyus Bowser’s Sam linebacker responsibilities, Oweh was tasked with getting after the quarterback in this game. Oweh finished the game with seven total pressures, including four quarterback hits. Two of those hits came on clean-up pressures, with Oweh using his 4.38 speed to chase down Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud. That closing speed could be key to the edge defender putting more quarterbacks on the ground this year.


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