• The Ravens' WR depth is vastly improved: Nelson Agholor enjoyed a big game in Week 2, and the Ravens' offense didn't skip a beat when Odell Beckham Jr. exited due to an ankle injury.
• What injuries? Backups and role players stepped up in a big way against Cincinnati, including safety Geno Stone making arguably the biggest play of the game.
• Lamar Jackson is excelling on deeper throws: When passing 10 or more yards downfield, Jackson has earned an elite 91.6 PFF grade.
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Injury replacements stepped up in a big way, the offense continued to evolve and the team’s newfound depth at wide receiver was on full display.
Here are the five things we learned from the Ravens' Week 2 win.
Injury replacements step up
The Ravens were 3.5-point underdogs heading into this game at most sportsbooks, with their mounting injury list contributing to that. Going into Cincinnati missing starters in left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Tyler Linderbaum, running back J.K. Dobbins, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Marcus Williams was no easy task, but the replacements for those players impressed.
Mekari allowed two pressures from 43 pass-blocking snaps and was the team’s highest-graded run blocker in the game. He’s talented enough to be a top-20 tackle in the NFL, so the Ravens being able to rely on him as a backup is important. Center Sam Mustipher wasn’t dominant, but he was good enough. He didn’t allow any pressure on 44 pass-blocking snaps. The run-blocking drop-off from Linderbaum to Mustipher is not insignificant, but the Ravens will be happy with his performance as a pass blocker.
In the secondary, the Ravens rotated between Ronald Darby and Rock Ya-Sin opposite Brandon Stephens. Stephens faced seven targets, allowing four receptions for 37 yards, while Darby allowed two receptions for 15 yards and a touchdown. Ya-Sin gave up 13 yards on one reception. Both Darby and Ya-Sin recorded pass breakups, with the latter’s coming on a pass to Ja’Marr Chase in the end zone. Safety Geno Stone had a huge day, making arguably the biggest play of the game by intercepting Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on his way to a 91.1 PFF grade.
Wide receiver depth is key
It wasn’t just injuries heading into the game that impacted the Ravens. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. missed the entire second half against the Bengals after pulling in three catches for 29 yards in the first half. A year ago, a loss like that at the position would have been a huge blow to the Ravens, but their depth is now such that the offense didn’t even skip a beat.
Zay Flowers continues to impress, pulling in a spectacular grab on a 52-yard dime from Lamar Jackson, and Rashod Bateman caught all three passes thrown his way. But the real story was Nelson Agholor. The 2015 first-round pick earned an 87.2 PFF receiving grade in the game, securing five receptions for 63 yards. Four of his five catches went for either a first down or a touchdown, including what became the game-winning score on third-and-5 with 11:42 left in the game.
Lamar Jackson is excelling at throwing downfield
The biggest beneficiary of the new talent and depth at wide receiver is obviously Jackson, and you can see that in his success at throwing the ball downfield. On throws of 10-plus yards downfield, the Ravens quarterback has gone 10-of-16 for 215 yards and a touchdown, not including three plays nullified due to defensive pass interference calls. He has earned a 91.6 PFF grade on such throws, which ranks second in the league. And the Ravens have produced positive expected points added on 65% of those plays, ranking eighth in the league.
Jackson put his downfield prowess on display in the win over the Bengals, making one of the throws of his career on a 52-yard reception by Zay Flowers, with Jackson putting the ball exactly where it needed to be. He did the same on the touchdown pass to Agholor, with near-perfect timing and touch to allow Agholor to pull the ball in as he crossed the goal line.
Running back by committee
With J.K. Dobbins out, everyone wondered how the Ravens would split carries between Justice Hill, who had scored twice a week ago, and Gus Edwards. They employed a mostly even split in Week 2, with Hill seeing 11 carries to Edwards’ 10. Eight of Hill's 11 carries came on runs intended to go outside either tackle spot or wider, while Edwards saw four carries to Hill’s three on runs intended to go inside the tackles. Hill forced six missed tackles and picked up two first downs, while Edwards accounted for six first downs.
Jackson was the team’s most dominant threat on the ground, though, and he led the team in carries, rushing 12 times for 54 yards. Through two weeks, he has forced seven missed tackles on 18 carries. He was more willing to scramble this week, with seven such attempts against the Bengals compared to just four against the Texans, including plays nullified by penalty.
Ravens run 11 personnel more often than the numbers suggest
The Ravens have used 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) on 50.4% of their offensive plays this season. That ranks just 25th in the league, though it is still a significant leap from where they were a year ago, when they used it on just 12.0% of plays. However, Patrick Ricard’s position designation is impacting these numbers. Ricard has been a Pro Bowl fullback, but he’s playing more as a tight end this year. Of his 54 snaps through two weeks this season, he has lined up as a fullback just 12 times, compared to 35 as an in-line tight end or tackle in an unbalanced offensive line, six in the slot and one split out wide.
When you consider that, Baltimore's 11 personnel usage jumps to 61.2%, which would rank 18th in the league. The same is true for 12 versus 21 personnel usage. The Ravens employed 21 personnel on 27 snaps (19.4% of offensive plays) versus being in 12 personnel for 16 plays (11.5%). However, on 19 of those 27 snaps, Ricard lined up as a tight end, which puts the Ravens in 12 personnel on 25.9% of plays. The Ravens are an 11 and 12 personnel team now, lining up in those formations on 87% of offensive snaps. Consider this my petition to classify Ricard as a tight end.