Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
BRB is joined by Kyle Barber of Baltimore Beatdown for five questions.
It’s a tradition like no other in sports. Opening day in every sport is a special day and after more than six months of waiting for another season. Both the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans’ seasons ended in disappointment last year. That is usually the case. So, someone will have a good day and get their season off to a good start.
Kyle Barber was kind enough to join us for five questions in advance of this week’s game. The Ravens are huge favorites, but they have a new players on offense, a new offensive coordinator. Excitement is palpable for Texans fans for the first time in four years. Ravens fans are excited too.
Battle Red Blog: The Lamar Jackson contract situation was one of the biggest offseason stories. Now that the ink is dry, what are the expectations for him? How will he look different in the new offense?
Kyle Barber: The signing of Lamar Jackson was a significant part in the positivity illuminating Baltimore. Now that he’s under contract, expectations are mighty for the sixth-year quarterback, especially after the moves made this offseason to bolster the offense. Many are expecting a career season in passing yards, which is partially due to Jackson saying tongue-in-cheek that he wants to throw for 6,000 passing yards. But, in reality, this is far and away the best passing system he’s been a part of with the best receiving unit, arguably ever on a Ravens roster. Expectations are sky-high and it’s up to him to prove he’s worth what was at one short point the highest paid player in the NFL.
BRB: A number of the skill position players are either new to the team, coming off season long injuries, or both. Who do you see becoming the primary ball carrier and receiver for this team? Mark Andrews has been that guy in the past. Do you see anyone supplanting him?
KB: I just can’t envision a player being the primary target for Jackson. When the down and distance is do-or-die, Andrews has been Jackson’s safety blanket. I don’t necessarily see that changing. However, I personally felt Jackson did start to give heavy attention to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the red zone. Multiple times throughout camp that was his first, and sometimes only, read.
BRB: The Ravens bet pretty heavy on Roquan Smith last season with a new contract? Have you been happy with him? Will he be a difference maker for your defense?
KB: Think you’re using the wrong tense. Smith has already been a difference maker. He’s a force multiplier. The addition of Smith showed that though off-ball linebackers may no longer be the premium position player, the great ones can still impact all 10 other players on the field. Smith’s command of the defense, his communication and his play were dominant. I can only expect more from him this season with a full year as a Raven under his belt and a mostly solid unit surrounding.
BRB: The AFC North is always tough and this season is no different. How do you see the division shaking out this season? Are you confident that the Ravens will get past the Bengals or do you think they are still your toughest opponent?
KB: I’m a big believer in recognizing that until you defeat the team you’ve been getting bullied to, you have to label them as your toughest opponent. For the Ravens, that’s been the Cincinnati Bengals. They’ve consistently defeated the Ravens and are atop the AFC North. Give credit where it’s due.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t have confidence in the Ravens to win a game against them. I think they have a real shot. I believe they can hang with anybody in this division. Sadly, any team can hang with any in this division. It’s arguably the best in pro football. It’s going to be a violent four-team race until injury or the wheels fall off.
BRB: DraftKings currently has the line on the game at 9.5 points. They set the over/under at 44. Are you confident the Ravens will cover? Do you see the game as a low scoring or high scoring affair?
KB: The Ravens love to deliver knockout blows in Week 1. They love to start fast. I have a feeling they cover the spread here. Maybe it’s too much purple Kool-Aid but over the last seven Kickoff Weekend games, the Ravens have outscored opponents 228-68. I think this is a harsh Week 1 for Stroud.
We want to thank Kyle for joining us in advance of this week’s game and want to wish him and the Ravens the best of luck this season. Of course, don’t want them to have too much success on Sunday.