In a season of unknowns, there might not be a more unknown opponents the Ravens could’ve played in their first week of the season.
Set to face the Cleveland Browns, there is one thing the Ravens are well aware of: How talented the Browns are both offensively and defensively, despite the changing faces on the coaching staff and in the front office.
After all, the Ravens got an up-close look at how talented of a roster they have early last season.
The Ravens were dominated 40-25 in Week 4 at home against the Browns as they allowed 530 yards of total offense, including 165 yards on the ground and three scores from running back Nick Chubb
As it turned out, that loss was the last Ravens loss of the season as they tore through the rest of the schedule — including the Browns in Week 16 — and finished the regular season 14-2. But that embarrassing loss at home, while not at the forefront of the week’s storylines, is certainly a reminder.
“The Browns came in and dominated the football game in so many ways,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They played winning football, they ran the ball on us, they stopped the run, they played a great football game, and they beat us handily. So, we’re certainly aware of that. You always remember those things. And I don’t want to put it in any category of revenge or anything like that.”
The loss was an awakening in so many ways for the Ravens, who turned around the season after the blowout and racked up 12 straight wins. With a few defensive tweaks after the loss to Cleveland, they became one of the most complete teams in the NFL.
But no one has forgotten the amount of yards Chubb ran for, an afternoon capped by an 88-yard rush to put the Ravens away in the fourth quarter.
“They came in and they had a great game versus us that day,” running back Mark Ingram said. “They ran for a lot of yards. We let some big plays happen on defense. We turned the ball over on offense. Didn’t capitalize on some opportunities in the red zone on offense. Just not being able to hurt yourself. You can’t turn the ball over. You’ve got to limit their explosive plays, their big plays. Obviously, you have to limit their run game with Chubb and Kareem Hunt.”
The Ravens took some significant steps in the offseason to prevent another afternoon like Week 4 from last season, though.
They added veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and drafted inside linebacker Patrick Queen to bolster the middle. They’ve added depth, with the selections of defensive linemen Justin Madubuike — who, at this point, isn’t likely to play Sunday — and Broderick Washington and inside linebacker Malik Harrison.
If there was ever a team the Ravens could have faced to test their front seven right from the outset, it’s the Browns.
“If I’m a coach, I’m going to see how the guys’ tackling is going to be, so I’m going to run the ball at them downhill and see where guys’ tackling is,” Campbell said. “So, we expect to see a lot of runs. They’re a great running team. They’re a great team — very talented team. So, we have our hands full, but I think we’re ready for the challenge.”