With the Ravens preparing to kick off their 25th season against Cleveland on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. With Baltimore navigating an unprecedented summer and setting its roster, the 2020 season finally feels real after countless questions over the last six months. Asked if the season brings a sense of normalcy, John Harbaugh answered, “Is anything normal in 2020?” I’ll take weird football over none at all.
2. Just one Ravens player — Nigel Warrior — landed on the COVID-19 list all summer, but players will now have more time away from the facility than in training camp and travel will present a new challenge. Harbaugh said players are policing each other more than anything now. Fingers crossed that continues.
3. Only four individuals have won back-to-back NFL MVP awards, but it’s amazing to watch how far Lamar Jackson has come with his 24th birthday still months away. I’m not predicting that award for him in 2020, but he should remain in that conversation for quite a long time.
4. The Ravens have opened the season against Pittsburgh or Cincinnati a combined nine times, but this marks only the second occasion they’ll play the Browns in Week 1, the other being a 20-3 loss at Cleveland in 2004. Imagine preparing for this offense after no summer game action.
5. Harbaugh was predictably uncooperative when asked about his starting offensive line, deferring to the same public depth chart he’s dismissed in the past as a creation of the public relations staff. In other words, don’t put much stock into this, if any at all.
6. Harbaugh also wouldn’t address the decision to keep Trace McSorley on the 53-man roster over rookie Tyler Huntley, who was re-signed to the practice squad Sunday. The Ravens will hope this is the last time either young quarterback is discussed at length for the remainder of the 2020 campaign.
7. Kudos to Eric DeCosta for having the discipline not to keep a rookie free agent on the roster just to keep the 16-year streak alive. The lack of information and tape on undrafted rookies made it apparent they’d pass through waivers as the Ravens didn’t have a single player claimed.
8. Given the underwhelming candidates, the decision not to retain a third tight end wasn’t surprising. Practice squad options remain, but Mark Andrews played only 41 percent of snaps last season, the same as Hayden Hurst. There’s little reason to think Andrews can’t assume a sizeable portion of those.
9. It’s also fair to wonder whether we can expect fewer sets with two tight ends and more formations using three wide receivers. Despite so much outside discussion about guys like Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant, Harbaugh feels good about his young wide receivers. We’ll see if that optimism is validated.
10. The typical focus of the practice squad is working as the scout team to prepare starters for that week’s opponent, but Harbaugh acknowledged the realities of the virus requiring those players to be “a little more involved” understanding the game plan in case there are positive tests. Strange times.
11. Tennessee signing Jadeveon Clowney may narrow its gap with Kansas City and Baltimore, but it’s crazy thinking about the possibility of the Ravens pulling off the sign-and-trade concept with Jacksonville. It’s quickly become obvious that DeCosta is willing to get creative to make something happen.
12. You hope nothing compares to what happened to Navy in its opener after head coach Ken Niumatalolo eliminated contact in the name of safety during summer practices, but that serves as a reminder of what might be some less-than-stellar play early in the season. We’ll see how it looks.