JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2017 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Baltimore Ravens columnist John Eisenberg on the Ravens as they enter Sunday's game against the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
Question: The Ravens are 2-0. They look like contenders. How do the Ravens see themselves two games into the season?
Answer: I think the Ravens are starting to feel like they are pretty good. It starts with their defense. That's where they focused their energies in the offseason – to the consternation of the fans, I might add. It was so much on the defense between the draft and free agency. They were doing very little to the offense, and they really ramped up the defense. They thought it would be good and it has been good. That helped them a lot, and the offense took a lot longer to come together. With [quarterback Joe] Flacco's [preseason back] injury they weren't sure what was going on. But the offense has played pretty well and Flacco does look healthy. He looked healthy against Cleveland Sunday, which was the big thing. They're starting to feel like there's some substance there aside from just the record.
Question: You mentioned Flacco. Is he OK with what from a distance appears to be a conservative approach offensively?
A:It was kind of a joke around town after the first game when they ran the ball 42 times and passed 17 a victory over Cincinnati] … Flacco joked that it was boring. Everybody has fun with that, but they won the game – on the road against the Bengals, a big win. They passed the ball more this past week. It appears it is more of a short passing game/running game blend and not a lot of deep stuff. He had a very strong game Sunday against Cleveland. His quarterback rating was very high [97.3] and he didn't miss many throws. I think he is fine with it. He likes to throw it, but after not making the playoffs three times in the last four years the offense is looking better. I think he'll go with it.
Q: With 10 takeaways in two games, this looks like a typical Ravens defense. Is it starting to feel like a Ravens defense?
A: They have eight interceptions, and keep in mind that they had six in all of 2015. The defense is starting to get there. They do have a lot of guys with ball skills on the back end and it looks like one of those good Ravens defenses. But Cleveland moved the ball on them with a rookie quarterback [DeShone Kizer]. They [the Browns] had big plays. Guys were open. There wasn't a ton of pressure on Kizer. That was a little unsettling. If that offense, with a rookie quarterback, can move the ball … it indicated there might be some holes there. They've played well, given up one touchdown and had 10 turnovers, so obviously that's great. But there is some stuff to clean up still on that side of the ball.
Q:It's unusual to see the Ravens out of the postseason three of four seasons. Is there a feeling that this season is the season they get back?
A: Yes, it has been a strong franchise, but the general tone among the fans has been somewhat negative after not making the playoffs three times in four years. I think it's a big year. I don't know that the stakes are high because the people in charge are pretty entrenched and good at their jobs. The owner likes them, so I don't think there's anything at stake there, but at some point you have to win. This is a year they think they can put a winning team on the field and compete closer to the level they were before. I do think they feel like they have that potential to be that team. Now, they've had a ton of injuries. [Ravens Head Coach John] Harbaugh doesn't make excuses, but it's cutting into their depth – that's for sure.
Q: And that seems particularly true on the offensive line …
A:[Guard] Marshal Yonda is out for the year. That's huge. He's one of the best players in the NFL. They have remade the line. They were 28th in the NFL in rushing last season. They brought in Greg Roman [as senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach]. They have a new running game that has been very good so far. They have pretty much overhauled the line. They wanted to make it bigger and more physical. It looks like they've done that, but losing Yonda is the tone-setter there for sure. They opened training camp thinking three guys [Yonda, left guard Alex Lewis and center John Urschel] would be the starters on the interior. All three are gone. So, they're on to Plan B, that's for sure.
Q:We've talked defense and quarterback. What's one reason the Ravens like where they are right now – beyond what we've already discussed?
A: They have had no blackouts on offense. In the last three or four years they would go through these long stretches … two-and-half quarters of three-and-outs. They're moving the ball more consistently this year because they're running the ball. Gary Kubiak was the offensive coordinator in 2014. He was a ringer. He was really good. They ran the ball and they moved the ball. Since then, it has been very inconsistent. It appears they're moving the ball consistently. So far. That's why I think fans are encouraged.