The Ravens never could figure out the Dolphins’ blitz-heavy defense last year as they suffered a 22-10 upset in Miami. Lamar Jackson will try to make Miami pay for its dares this time around while a revamped Ravens secondary faces the dynamic receiving duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Here’s who has the edge in each phase of the game:
Ravens passing game vs. Dolphins pass defense
Lamar Jackson needed almost two quarters to get rolling in the Ravens’ 24-9 opening victory over the New York Jets, but once he did, he resembled the quarterback who punished defenses by throwing over the top in the early weeks of last season. Jackson completed just 17 of 30 passes and threw an interception in garbage time, but he led all quarterbacks in air yards per attempt in Week 1, and his aggression paid off with a pair of touchdown passes to Devin Duvernay and a 55-yard score to Rashod Bateman.
The Ravens had hoped one of their incumbent receivers would step forward as a running mate for Bateman, and Duvernay did just that, catching all four passes thrown his way. All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews had a quiet game by his standards (5 catches on 7 targets, 52 yards) but remains Jackson’s top target. Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely struggled in his debut, catching zero passes on four targets and setting the Ravens back with a holding penalty. Jackson’s line did a solid job protecting him against the Jets but suffered another setback when left tackle Ja’Wuan James tore his Achilles tendon in the second quarter. Patrick Mekari, a dependable pass blocker, will fill in while they await the return of 2019 All-Pro Ronnie Stanley (ankle). The Ravens will face a sterner test than they did against the Jets.
The Dolphins tormented them with blitzes, real and feigned, in an upset last season. Jackson took four sacks and threw an interception in that loss as the Ravens failed to score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. Miami changed coaches but retained defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, so the Ravens can expect more of the same. The Dolphins ranked second in the league in blitz percentage last season, and they trust cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Nik Needham to press on the outside. Jackson will have to beat them with big plays to achieve a different result this time around. The Dolphins, led by Christian Wilkins and Emmanuel Ogbah upfront, will bring pressure from every angle to try to rattle him.
Dolphins passing game vs. Ravens pass defense
There aren’t many players more divisive than Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who played efficiently (23 of 33, 270 yards, 1 touchdown) in the Dolphins’ 20-7 opening win over the New England Patriots. New coach Mike McDaniel seems determined to play to Tagovailoa’s strengths, asking him to connect with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on timing routes that can turn into bigger plays. He was 10th in air yards per attempt in Week 1 after ranking 29th last season.
Hill, the former Kansas City Chiefs star who caught eight passes on 12 targets in his Miami debut after the Dolphins traded for him in the offseason, remains one of the most dynamic playmakers in football. Waddle caught 104 passes on 140 targets as a rookie in 2021, and though he averaged just 9.8 yards per catch, he punished the Patriots with a 42-yard touchdown in Week 1. Tagovailoa also likes to target Chase Edmonds out of the backfield. Miami could be without starting right tackle Austin Jackson (ankle), and left tackle Terron Armstead (toe) also missed practice Wednesday.
The Dolphins will try to keep their momentum going against a Ravens pass defense that appeared rejuvenated against the Jets. The front seven dominated, with Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh combining for 11 pressures off the edges and Justin Madubuike and Michael Pierce creating relentless push from the interior. Safety Marcus Williams celebrated his Ravens debut with a team-high 12 tackles and an interception, while Chuck Clark, freed up to play closer to the line of scrimmage, made nine tackles and forced a fumble.
The team’s secondary depth took a hit when veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller tore his ACL late in the game, but the Ravens could fill that hole and then some if former All-Pro Marcus Peters (knee) returns against Miami. Second-year cornerback Brandon Stephens will also be asked to do more. Regardless of who plays, the Ravens’ defensive backs and linebacker Patrick Queen, who played every down against the Jets, will have their hands full with Hill and Waddle.
Ravens running game vs. Dolphins run defense
The Jets went all out to stop the Ravens on the ground, and the bad news for offensive coordinator Greg Roman was that they succeeded. The Ravens, using recently signed Kenyan Drake as their primary ball carrier, ran for 63 yards on 21 attempts, their second-worst rushing performance of the Jackson era. Drake did not have much room to work with as missed assignments and subpar run-blocking performances from most of the team’s offensive linemen (rookie center Tyler Linderbaum shined in this area) added up to a bleak picture. Jackson, still the team’s top running threat in a pinch, carried just six times for 17 yards, with his biggest gain coming on a scramble rather than a designed run. J.K. Dobbins, the team’s No. 1 running back when healthy, has said he hopes to play against Miami.
The Dolphins’ aggressive play stifled the Ravens’ run game last year, and they held the Patriots to 78 yards on 22 attempts in Week 1. Former Raven Zach Sieler has grown into the top interior run defender for a productive front seven. With Boyer’s defense crowding the line of scrimmage, this will not be an easy week for the Ravens to get their ground attack on track.
Dolphins running game vs. Ravens run defense
The Dolphins are a pass-first team. Edmonds carried just 12 times for 25 yards against the Patriots, and Tagovailoa is not much of a scrambling threat.
Despite strong performances from Pierce, Madubuike and Broderick Washington, the Ravens gave up more double-digit runs than they would have liked against the Jets. Running backs Breece Hall and Michael Carter combined for 83 yards on just 16 carries. Veterans Josh Bynes and Calais Campbell, both key to the Ravens’ No. 1 run defense in 2021, played below their standards.
Ravens special teams vs. Dolphins special teams
The Ravens finished first in Football Outsiders’ special-teams DVOA in 2021, and they thoroughly outplayed the No. 2 team from last year, the Jets, in Week 1. All-Pro Justin Tucker made his only field-goal attempt, and rookie Jordan Stout punted well in his debut, putting three of his six kicks inside the New York 20-yard line.
The Dolphins finished 29th in special-teams DVOA last season, struggling in most areas. Kicker Jason Sanders made both of his field-goal attempts against the Patriots after hitting on just 23 of 31 in 2021. Former Raven Raheem Mostert was a dangerous kickoff returner early in his career, so perhaps he can give the Dolphins a jolt.
Ravens intangibles vs. Dolphins intangibles
The Dolphins won eight of their last nine games in 2021 and beat the Patriots decisively in their opener, so they will come to Baltimore a confident team, especially given their defensive performance against the Ravens last November. It’s too early to know much about McDaniel as a coach, but he’s a respected offensive mind.
The Ravens probably felt some relief when they handled the Jets in Week 1 after losing their last six games in 2021, but they know the Dolphins will test them more aggressively in areas where they faltered down the stretch last year. Jackson will not want to live through another rough game against a blitz-happy opponent. The Ravens still aren’t fully healthy as they wait for Peters, Dobbins, Stanley and other reinforcements to bolster their cause.
This is the Ravens’ first real test of 2022, against a team that gave them fits in November. The Dolphins will attack from every angle at the line of scrimmage and dare Jackson to beat them over the top. Meanwhile, they’ll count on Hill and Waddle to run wild against a revamped Baltimore secondary. This would be an easier call if the Ravens had all their key players, but Jackson will hit on enough downfield throws to pull them through at home. Ravens 24, Dolphins 20