Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Browns v. Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, 1 p.m., in M&T Bank Stadium
Last game: Lost to Kansas City Chiefs, 33-28, Sept. 21, in Arrowhead Stadium.
Coach: John Harbaugh, 116-79, 12th year.
Series record: Ravens lead, 30-10.
Last meeting: Ravens won, 26-24, Dec. 30, 2018, in Baltimore.
League rankings: Offense is first overall (first rushing, eighth passing), defense is 16th overall (third rushing, 27th passing), and turnover differential is plus-3.
Things I think
1. The Ravens did a smart thing after committing to quarterback Lamar Jackson when they elevated Greg Roman to offensive coordinator. He was senior offensive assistant/tight ends the previous two seasons. Roman was the offensive architect of the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh – brother of John – when Colin Kaepernick took the NFL by storm in 2012-13. In those seasons, the 49ers ranked 11th and third in scoring, and fourth and third in rushing. Kaepernick’s running had a lot to do with the success of the offense. He rushed for 415 yards and five touchdowns in only seven starts in 2012, and added 424 and four TDs in 16 starts in 2013. In both seasons, lead rusher Frank Gore had more than 1,100 yards. That’s what happens when a quarterback is such a threat to run – all the backs benefit because the offense practically has a 12th man to defend. Jackson was primarily a runner in winning six of seven starts last year as a rookie. He ran for 695 yards and five touchdowns. In his second season, Jackson has improved considerably as a passer (63 percent completions and 287.6 yards per game), but he is no less a running threat (on pace for 917 rushing yards).
2. Ozzie Newsome’s sterling resume in 23 years as Ravens GM speaks for itself. But there’s a line in small print at the bottom that should say: Had a blind spot for wide receivers. The retired GM will admit to that. In the first draft run entirely by Newsome’s hand-picked successor, Eric DeCosta, the Ravens chose Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown in the first round and Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin in the third round. Both are getting a lot of playing time early. Brown is off to a fast start with 14 receptions for 282 yards (20.1 average) and two touchdowns. Boykin has two catches for 16 yards and one TD.
3. DeCosta made three great signings in free agency, impacting each phase of the team. On offense, running back Mark Ingram already is benefitting from Jackson’s threat to run. The second-leading touchdown-maker among running backs since 2014, Ingram is fifth in rushing yards (257), fourth in rush average (6.0 yards) and first in rush touchdowns (fifth). On defense, safety Earl Thomas replaced departed Eric Weddle and instantly became the leader of the unit. Thomas leads all active safeties with 29 career interceptions and is second among all NFL defenders since he entered the league in 2010. He is a six-time Pro Bowler. On special teams, Justin Bethel is one of the league’s renowned standouts on special teams. The former Arizona Cardinal leads the Ravens in tackles and has a fumble recovery on a punt.
4. The Ravens’ defense is reeling from a 500-yard beatdown by reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs were without three key offensive starters – receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Eric Fisher and running back Damien Williams. Mahomes’ 374-yard passing game plummeted the Ravens to 27th in pass defense. They will be without cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) for several weeks and previously lost cornerback Tavon Young for the season with a neck injury.
Did you know … ?
1. Jackson is 8-2 in regular-season games as a starting quarterback. His only losses were to the Chiefs, 27-24 last year and 33-28 last week. Jackson also lost to the Los Angeles Chargers in a wild-card playoff game, 23-17.
2. John Harbaugh is 19-3 against the Browns. Believe it or not, that is only the fifth-best record against one team by an active coach. But the four better records are by coaches with fewer than 10 wins.
3. Former Ravens coach Brian Billick, who took the Ravens to the Super Bowl championship in the 2000 season, will be inducted in the team’s Ring of Honor on Sunday.
4. The Ravens traditionally field special teams ranked in the top 10. Harbaugh made his mark as special teams coach of the Eagles. For the past 11 years, the Ravens excelled under special teams coach Jerry Rosburg. They ranked in the top six of the Rick Gosselin special teams rankings the past six years. Rosburg retired after 2018 and his assistant the past three years, Chris Horton, was promoted. Through three weeks, the Ravens rank in the top 10 in four special teams categories.
Small world: Coach John Harbaugh is a native of Toledo and attended Miami (Ohio) … Offensive coordinator Greg Roman played defensive line at John Carroll University … Tackle Orlando Brown is the son of the 1990s tackle for the Browns of the same name … Receiver Willie Snead played for the Browns in 2014 … Quarterback Robert Griffin III is one of 30 quarterbacks to start a game for the Browns since 1999. He was No. 25 and was 1-4 for the Browns in 2016.