It's about that time. Baltimore football is back in a way we haven't really been able to enjoy in a while. The Texans come to town today and the Bank will be filled with 70,000 in purple and black who are ready to leave the past couple years in the rearview and chase a Super Bowl. No need to re-litigate that saga (nobody is less interested in doing so than yours truly) but it's a refreshing and glorious thing to think about one thing and one thing only. Football.
I won't be throwing a game preview at you for today either. The Texans are a doormat and essentially serve as the opening week Southeast Missouri State creampuff game on a powerhouse college football team's slate. We wipe the floor with them today, win by 3 or 4 touchdowns, maybe get some guys down the roster some garbage time PT, and everybody goes home happy.
But here's a few things I'm fired up for about what should be an awesome year in a very competitive AFC North division (and AFC as a whole).
- Lamar is healthy and locked in. I'll keep my promise on keeping this about football but you know what I'm talking about here. The fact that he didn't play a single snap in preseason makes today that much more exciting. There is nobody more fun to watch in this league than Lamar when he is cooking. Period. And he's here for the long haul.
- THE WEAPONS. These could be their own bullet points, but Lamar obviously has his best collection of targets in his career. Odell isn't the Odell of his NYG days but last time we saw him he was dominating the Super Bowl. Seeing what he's got left in the tank will be awesome. The early reviews on Zay Flowers are through the goddamn roof. He's being called un-coverable. And a healthy Bateman is a sight for sore eyes. He's capable of being a #1 and it's possible he's the 3rd wheel in this offense at the receiver position.
- Todd Monken's offense. Gone are the days of Greg Roman and the threat of a delay of game on any given snap. Gone are the days of crowded boxes and erratic route trees. We're gonna open this bitch up and let it fly. And did I mention Mark Andrews? He may not be playing today but all of these factors are going to open up the middle of the field for Marky Mark.
- Ronnie Stanley and JK Dobbins are each GREAT players who made comebacks in 2022 and (to varying degrees) weren't the full version of themselves. We saw each come on stronger as the year progressed and just had a full offseason to get back to full strength. This offense is so well rounded.
- Roquan Smith got a full offseason to further acclimate himself to Baltimore and is an awesome leader of a defense with a high ceiling. It's easy to forget he also had spent the past couple years of his career with the dark cloud of a contract situation looming over his head, and now it's all about football for him too.
- Kyle Hamilton is going to reach superstardom this season. He's such a versatile weapon with a nose for the football. Watch the kid fly this year. "Experts" who have doubts about the Ravens this year have trashed the secondary while forgetting Marcus Williams is one of the best centerfielders in football too.
- Maybe this is the year for Odafe Oweh to take a big step forward? David Ojabo will have his opportunity to play a full year and show why he was lauded as a Top 10 prospect before getting injured ahead of the 2022 draft. And Clowney should be a nice complement to these guys with some power rush capabilities on the interior a la Pernell McPhee. Definitely one of those position groups that's touch and go this year and they could flop, but the ceiling is high.
- I like Justin Madubuike and even more so Travis Jones as guys that really hold their own and become high impact guys on the interior D-line this year.
- Marlon will get right and that's when we take flight. Obviously nervy about the CB position as it stands, but a healthy and physical Marlon in December/January is way more important than trotting out a 75% version of Marlon in September.
- Justin Tucker majestic BOMBS.
I mean… that's a lot to be excited about. It ain't gonna be easy in football's toughest division, but we wouldn't want it to be easy anyway.
Let's have a time at the Bank today. Enjoy football for being back, coast to an easy W, and go send a message in Cincy next week.