The Baltimore Ravens are for the first time in this admittedly very young season going to be asked to take on a team that has actually won a game this season—either at the time of their meeting, or to date. Both of their first two opponents are sitting at an 0-2 record, but tomorrow they will be in London to face the Jaguars, who are 1-1.
More notable will be the absence of nose tackle Brandon Williams, who has already been ruled out for the game and in fact did not even travel with the team. For his sake I hope he wasn’t really looking forward to visiting London, though with the massive contract that he signed in the offseason he could afford to visit on his own during the offseason. But I digress…
Williams is as good as it gets at the nose tackle position in today’s NFL. Last season, he had the second-most run stops of all true nose tackles in the league behind only Danny Shelton of the Browns. Pro Football Focus also credits him with having missed only one tackle a year ago.
The Ravens are rather fortunate in having been able last season to unearth the rookie undrafted free agent Michael Pierce, who had already afforded them to make former second-round draft pick Timmy Jernigan expendable, trading him away to the Eagles, but now he will have to start in place of Williams.
Needless to say, that means that another defensive lineman will have to be called into action to play a significant role, that figuring to be Carl Davis, a 2015 third-round draft pick who spent last year on injured reserve. He has recorded two tackles so far this year.
Also in the mix will be Willie Henry, who was a fourth-round draft pick last year, and rookie undrafted free agent Patrick Ricard, but the onus will ultimately be on Pierce to step in. He has played well alongside Williams, but I would expect that he hasn’t seen many snaps on the field without him to date.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, will be taking with them overseas a top-10 running game, averaging 127 yards per game through the first two weeks on the backs of rookie first-rounder Leonard Fournette and veteran Chris Ivory.
While Fournette’s carries have been a grind so far—averaging 3.5 yards per rush—he has already totaled 40 of them for 140 yards, and has scored a touchdown on the ground in each of his first two games, adding another 45 yards on five receptions.
As for Ivory, he has 15 carries so far on the season for 59 yards, which puts him just a tic below four yards per rush. He also has another 42 yards on four receptions.
On the flip side, the Jaguars have had one of the worst rushing attacks so far through two games, but have done well against the pass, ranking third in the league in receiving yards allowed per game. Their offense will have to make sure not to turn the ball over—you hear that, Blake Bortles?