HOUSTON – Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson was torn when asked if he enjoys matchups such as Sunday’s against the Houston Texans and fellow talented and mobile quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“That’s a great quarterback we’re going against (so) I say no, because of how dynamic he is, and our defense has to prepare for him,” he said. “But (yes), you could say that. You could say that, yes.”
So, while Jackson is looking forward to showcasing his talents in a game against Watson, he knows dealing with Houston’s star will be a tall task for his defense.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh agreed with his quarterback and raved about Watson.
“He’ll throw it to anybody. He’ll throw it deep. He’ll throw it short. He’ll throw it to every different receiver — you saw that last week — and he’ll run,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a big concern for a defense — a major problem for any defense and we’re working to try to figure it out this week.”
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Of course, the Texans are in the same boat in figuring out ways to slow down Jackson after last season’s MVP threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 79 yards in Baltimore’s 41-7 rout of them last year.
“He’s just got a very unique skill set,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “Obviously he’s very fast, he’s very quick. Over time he’s become a better passer. He’s a very accurate passer. He does a really good job using all the people around him. They have a great scheme ... he’s the MVP, so we’ve got ... a big challenge ahead of us.”
It’s the second game to start the season where the Texans will face an MVP quarterback after they lost 34-20 to 2018 winner Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas Chiefs last week.
The Ravens easily handled Cleveland 38-6 in their opener last week behind three touchdown passes from Jackson. The victory extended Baltimore’s regular-season winning streak to an NFL-best 13 in a row, which is the league’s longest run since Carolina won 18 straight in 2014-15.
O’Brien likes the challenge his team is facing early this season.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “You’re going up against the best. We were a playoff team last year. We played the Super Bowl champs last week and now we’re playing a team that was 14-2 last year.”
There won’t be any fans at NRG Stadium on Sunday because of the coronavirus. Team officials made the announcement last month and said at the time that some fans could be allowed at later games if conditions in the area, which has been a COVID-19 hotspot, improve.
Houston star defensive end J.J. Watt said he can’t remember a time he played a game at any level without a crowd. He reminisced about hearing his grandfather “going nuts” in the stands when he played youth football in front of a small crowd. But he then added that the lack of fans on Sunday really shouldn’t impact anyone’s performance.
“As an athlete, if you can’t get yourself ready and amped up to compete against another team and to compete at the highest level, then you really probably shouldn’t be out there in the first place,” he said.
Ravens rookie linebacker Patrick Queen played a major role in his NFL debut, leading the team in tackles at middle linebacker and adding a sack.
“He showed his explosive speed a couple times, where he went and made some plays,” Harbaugh said. “He didn’t panic at all. I felt like that was the best thing about it as a start. And he should only improve from here.”
Queen starred at LSU before being selected by Baltimore in the first round of the NFL draft. He stepped right in as a starter at a key position in the middle of the defense.
“It’s what I expected,” Queen said of his first game as a pro. “I wanted to do better than I did, but I’m grateful for what I got. I prayed about it, slept on it, dreamed of making plays.”
PLENTY OF PLAYMAKERS
The Texans don’t have DeAndre Hopkins anymore, but Will Fuller stepped up last week with eight catches for 112 yards against Kansas City.
“He’s a go-to receiver, for sure. Very talented, very fast, definitely someone that we have to mark,” Harbaugh said.
Even though Baltimore held the Texans to a single touchdown last year, Harbaugh knows the Texans can ring up points through the air.
“They have four really good receivers who are all high-end receivers in the National Football League,” he said. “They have two excellent tight ends and two running backs who are excellent receivers. So, they have a lot of weapons in the passing game to go with Deshaun Watson.”
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg contributed to this report.