Rooked wide receiver Zay Flowers admitted to being surprised about the speed of his first preseason game, against the Philadelphia Eagles. He also joked with reporters that he wasn’t sure what to do during warmups. Flowers said he would adjust quickly.
He wasn’t lying.
On Sunday, Flowers was the Ravens’ best offensive player in his first NFL regular season game.
They handed the ball off to Flowers and threw it to him on screens and deep passes. With tight end Mark Andrews out with a quad injury, he was the focal point of the Ravens offense for much of this game and delivered with nine catches for 78 yards. The nine receptions are the most in an NFL debut in franchise history.
“I remember I was up here last time. I told y’all I’d get used to it. I said something like, ‘I’d get used to the speed of it,’” Flowers said with an ear-to-ear grin, “and today it slowed down for me.”
Flowers didn’t expect to have a performance like Sunday’s in his first NFL action, especially considering the talent in the Ravens’ receiving group: “In my head, I was like, ‘Two catches. I’ll be good with that,’ ” Flowers said.
Much of the Ravens’ offseason has been focused on their new coterie of pass catchers. General Manager Eric DeCosta said this was the first year teams were calling him about trading receivers after he added Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor, and Zay Flowers this summer while already having former first-round pick Rashod Bateman.
Sunday was their first opportunity to meet the sky-high expectations that many have set and Flowers, at least, delivered. But the rest of the group left much to be desired on a day where the offense struggled in a 25-9 win over the Houston Texans.
“It was an undercooked appetizer,” Beckham said, responding to a question about if the performance was something of an appetizer of what to expect from the receivers. “It wasn’t necessarily what none of us wanted.”
Beckham was easy to miss for much of the game. He caught his first pass with 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter; it was a simple eight-yard out route, but everyone at M&T Bank Stadium had come, at least in part, to see Beckham, so the reception drew roars that rivaled all of the Ravens touchdowns.
Before that catch, Beckham drew two defensive pass interference penalties. The second flag came while he was running a deep route into the end zone against Texans cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. The penalty put the Ravens in the red zone, and running back Justice Hill scored two plays later.
Beckham would catch two more passes in the game, his biggest coming on a 29-yard reception down the left sideline. He finished with three receptions for 37 yards, the second-highest on the team. Still, it was a performance that didn’t meet Beckham’s standards.
The last time he played an NFL game, he dominated the Cincinnati Bengals as a member of the Los Angeles Rams in the 2021 Super Bowl. Beckham caught two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown before he tore his ACL in the second quarter.
Beckham signed with the Ravens this offseason with the plan of getting back to the championship game, and on paper, the Ravens have the players to be a contender, but on Sunday, against a Texans team that is expected to finish with one of the worst records in the NFL, the Ravens offense struggled mightily. The offense often looked confused and disorientated in their first game under first-year coordinator Todd Monken.
So for Beckham, the win was fine, and seeing Flowers’ big day was a special moment for him. Still, he felt his performance and the team’s were underwhelming, hence the comparison to undercooked calamari (or whatever your favorite appetizer is).
“These guys are gonna coach us up hard, and we’re gonna watch the film, and everybody’s a man in that room.,” Beckham said. “We can take the criticism. That’s the only way to get better. So I know I messed up on a lot of things, and it’s the first game. I mean, it’s a long season. I don’t think anybody won a Super Bowl on Week 1. So it’s a lot of work ahead of us.”
Bateman, playing in his first game since last October after missing most of last season after having Lisfranc surgery, also had a muted performance, with three catches for 35 yards. The positive for the Ravens and this receiving group is that they will get another shot next Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1), who had a worse performance than them this week with 82 total receiving yards.
“I feel like next game it’d be way better; operation will be smoother,” said Flowers, who left the locker room with a game ball. “Everybody will be way more comfortable with each other.”