Jackson, Ravens visit reworked Dolphins for opener

The Baltimore Ravens have the guy they feel is their quarterback of the present and the future: Lamar Jackson.

The Miami Dolphins, by all accounts, have no idea what their future is at football's most important position.

Those two statements serve as the key backdrop for Sunday's NFL regular-season opener that matches the Ravens against the host Dolphins.

Jackson, drafted 32nd overall last year, was 6-1 as a starter as a rookie, using his electric speed and moves to rush for 695 yards, five touchdowns and a 4.7 average.

This year, he could potentially pass Michael Vick for the greatest rushing season by a quarterback in NFL history. Vick set the single-season QB-rushing record in 2006 with 1,039 yards.

Jackson's passing ability, however, is still in question. The former Louisville star completed just 58.2 percent of his passes last year, which would have ranked 31st out of 34 NFL quarterbacks if he had enough passing attempts to qualify.

Still, he has shown significant improvements in his mechanics in the offseason, and he appears to be confident on the eve of the new season.

"We're going to play ball," said Jackson, who has estimated he'll average 30 pass attempts per game after averaging 22.6 in seven starts last year. "I love it."

The Dolphins, meanwhile, will start 36-year-old veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will be making his Miami debut. This is the eighth NFL team for "Fitzmagic," who has had his share of highs and lows.

Fitzpatrick passed for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns -- both career highs -- with the New York Jets in 2015. But after winning five straight games, Fitzpatrick was intercepted three times in the season finale, a brutal 22-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills to miss the playoffs.

Last year, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Fitzpatrick passed for more than 400 yards in each of his first three games and then less than 200 in his next two contests.

Now, Fitzpatrick serves as a block on the progress of Josh Rosen, 22, who was a first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals last year. The Dolphins traded second- and fifth-round picks for Rosen after the Cardinals drafted QB Kyler Murray with this year's first overall pick.

Rosen will be available in relief on Sunday, if needed, but, for now at least, the starting job belongs to Fitzpatrick.

"A case could be made that the younger guy (Rosen) is not ready," said Brian Flores, Miami's first-year head coach.

Both teams are fairly healthy going into the opener. For the Ravens, only backup cornerback Brandon Carr (hip) is on the injury report. He was limited during practice this week.

Miami's biggest concern may be electric wide receiver Albert Wilson, who also has a hip injury and was limited on Wednesday. Defensive end Charles Harris practiced in full despite a wrist issue.

The Ravens are a seven-point road favorite for Sunday's game, and that makes sense. They have won seven of their past eight games against Miami, outscoring the Dolphins by a total of 78-6 in their past two meetings.

Miami returns just 22 players from last year's 53-man roster. The Dolphins traded standout left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Houston Texans last week in a package that returned two first-round picks and one second-rounder. That followed an offseason that saw the Dolphins dump QB Ryan Tannehill and choose not to re-sign standouts such as defensive end Cameron Wake and right tackle Ja'Wuan James.

The Ravens -- unlike the Dolphins -- were much more aggressive, as evidenced by the signing of safety Earl Thomas to replace Eric Weddle.

Baltimore still has to show it has adequately replaced star inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who signed with the New York Jets, and pass-rusher Terrell Suggs (Cardinals). But the remaining talent makes the Ravens the clear favorite on Sunday.

--Field Level Media