In their first game under defensive coordinator Don Martindale, the Baltimore Ravens couldn’t draw up a better scenario.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman will make his third career start Sunday. In the first one, he threw five interceptions in the first half against the Chargers last November, and for an encore he completed just five passes for 57 yards against the Colts in the snow before he was removed after being concussed.
This time, the second-year pro will be operating behind a restructured line that lost two starters from 2017.
Center Eric Wood was forced to retire after being diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury. Left guard Richie Incognito, who played a key run-blocking role, forced his way off the roster after having second thoughts in agreeing to restructure his contract.
Ryan Groy takes over at center and Vladimir Ducasse replaces Incognito.
That bodes well for a Baltimore defense that last year led the NFL with 34 takeaways. The unit did, however, have trouble closing out big games – most notably a 31-27 loss to Cincinnati in the finale that enabled the Bills (9-7) to displace Baltimore (9-7) in the AFC playoffs and end a 17-year postseason drought.
Martindale promises to unleash an aggressive defense that could prove troublesome to the untested Peterman.
“Hopefully, the things that we’ve worked on in the offseason and in training camp have become a positive for us,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We expect to be great on defense, play situational football to a T and win a lot of games. (Martindale) will put his personality on our defense. We are pumped to get out there and see what we’ve got.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott can only hope for the best from Peterman, who beat out Josh Allen, the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2018.
“We all have to understand that he’s still a young player, just in the beginning stage of his sophomore year, if you will,” McDermott said of Peterman. “He’s only going to continue to grow and get better.”