Baltimore Ravens scouting report

Street Talk Baltimore Ravens scouting report

Posted in Street Talk
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NICKEL PACKAGE

1. Can the

Baltimore
Ravens protect rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and avoid turnovers?

As the Ravens (2-1) take on the undefeated Tennessee Titans (4-0) today at M&T Bank Stadium, a primary concern is pass protection against a dominant defensive line. Flacco was sacked a season-high five times against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, he has to contend with a talent-laden front four that averages nearly four sacks per contest and has recorded 15 sacks this season for the second-highest total in the NFL along with the Steelers. The Ravens have some very difficult matchups to contend with, especially left offensive tackle Jared Gaither against gritty, technically sound Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and the interior line against disruptive All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. He leads the Titans with five sacks and three tackles for losses. When the Titans move Haynesworth to defensive end on third downs, he’s even more difficult to handle. The constant pressure leads to turnovers as

Tennessee
leads the league with 12 takeaways. Flacco will need to get rid of the football quicker and the line will need to buy him more time by staying with and finishing their blocks.

2. Will the Ravens do a better job of distributing the football?

Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason leads the Ravens with 16 receptions, but tight end Todd Heap and receivers Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams have combined for just 13 catches. Flacco is in a comfort zone with Mason, but has to be careful that he doesn’t telegraph his intentions and throw into the double coverage that’s bound to occur soon if he locks into the same target the majority of the time. Defensive back Cortland Finnegan is dangerous, vaulting his status into one of the league’s elite cornerbacks this year. The Titans have eight interceptions this season. Heap has just three catches, but could be an excellent safety valve or deep threat for Flacco if he’s not relegated to pass-blocking as much as he was in the Steelers game.

3. Can the Ravens shut down the Titans’ rushing attack?

Between burly veteran LenDale White and swift rookie Chris Johnson, the Titans’ backfield personifies the "Thunder and Lightning" tag. Johnson has 4.24 speed and White is a bruiser at 235 pounds.

Tennessee
has averaged 123.3 rushing yards in road games since 1995 to rank third overall in the league in that span. However, the Ravens are particularly stout against the run with inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott as well as defensive tackle Haloti Ngata leading the charge. It has been two years since the Ravens allowed a 100-yard rusher. Lewis is getting to the football many times without being blocked and has delivered some hard hits, thanks to Ngata clogging up the middl e and occupying guards. The Ravens allow just 3.1 yards per rush.

4. How will running back Willis McGahee fare with a bruised rib?

McGahee insists that he’s going to play all four quarters despite a painful injury suffered against the Steelers when he took a helmet shot. McGahee will likely have a lot of help from fullback Le’Ron McClain, the Ravens’ leading rusher. McClain has exceeded expectations with his uncommon quickness and cutting ability for his size. McGahee has made it through practice all week, but hasn’t taken any contact.

5. Can the Ravens exploit Kerry Collins’ lack of mobility?

Collins makes much better decisions than Vince Young, but is essentially a statue in the pocket. Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce could have big games against tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart. They are underrated tackles who are very physical, but could have problems securing the edge against

Baltimore
today. Collins can’t escape with his feet, but he does have a quick release and good pocket awareness.


 

INSIDE SLANT


 

KEY MATCHUP

Ravens G Ben Grubbs vs. Titans DT Albert Haynesworth

Haynesworth may be the most disruptive interior force in the NFL, collapsing the pocket with his superior size, strength and speed. Not only is he an anchor against the run, he’s also a rare commodity as an all-around pass-rushing tackle who can penetrate the line of scrimmage. It’s critical that Grubbs, center Jason Brown and right guard Marshal Yanda cut the 6-foot-6, 320-pounder off with double-team blocks to prevent him from scuttling the between-the-tackles running game that’s vital to the Ravens’ success. Haynesworth is particularly active for a player of his dimensions, recording five sacks, three tackles for losses and 21 tackles.

KEY MATCHUP

Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. RB Chris Johnson


 

Lewis doesn’t believe in allowing opposing runners to hit the century mark, a streak that dates back to Dec. 10, 2006. Johnson will test Lewis’ range and stamina. One of the fastest players in the league with a 4.24 clocking in the 40-yard20dash at the NFL scouting combine, the rookie from
East Carolina has already gained 337 yards and scored two touchdowns with a long run of 51 yards and averages five yards per carry. Lewis still has outstanding range and striking ability. He broke Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall’s shoulder with a hit Monday night, ending his season. The Ravens’ top-ranked defense ranks second overall against the run, allowing just 69.7 rushing yards per contest.

THREE
DOWNS WITH …

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco

1. On whether he feels like saying, ‘I told you so’: "No, there’s no, ‘I told you so.’ I’m just glad to be out there playing and helping the team out. I think that’s all that matters. There are going to be good times, and there are going to be bad times. It’s been pretty good so far.

"We’ve had a lot of different learning experiences where we’ve been successful, and we’ve had some bad times. It’s all good for us as a team to grow and learn from it. I think later in the season, we’ll benefit from a lot of these things that are going on.”


 

2. On where he has improved the most: “I think a lot of it is mental for me. You’re just going out there and adjusting to the speed of the game and getting comfortable with the game plan each week, looking at defenses, learning how to prepare. Playing is the only way you can experience a lot of these things. You can get better sitting and watching, but I don’t think you’ll get better as quickly."

3. On his first loss: “It’s a little different coming into work when you haven’t won the game before that. In all reality, you’ve got to put it behind you and you’ve got to move on because we’ve got another abnormal week coming up. This is a short week.

"As much it kind of stinks to lose, you’ve got to put it behind you and move on. It’s going to happen in the NFL sometimes. We kind of left one out there, and

Pittsburgh
took it from us. Losing to those guys, we’re going to have to find something else to get better from, and I’m sure we’ll do that.”

 

THREE
DOWNS WITH …

Titans quarterback Kerry Collins

1. On Joe Flacco: "I watched the game a little bit last night, and I thought he made some great throws. It seems like he’s got good poise for a rookie. It seems like he’s showing good poise and is back there just reading things out and throwing the ball well. Obviously, he’s got a strong arm, and he’s got a pretty good head about him. So, I was pretty impressed.”

2. On losing to

Baltimore
in the Super Bowl
: "Obviously, we’re going on eight years now, so a lot of time has gone by, and certainly a lot of football has gone by since then. I certainly still have vivid memories of the game, most of which were not so good, but my hat’s off to them. They were a good team, and a great defense, and it was a good job on their part.”

3. On this edition of the Ravens’ defense: "“I mean, I think they bring the same attitude. They’re aggressive, obviously. They’ve got good leaders over there. Ray Lewis is still playing at a very high level and they’re active. They show you a lot of different things, a lot of different looks. You’ve got to be on your toes and ready for everything they throw at you.”


 

Aaron Wilson covers the
Baltimore Ravens for the
Carroll
County Times and the

Annapolis
Capital.
 
Photo by Sabina Moran.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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