SCOUTING REPORT: Ravens @ Giants

Street Talk SCOUTING REPORT: Ravens @ Giants

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NICKEL PACKAGE
 
1. Will the Baltimore Ravens be able to shut down the New York Giants’ running game?
As the Ravens (6-3) try to topple the defending Super Bowl champion Giants (8-1) today at Giants Stadium, a stingy defense unparalleled against the run will face a mighty challenge against the top-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. The Ravens are tasked with shutting down 6-foot-4, 264-pound tailback Brandon Jacobs, the fourth-leading rusher in the league with 806 yards and nine touchdowns, as well as two viable change-of-pace backs in Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. No one has really been able to run on the Ravens this year, giving up just 2.9 yards per carry and 65.4 rushing yards per contest. And the Giants have rushed for 100 yards in eight of nine games, turning in a pair of 200-yard rushing pe rformances against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. Ray Lewis has repeatedly said, bottom line, he doesn’t believe in 100-yard rushers. It has been an NFL-high 28 games since the Ravens let an opposing back eclipse the century mark, a streak dating back to Dec. 10, 2006 when Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson hit that mark. This is the first time the NFL’s top rushing offensive team has encountered the best rushing defensive team since Dec. 15, 2002 when the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 1 running game played the Denver Broncos’ No. 1 run defense, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In that case, the Chiefs rushed for 185 yards in a loss.

2. How will a depleted receiving corps fare?

Derrick Mason is the Ravens’ leading receiver, but he’s a question mark today because of a dislocated left shoulder.  Even if he suits up, he’s unlikely to be at his full capabilities. That puts the onus to perform on Mark Clayton, Todd Heap and Yamon Figurs to step forward as reliable targets for rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.

3. Will the Ravens be able to protect Joe Flacco?

The Giants’ formidable defensive ends are extremely fast with sound technique. Even with Michael Strahan retired and Osi Umenyiora out for the season, the G-Men still have a great pass rush. Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka generate a ton of pressure and will test the footwork of offensive tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry. Both Terry and Gaither are banged-up with nagg ing knee injuries, and veteran Willie Anderson will either miss this game or be limited due to a sprained ankle. They can’t afford to be a step behind today. 

4. Will Eli Manning be a big factor?

The Ravens have remarked how similar Eli’s mannerisms are to his older brother, Peyton Manning. They’re hoping he doesn’t have similar results to his big brother, who threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions against Baltimore in a 31-3 blowout earlier this season.

5. Will the Ravens win the turnover battle?


The Ravens now have a plus-two turnover margin as they have forced six turnovers over the past two weeks, including four interceptions in a 41-13 win over the Houston Texans. The Giants are extremely careful with the football, tied for second in the NFL for the fewest turnovers with just nine given away.
 
INSIDE SLANT

KEY MATCHUP
 
Ravens RT Adam Terry vs. Giants LE Justin Tuck

Terry’s footwork will be tested severely by the combination of speed and power of Tuck, a formidable lineman who leads the Giants with eight ½ sacks. Tuck has the polished repertoire of pass-rushin g moves and burst off the edge with a great first step to give most offensive tackles fits. The Ravens will need to be highly aware of where he’s lining up from snap to snap to try to contain him. Terry is more than solid in pass protection and is expected to step in for Willie Anderson, who is sidelined with a sprained left ankle. This may be Terry’s most difficult matchup so far this season. The Giants occasionally flop the former Notre Dame star to the right side with Mathias Kiwanuka, who’s not an easy assignment.
 
KEY MATCHUP
 
Ravens MLB Ray Lewis vs. Giants RB Brandon Jacobs
 
At 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, Jacobs is an unusually large tailback and excels at downhill power runs. He has enough agility and acceleration to make cuts in the scrum at the line of scrimmage. He isn’t much of a breakaway runner, but it’s rare that he’s taken down by one defender. He left cleat marks on linebacker Bart Scott in a preseason game last year. He has already rushed for 806 yards and n ine touchdowns. Lewis doesn’t believe in allowing 100-yard rushers and leads the Ravens’ top-ranked run defense with 92 tackles. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is on top of his game, intimidating running backs with his thumping tackles. He has the hitting ability, technique and toughness to get Jacobs on the ground.
 
THREE DOWNS WITH …
 
Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis
 
1. On the Giants’ running game: "One thing you can’t take away from them is that they’re doing a great job with their offense and really letting all the backs really establish their mentality. They like to run the ball; we like to stop it. What the bottom line is, football is going to be football.”

2. On the significance of this game: "“I don’t see it as a big test. I just see it, really, as the next game, bottom line. You get caught up in all that. The only test is we’ve got to stop the run, and that’s the bottom line. We’re the best team in football doing that, so if there’s a test, the test is just uphold what you are already built to do, bottom line."

3. On Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata: "He’s a phenomenon. He’s one of those guys that you have to find out where he’s at. He’s playing the game at a very, very high level. It’s surprising when you do see it. I’ve been around football a long time, but to see that guy’s gifts athletically and what he does to d estroy offenses, it’s really special. Definitely when you’re playing behind him.”

THREE DOWNS WITH …

 
Giants quarterback Eli Manning
 
1. On the Ravens’ defense: "I see a very talented team. They’re tough in all areas on defense. They do a great job of stopping the run. They get to the quarterback by causing pressure. It’s tough to convert because they do complex defensive schemes, and do a good job of getting to the quarterback pretty quickly, and playing different coverages on that.

"It’s a team where you have to prepare very hard in the film room, on the practice field, and try to just play as smart as you can, knowing that they are going to make some plays on defense. And you can’t just turn the ball over or make the costly mistakes that they can rely on.”

 

2. On the Giants’ improvement since winning the Super Bowl: "I think the thing I’m most proud about this team is just the fact that we were never just satisfied with winning the championship last year. We came into the offseason committed to get better.  We knew we could be a better team all around.

"We knew that at the end of the season last year we were playing great football, but we wanted to become a team that could play great football all year round and really compete each and every week. So that’s been our drive, to just be more consistent, and not just be a team th at fluc tuates being hot and being cold."

3. On Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco: "Joe has been playing terrific, and for a young guy to come in and play as well as he has is a credit to him and the coaching staff and those players. It’s different for every player and every quarterback, and he’s really come in and played well.

"I think as a young quarterback, and even anybody, you get better every game. You get more comfortable with what you’re doing, kind of finding your identity of what plays you like, what plays you really have a great feel for, and you just feel comfortable no matter what the defense is."

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

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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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