1) Heavy Metal: Last season the Ravens specialized in the use of the heavy package. A heavy package is a grouping that normally includes a tackle-eligible tight end, along with a combination of two backs and one receiver. The sixth lineman is brought in to anchor in the running game.
Last season, in game two against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore used Adam Terry to frustrate linebacker James Harrison. In that game, Terry’s primary responsibility was to attack Harrison in the running game as a means to slow down the Steelers’ ferocious pass rusher.
A similar scheme should be implemented against outside linebacker Shawn Merriman. Merriman looks to get up field on every down, so running right at him would be the best way to take him out of his game. Additionally, the sixth lineman should help pick up the blitz. This time, it will be up to Marshall Yanda to handle Terry’s role.
2) Power game: The Oakland Raiders established a blueprint for attacking the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders operated from power sets, and ran the ball right at the San Diego front. Despite having eight defenders in the box, the Chargers still struggled to stop the run.
The San Diego front seven is a fast group that wants to pin its ears back and get into the opponent’s backfield. They struggle when they are forced to slow down and engage blocks.
Considering that nose guard Jamal Williams and defensive end Luis Castillo will either be limited or out for this game, there is even more reason for Baltimore to reestablish their power rushing attack. The Ravens need to turn this game into a slugfest. Moreover, if they are able to run the ball successfully, the play-action passing game will be wide open.
3) Chips and screens: They had it set up perfectly against the Chiefs. After running a series of play-action pass plays in which left guard Ben Grubbs pulled to the right, along with decoys Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice, the call was for McClain to catch the ball instead of blocking. With a convoy of blockers in front, McClain gained a chunk of yards in the open field. However, the play was called back after a questionable Mason hold.
The play should be a part of the game plan on Sunday. McClain is the perfect player to sell it, given that he is a primary blocker in blitz pick up situations.
Overall, all three backs should be involved in the passing game. As chippers, the backs would have the chance to lay an initial block, then peel off the block and release into open space. Against an aggressive front like San Diego, these plays could turn into long gains.
1) Three safety nickel package: Although the Chargers have expanded their passing game over the years, it still gets back to tight end Antonio Gates. He is the epicenter of their attack. How he is defended will dictate mismatch opportunities for the other receivers to exploit.
In ‘07, the Ravens had no answer for Gates. He often ran unfettered down the middle, and left Ray Lewis in his wake. As good as the inside linebacker is in coverage, he doesn’t have the foot speed to stay with Gates one-on-one. Linebacker Tavares Gooden has great speed and athleticism, but he is still honing his coverage technique, and even he would have a tough time turning and running with Gates downfield.
From a schematic standpoint, the best plan would be to use a nickel back to check the five- time Pro Bowler. Specifically, this game could call for safety Haruki Nakamura to man that assignment. Nakamura is physical at the line, and he has the speed to run with Gates. And with Nakamura on the field presiding in the slot, the defense would not be as vulnerable against the run as they would with a corner on the field.
2) Hands up: Defenders usually have a tough time sacking quarterback Phillip Rivers because he has a quick release. Rivers is one of the best at anticipating the rush, and he does not hold the ball for long.
One of the main focal points for the front seven has been to anticipate a quarterback’s release and make an attempt to bat the ball down. This move is particularly emphasized when the defender can’t get to the quarterback in time.
On Sunday, the key for the defense will be to get their hands in the air if they can’t get their hands on Rivers.
3) Capturing the Lightning Bug: Darren Sproles is one of the most electric tailbacks in the league. Sproles has the footwork to shift gears in open space, and he has the speed to blow by defenders.
Limiting Sproles off the edges and in the open field is the task at hand. It is not enough for the Baltimore defenders to take precise angles in pursuit. They will also need to rally to Sproles and play great team defense. If one defender has a tough time bringing down the diminutive runner, others have to be in position to take him down.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Domonique Foxworth versus Vincent Jackson: Jackson has transformed into a dominant downfield target. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Jackson is built like a tight end, with the speed and leaping ability to track down the football. This will be a tough assignment for Foxworth, who lacks the size to jostle with Jackson. Foxworth will need to play physical, and use his speed and timing to break on the ball.