1. Quick release: Whether the ball needs to be delivered off of a three-step, five-step or seven-step drop, quarterback Joe Flacco will need to get rid of the ball on time. If it’s a three-step pattern, he’ll need to be in rhythm once he firmly plants his foot in the ground.
Given the speed of New York’s pass rush, any missteps by Flacco could result in a sack or a hurried throw.
Moreover, the count should usually go to three and five steps until the offensive line can prove to pick up the blitz effectively. That means Flacco will have to be decisive and find a place to throw the ball even if the timing of the play is disrupted by the defense.
2. Routes over the middle: This will be a golden opportunity for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to unveil some of the new toys that general manager Ozzie Newsome acquired in the offseason.
Head coach Rex Ryan is notorious for using his inside backers to cross blitz, especially on early downs, to get pressure in the face of a quarterback.
3. Beat up the cover corners: Although cornerbacks Darrell Revis and Antonio Cromartie are touted as shutdown corners in the passing game, they can be exposed as run defenders on Monday night.
In the case of Revis, he is a tough run defender but he has not dealt with any physical contact in months. In the case of Cromartie, he’s just not a physical player, period.
The Ravens should make a concentrated effort to force both players to take on blocks and defend the run. They can accomplish this goal by hitting the edges hard with their play design.
Running the ball off-tackle would also get the Ravens moving away from nose guard Kris Jenkins and the interior tandem of David Harris and Bart Scott. Instead, the team should test the outside linebackers who will rotate to fill Calvin Pace’s spot – depending on the formation that would either be Jason Taylor or Vernon Gholston.
Also, watch out for some bubble screens to spring the receivers loose on the outside. Boldin in particular is outstanding in space and these plays would also challenge Revis and Cromartie to sift through blockers to make the tackle.
1. Stuff the run on early downs: When the Jets are successful, they are on schedule in the running game. What that means is they average at least three-to-four yards per carry on first and second down to put themselves in manageable third down conversion situations.
Defenses that have had success against quarterback Mark Sanchez have been able to force him into some uncomfortable third-and-long conversions.
Baltimore has to hold the Jets to around two yards per carry on first and second down. They have to be especially stout in between the tackles – an area where New York is quite dominant.
The inside linebackers will need to play disciplined and stick to their gap responsibilities. They will also have to find a way to defeat blocks at the point of impact.
Once they have a chance to get their arms around tailback Shonn Green, they will need to bring him down right away. Green is an absolute load who is tough to bring down once he gets rolling downhill. He has the ability to push the pile and drag tacklers for extra yards.
2. Keep Sanchez in the pocket: If the Jets are successful running the ball early, they will have the ability to use play-action. And if the Jets use play-action, they will try to set up some misdirection plays to get the defense moving to the play-side so Sanchez can roll in the opposite direction, towards open space.
In fact, in just his second season, Sanchez has already developed into one of the more accurate on-the-run passers in the league. He does a nice job of keeping his shoulders square while moving laterally and he has the touch to place the ball over the top.
However, like any young quarterback, he is not as sharp when he has to move within the pocket.
If the Ravens are able to prevent Sanchez from rolling out to throw the ball, particularly to his right, they would eliminate a major element of the Jets’ passing game. Again, when Sanchez is on the move, he is a lot more dangerous than when he has to sit in the pocket and find the windows to throw the ball through.
3. Pre-snap and post-snap deception: Coming into this game, Sanchez has struggled to go through his progressions and deliver the ball accurately. One of his tendencies has been to predetermine that he is going to his first read regardless of the coverage.
His deficiency in processing information quickly is another reason why the Jets get him moving out of the pocket. They did a nice job of cutting his reads in half at the tail end of last season.
At this point, the second-year quarterback has yet to prove that he can handle moving through his progressions from the pocket.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will need to vary the coverage looks that he gives Sanchez before the snap, especially to prevent Sanchez from getting comfortable making his reads.
If there is enough post-snap change by the defense, Sanchez could have a difficult time staying patient to find his second or third options. They may also be able to force some passes into tight coverage spots if he makes the wrong pre-snap read.