1) Throw away from Vontae Davis: Although the Miami secondary is potentially vulnerable, the second-year cornerback is not someone who can be picked on. Davis has emerged as a tough man-to-man cover corner who has been able to slow down most of the receivers he has faced this season.
Davis is also a capable playmaker with the ball skills to make a play on the ball.
2) Quick drops and quick steps: Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Dolphins have developed into one of the better pass-rushing units in the league. He is running a more aggressive scheme, highlighting his backers’ ability to blitz.
The Dolphins will show a lot of different looks. The linebackers will show blitz, only to drop after the snap. In other instances, the backers will twist and cross blitz to get through the line and to the quarterback.
Against this type of attack, it will be up to Flacco to find the hot reads and get rid of the ball on time. The pass plays should be quicker, and Flacco should release the ball off of three and five step drops to beat the blitz.
3) Slow down the edge rushers: In Cameron Wake and Koa Misi, Miami has two dynamic rush ends with the ability to fly off the edge.
The duo has been a surprise so far this season. They feed off of each other and are able to make plays in the backfield. In particular, Wake has developed into a complete rusher with moves and terrific explosion off the snap.
Finding a way to slow the duo down will be one of the biggest keys to the offensive game plan.
The Ravens should be prepared to use more maximum protection with their backs and tight ends ready to help out the tackles.
1) Bracket Marshall: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison hinted that he may not devote a double team to slow down wideout Brandon Marshall. Despite what Mattison said, Marshall should be checked by two defenders on most downs.
In fact, the Ravens should use the same defensive strategy they used against Marshall when he was with Denver a year ago. In that game, Marshall was limited to four catches for 24 yards. He faced a lot of bracket coverage in which a safety would shade to his side and the corner would have outside technique, forcing Marshall to the inside.
The bottom line is to keep Marshall from getting loose up the sideline.
2) Press and tag: Along with Marshall, the Dolphins present some other challenges in the passing game. Receivers Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are equally adept at gaining yards after the catch. The duo is especially dangerous on underneath routes.
If the corners play off of the receivers, they better be ready to shoot upfield and bring down the ball carrier. Against the Bills, there were way too many missed tackles in the open field.
A better strategy would be to press Bess and Hartline at the line, not allowing them to get a free release, and forcing their routes to extend further downfield and out of their comfort zone.
With Marshall bracketed on the other side, and his other receivers stalemated before they release into their routes, it would be more difficult for quarterback Chad Henne to complete passes to either side, especially if the Ravens blitz.
On the other hand, if Baltimore uses the same approach as they did against Buffalo – not getting a hand on the receivers before they release — Henne will be able to beat the blitz easily by completing passes to the side with cushion coverage.
3) Flush Henne from the pocket: This game could turn on the Ravens’ ability to collapse the pocket. Against a Miami line that has yielded just 10 sacks, that task will be awfully tough.
Nonetheless, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have to find a way to get Henne moving from the pocket. Henne lacks the athleticism and mechanics to hurt the Baltimore defense when he’s on the move. However, if he’s given time to stay in the pocket and move through his progressions, he will eat up the Baltimore secondary.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch