1. Two tight, one-wide formations
The Ravens broke out their newly minted tight ends in grand fashion against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Second-year players Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta combined for 7 catches and 104 yards and a score. Two of their biggest catches came of play-action on first down, after the defense forced a turnover.
Having both of these players on the field at the same time gives the Ravens a run-heavy look, but affords the offense the flexibility to pass off of run action. Either player has the ability to line up wide of the formation, creating a two or even three-wide look.
In formations in which there is only one wideout on the field, either the tight ends gain separation in the middle of the field when the safety commits to doubling the receiver, or the receiver will have one-on-one coverage if the safety shades to the middle. Either way, against an aggressive Tennessee secondary these formations could prove deadly.
2. Attack mode
Getting back to an earlier point, when the offense had a chance to bury the Steelers, they attacked through the air. In years past, the offense would not air it out downfield after forcing a big turnover. They would run the ball up the gut and waste the momentum established from a game-changing defensive play.
The idea to be aggressive, especially on first down, should remain intact against a Tennessee defense that is thinking run first on Sunday. The Titans will likely commit their focus to slowing down the Baltimore rush attack, especially after getting gashed by Jacksonville.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should incorporate a heavy dose of first down, run-action plays in which the line pulls to show a stretch run, while quarterback Joe Flacco pulls away to deliver the pass.
3. Wear down the front
Regardless of how many defenders Tennessee devotes to the box area to stop the run, they’ll have a hard time keeping the Ravens down for the duration of the game. This is the same Tennessee front that struggled to slow down the Jaguars, a team devoid of a passing game.
The Tennessee front is fast, yet undersized. The Baltimore zone, stretch scheme will test the gap integrity of the Titans. If they play too far down the line, running back Ray Rice will cut the ball through a backside alley. Eventually, the Baltimore line should be able to flex its muscle and root the Tennessee defensive front off the ball. The key will be to stick to the run throughout the game to overpower the Titans in the second half
1. Maintain gap discipline
Much like their matchup with Tennessee three years ago, the Ravens know that the Titans will run the ball at them. They are not afraid. And they have the perfect back to take advantage of the aggressive play of the Baltimore front seven.
Although tailback Chris Johnson is not quite in regular season form, he still has amazing cutback ability. He presses the hole looking for an alley, and once he gets one, he only needs so much space to hit a home run.
Containing Johnson requires discipline – if the front seven over-pursues, Johnson will have a chance to dash through the second level of the defense.
It will be up to backers Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson to set the edges and not get caught too far down the line. If they stay with their C-gap assignments, Johnson will have little space to maneuver off-tackle.
2. Check Jared Cook
One of the new guys in the Tennessee arsenal is a tight end named Cook. He is long, athletic, and can get past linebackers. He does most of his damage on seam patterns, and he will be a tough assignment for the Baltimore inside backers.
Cook is a player that could warrant attention from a safety, especially in situations when the Ravens show their three-safety package. In situations like this, strong safety Bernard Pollard can line up at linebacker and man up against Cook. Pollard’s forte is not as a cover guy. However, he should have the strength and the size to disrupt Cook off the line, and he’ll be better turning and running, as opposed to moving laterally in deep support.
3. Double Britt; single cover Washington
It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano deals with receiver Kenny Britt. Along with Cook, Britt presents the toughest matchup for the Baltimore secondary. He is a physical receiver who attacks the ball at the top of its flight.
Fortunately for Baltimore, they have the size at corner to match up. Cary Williams should have the main assignment against Britt, as his length and leaping ability will be an asset. Still, Williams should have help over-the-top from a safety when Britt takes his route deep.
Against Nate Washington, a former Pittsburgh nemesis, high, off coverage should be used often. Washington is a big-play threat in his own right. Just as the Ravens let Mike Wallace catch underneath routes, they should do the same against Washington, especially when they aren’t rolling the coverage to his side.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch
Anquan Boldin vs. Cortland Finnegan: Talk about two physical football players. Boldin and Finnegan may need to be separated by a vice at the end of this game. Finnegan is known for locking up his man at the line and refusing to let go. Meanwhile, Boldin is one of the best at using his hands to get a release.