1. Pass from power sets
It’s clear that without receiver Anquan Boldin in the lineup, the Baltimore passing game is in a state of flux. Moreover, with the potential loss of guard Marshall Yanda as well, the pass protection could be in serious question against a formidable front seven.
To overcome these issues, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron must look to pass from predominant run-heavy fronts. Showing the Bengals run-action, only to pass off the fake could be the most effective move to slow down the Cincinnati rush and spring a few plays.
Look for these plays to pay dividends on first down, when defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will commit to stuffing the run.
2. Pitta in the slot
Without Boldin, the Ravens lacked any semblance of an intermediate passing game. The next man up was tight end Ed Dickson, and he proceeded to drop two critical passes that were perfectly placed in his hands.
Particularly on the road, the Ravens have been unable to establish an ideal run-to-pass ratio. In all of their road losses, the Ravens have fallen behind and they turned to the pass too soon. Against the Bengals, this strategy won’t cut it.
The biggest key for the Ravens is to maintain a running game throughout the contest. However, they cannot put themselves in a hole by running the ball on first down every time.
This has been their approach in other contests – the Jacksonville game being the perfect example – and converting on third down became an even bigger struggle. The Ravens should keep the running game going and mix it in on apparent passing downs.
1. Nickel defense
Given San Diego’s success spreading the Ravens defense out, Cleveland used the same approach and had mild success, especially on first down. The Browns used a variation of three-wide formations to open up the middle of the defense.
The move also helped running back Peyton Hillis take advantage of a lighter box, as he was able to gash the Ravens on cutback runs.
- Hands up
When these two teams lined up in Baltimore, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton was able to consistently release the ball before the rush could get to him. Dalton anticipated the Ravens’ blitz and stayed discipline with his drops. If the play called for a three-step drop, Dalton released the ball as his back foot hit the third step.
In order to disrupt Dalton’s timing, the front line has to anticipate when he releases the ball, and look to knock the ball down.
- Bracket Green
The Bengals might come into this game with a dynamic trio of pass catchers, but make no mistake — A.J. Green is the person of interest. Green is an athletic receiver who can out leap and outmaneuver defenders for the football. Dalton has so much confidence in Green’s ability to get the ball that he’ll throw it into double or even triple coverage.
In a game like this, Green needs to be accounted for on every play. The safeties can’t cheat too far inside and leave the corners hanging out to dry. Conversely, the corners will have to use outside technique to funnel Green to the inside.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch
Bernard Pollard versus Jermaine Gresham: Depending on how defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano decides to use his safeties, Pollard may figure prominently as a rover defender, especially to help in coverage against Gresham. Gresham looks more like a small forward than a tight end. He is big enough to box out smaller defensive backs. Meanwhile, Pollard is one of the biggest and toughest safeties in the NFL. This should be a physical contest.