1. The Counter Punch
Against a befuddled Cincinnati defense, the Ravens used a dizzying combination of first down pass/run plays to keep the Bengals tame. First down pass plays involved a steady diet of run-action, while the run consisted of well-timed traps and draws.
The run-action consisted of a biting play-fake from Flacco, and hard pulling action from the offensive line. The Ravens faked the off-tackle slant run and had the Bengals—so worried about Rice—baited too far upfield.
While run-action opened up the passing game for the Ravens against Cincinnati, actual handoffs might be the formula to gain traction off the edges in Philly. The counters and slant runs should be open for Rice, and the Ravens should test these plays out against the aggressive Philadelphia front.
Against the fast-flow Philadelphia defense, the use of misdirection has the potential of breaking the field wide open for Baltimore’s playmakers. The Eagles have a number of speedy players in their own right, but they can play undisciplined at times.
In addition, the use of misdirection—especially on the end around—could be a tremendous move to keep Philadelphia rushers Trent Cole and Jason Babin honest. If the rushers crash too far inside to play the run, the edges will be open.
3. Safety First
The strength of the Philadelphia secondary lies on the corners. Domnique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha are one of the better tandems in the league. Moreover, both corners are perfectly capable of defending on an island—freeing up other defenders to help against the run and to fly around as blitzers.
However, safeties Nate Allen and Kirk Coleman can be exposed, as neither player is tremendous in pass coverage. If the Eagle corners stay outside the hashes to patrol the sideline routes, the safety duo will be matched up quite often against Baltimore’s slot receivers and tight ends between the hashes. This is a matchup that the Ravens must look to exploit.
1. On the Edge
While Rice may be the catalyst for the Ravens’ outside running game this coming Sunday, the same can easily be said about LeSean McCoy. The young phenom is perhaps the best off-tackle rusher in the league.
The Eagles use a well-coordinated pulling scheme to get McCoy out in space. Once he gets a clear pathway, he has the speed to erase angles and get into the second level of a defense.
The challenge for the Baltimore edge defenders is to keep contain against McCoy and turn him into an inside runner. The outside linebackers struggled to keep contain throughout the preseason, as they tended to crash too hard inside and get caught in the wash. The task is even harder given that Mike Vick is a constant rushing threat and the Eagles use him as a decoy to spring McCoy loose.
2. Pocket Passer
Vick may be at his most dangerous with his back against the wall—which is why it is imperative to contain his big play ability. Blitz Vick and he has the arm and the deep threats to expose man-to-man coverage. Worse yet, he also has the speed to accelerate past defenders that turn their backs to run with receivers down the field.
Play zone and Vick will have to work harder to complete accurate throws into tight windows. In addition, defenders will have their eyes on Vick if he decides to take off from the pocket.
The Ravens need to mix in a controlled pass rush with zone coverage to deter Vick from being a runner and test his ability to stay patient as a passer.
3. Blitz with Caution
There will be instances when the Ravens have to take a chance with their blitz, and when they do, look for a combination of blitzes coming from the slot. The Ravens used the slot defender—either Lardarius Webb or Bernard Pollard—to attack Andy Dalton last week and they were able to get home and cause disruption.
Vick has had his struggles with reading this blitz in the past, and this attack can be quite useful to get him off the spot, as long as the rushers play with control.
One-on-One Matchup of the Week
Michael Oher versus Trent Cole
This is clearly Oher’s toughest test during his second act at the left tackle position. Cole plays with tremendous leverage and burst off the ball to blow past opposing tackles. However, he complements his speed game with inside spin and rip moves to keep the left tackle guessing. Oher has the athleticism to stay with Cole, but he can’t let the deceptively powerful DE get into his body.