It was rather obvious early on in training camp that the 2012 Baltimore Ravens were going to have a different look this season. No longer would the offense be a caretaker of the football and a protectorate of the lead. If anything, as we observed on Monday night, Joe Flacco & Co. resembles hit men who look to deliver kill shot.
And the national media has taken notice.
If the Ravens were a baseball team they would be known for their pitching and defense and a lack pop with their bats. But suddenly they can also knock the ball out of the park.
The question that Cam Cameron’s unit needs to answer is, “Can they do it consistently?”
The Ravens will begin answering that question and more today at The Linc in Philadelphia. Here are a few challenges that lie ahead:
The Eagles will showcase their wide-nine defense that features speed on the edges with Trent Cole and Justin Babin. In order to neutralize the effectiveness of the wide-nine, the Ravens will need to utilize misdirection to freeze the dangerous ends. They will also need to feature Ray Rice more frequently as a runner and on the receiving end of screens designed to quiet the Eagles pass rush. For this approach to be successful the Ravens will have to win on first down and avoid obvious passing situations. Otherwise the Birds’ bookends can create havoc.
No more Vickadelphia?
Despite the win in Cleveland, it was anything but pretty and that has raised concerns in Philadelphia. The Eagles’ $100 Million quarterback threw four interceptions against the Browns, matched by Cleveland rookie QB Brandon Weeden. If the Ravens start fast and they get the Eagles on their heels, particularly on offense, the crowd could turn on Vick and calls for another rookie QB Nick Foles who dazzled Philly fans in the preseason, will be loud and clear.
And let’s not forget, that while the Eagles enjoy a 5 game winning streak dating back to last season, those wins were at the expense of quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, Stephen McGee (who took over for Tony Romo in a meaningless game), Rex Grossman, Matt Moore and Weeden. Those five QB’s combined for a passer rating of 56.5 against the Birds.
Pedal to the Metal
Many believe that a no-huddle offense is challenged on the road. But if successful there’s no better way to quiet a home town crowd than by executing the fast break offense in enemy territory. The Ravens will need to maintain the killer approach they showed against the Bengals.
The no-huddle might also help to weaken the Eagles dangerous pass rush. If you start to see Cole and Babin with their hands on hips, that’s a sign that the approach is working.
Overthrow the King
Filling in for the injured LT Jason Peters is King Dunlap. Fortunately for the Eagles, that isn’t southpaw Vick’s blindside. Dunlap has looked like a substandard tackle and it will be important for Dean Pees to bring heat from that edge and force Vick to his right. Paul Kruger will need a bounce back game after being dominated by the Bengals. This is his chance. This also could be the perfect opportunity for the Ravens to activate Sergio Kindle. This Eagles weakness combined with the road game where it’s easier for defenses to communicate may prove to be the ideal setting for the hearing impaired Kindle to finally make his mark in the NFL.
Put the shade on Shady
Throughout the preseason the Ravens have looked suspect defending the run. That didn’t change against the Bengals and today Pees’ rushing defense will be challenged by one of the league’s best – LeSean “Shady” McCoy. To neutralize McCoy the Ravens will need solid production on first down and they’ll need someone to step up and shade the edge, particularly on the defensive left edge where McCoy enjoyed great success against the Browns last week.
Eliminate the big play
The Eagles aren’t a 10 play, 80 yard drive kind of team. They rely on explosiveness and when healthy they have plenty of firepower. But the Eagles are a little nicked up on the outside with DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip) both slowed by injuries. Centerfielder Ed Reed will need to play smart in this one and help the Ravens keep the Eagles offense in front of them.
This one is an interesting matchup in that each teams’ strengths are geared to exploit the other’s weaknesses. The Eagles will dial up coverage to check the Ravens offensive speed on the outside but that will leave the middle of the field vulnerable and Flacco seems to be dialed in with Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson and of course Anquan Boldin. And that sets up well because Joe will need to get the ball out quickly to avoid the disaster that looms on the Eagles defensive edges.