Stay Out of Predictable Passing Situations
For one of the few times this season, the Ravens were productive on first down in muddy Chicago. In staying balanced in those situations, the offense had more manageable third downs, and they were a bit more unpredictable overall.
The Jets have a lethal pass rush and with Rex Ryan pulling the strings, it’s even more deadly in obvious passing situations. To keep Ryan from dialing up exotic looks on third down, the offense will need to stay on schedule. If they have a tough time generating yardage on early downs, it’ll be a long day for the offensive line and quarterback Joe Flacco.
Extend the Running Game
Against Chicago, Ray Rice feasted on the 31st ranked rush defense in the league. The Jets are poised to bring him back down to Earth. They only enter the game as the top ranked run defense. Talk about a role reversal.
The down front of Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, and Sheldon Richardson is big, physical, and gap sound. They not only do an excellent job of occupying blockers but they can also penetrate into the backfield. Behind this group are two downhill pluggers in Demario Davis and David Harris. The duo doesn’t miss many tackles.
The Ravens will have their work cut out for them to move the ball on the ground, but that doesn’t mean they can completely abandon the run. They will need to pick their spots to hit some quick draw plays, which worked well from the shotgun formation against the Bears.
Beyond the ground attack, the Ravens need to use extended handoffs to their backs and receivers in the way of bubble screens and underneath pass plays. For as good as Davis and Harris are moving downhill, they are not nearly as nimble in their back pedal. Spacing them out and getting them to move laterally is the Ravens’ best bet to move the ball.
Make the Right Reed
Reed makes his quick return to M&T Bank Stadium. Unlike his last game as a Houston defender, he’ll look to pick off Flacco at least once wearing Jet green.
This is a game in which Flacco can use Reed’s aggressiveness against him. The sixth-year quarterback isn’t known for using his eyes to move defenders out of position, but that’s what he’ll need to do to keep the venerable safety guessing.
Flacco will also need to throw the ball accurately outside of the numbers. The Bills had a field day against corners Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner, and Reed was often late with his deep coverage support. Given the high percentage of man coverage that the Jets play, there should be opportunities for big plays down the sidelines, and Flacco needs to capitalize.
Late Blitz Movement
Former Rex Ryan disciple Mike Pettine was rookie quarterback Geno Smith’s worst nightmare last Sunday. He tormented the young quarterback with deceptive looks, often keeping his rushers at bay until right before the snap. The well-timed blitzes kept Smith from making the right checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Timing is something the Ravens used to have in spades with their blitz attack. Now their blitz is stale and predictable, as the rushers declare their moves way too early in the snap count.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to take a page out of Pettine’s plan and recreate the multiple blitz looks he unleashed against the Bengals. In particular, Lardarius Webb was dynamic with his late blitz movement in that game. He’ll need to be active to scramble Smith’s pre-snap reads.
Take Away Smith’s First Read
Not only does an effective blitz distort Smith’s ability to run the plays as called, but complementary post snap movement can also shake up his progressions. If defenders drop into spots that Smith hasn’t accounted for, he’ll have to hold the ball and scan the field for the open man. Reading the field is simply not one of Smith’s strengths. Like most young QBs, he is much more comfortable depending on his first read being open.
The Ravens need to be aware of Smith’s predetermined first reads and play aggressively to take away those routes. Overall, Smith has to find other alternatives in the passing game to keep drives alive.
Early Down Stop Sign
Without Haloti Ngata lining up over center in Chicago, the inside lanes were wider, and tailback Matt Forte took advantage. He averaged 4.6 yards per rush and ripped off some big runs on early downs.
The problem for the front line is that they face an even better between-the-tackles rusher in tailback Chris Ivory. When he gets enough carries, he can be a workhorse, and the Jets don’t hesitate to feed him the ball.
The agenda should be to keep Ivory from gaining four yards or more between first and second down.
One-on-One Battle of the Week
Muhammad Wilkerson versus Marshal Yanda
It is amazing to see the development of Wilkerson since the Jets drafted him three years ago. Outside of J.J. Watt, he is the most dominant defensive end in football. With a long wingspan and quick first step, he is simply overpowering at the point of attack. Yanda hasn’t been healthy all season, and his game has suffered as a result. Still, the Pro Bowl guard is tough and has a chance to assert himself against the Jets’ best defender.