Seemingly every week, one of the make-or-break aspects of the game for the Baltimore Ravens is whether or not the secondary can defend the opposing passing game.
Like clockwork, the Ravens continue to struggle against the pass, and Sunday’s game against Jacksonville Jaguars promises to be the same story.
Led by second-year quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jaguars pass attack is one of the best in the NFL, as Bortles has amassed 17 touchdowns and nearly 2,200 yards. His inconsistencies have held the offense back as a whole, however.
Leading the charge at wide receiver for Jacksonville is a dynamic duo of second-year receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Each has already totaled over 35 catches and 600 yards this season, and each has produced six touchdowns.
Having such potent threats at wide receiver come into Baltimore should certainly worry the Ravens and defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Sunday’s game has the makings of a high-scoring shootout, with Hurns and Robinson sure to see plenty of targets.
What allows each receiver to excel?
At 6’3, Hurns is the size threat for the Jacksonville offense. But despite his height, his subtle movements in his route can shake off agile defenders.
Here, running step for step with the defender, Hurns carries his momentum slightly toward the sideline, just enough to make the defender react.
The subtle movement may not look like much, but it creates more than enough separation between Hurns and the defenders.
This allows a free run down the seam for the receiver.
The open field ahead of Hurns allows him to become a target for Bortles, and the quarterback places the football where only Hurns can catch it.
Hurns uses his size and athleticism to fully extend and haul in the pass at its highest point.
Limiting Hurns’ use of his size is one battle; the other is keeping up with his agility. The Baltimore cornerbacks have struggled mightily in all aspects this season, leaving justified concern as to whether Hurns can be neutralized.
But Hurns is not even Baltimore’s biggest issue. That title goes to Robinson.
Taking a big step forward in his second season, Robinson is a threat in just about every way. From speed, to quick cuts, to ball location, to the ability to win jump balls, Robinson is a well-rounded opponent for the Baltimore secondary.
All of the positive aspects of Robinson’s game were on display last week against the New York Jets.
In the short area game, Robinson is matched up against Darrelle Revis. Robinson offers a quick move to the inside.
He then abruptly cuts back toward the outside and then upfield, and the rapid movement throws Revis off guard, forcing the cornerback to play catch up.
As Robinson separates from Revis downfield, he is then met by a second defender, who attempts to box the receiver out on a 50/50 ball.
Robinson, however, successfully locates the ball in the air and reaches for it at its highest point.
Robinson effortlessly hauls in the pass with the defender draped over him.
Defending Robinson simply is not enough, as his ball skills and physicality when the ball is in the air make him a threat on any passing situation.
For the Baltimore secondary, cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb will lead the attempt to neutralize Jacksonville’s imposing duo. With Smith’s up-and-down play and Webb’s struggles against quick receivers, it could be a long day for the Ravens defense.