1. Return of the jump ball
Against the giant Seattle cornerbacks, the Baltimore receivers were mostly ineffective. The same high-traffic catches that receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith have made all year along the sidelines weren’t in play.
There should be better chances for these two pass catchers to operate against veteran cornerbacks Nate Clements and Kelly Jennings. If the Bengals use more man coverage on the outside – which defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been known to do against Baltimore — Boldin and Smith will have the height and overall size advantage to go up for the football.
Quarterback Joe Flacco should be able to put the ball up and trust his receivers to snare it.
2. Prepare for the double barrel blitz
The Bengals don’t blitz often. But when they do, the “A” gap blitz – commonly referred to as the “double barrel” blitz – is one of Zimmer’s favorites. In this formation, two linebackers will hover over the “A” gaps and show blitz. Either the linebackers will shoot the gaps or bluff, forcing the protection to shift.
Being able to accurately read this blitz is a tricky assignment for any quarterback. Flacco will have to have a good understanding of where to go with the ball and be extra careful post-snap. If he anticipates incorrectly, he could find one of the would-be blitzers dropping into a passing lane, waiting to pick off his pass.
3. More Rice
It’s pretty simple. For the Ravens to win ballgames, running back Ray Rice must carry the ball a minimum of 15 times a game. In three losses this season, Rice has had 13 carries or less.
Although the multi-dimensional back has struggled to maintain consistency as a runner, he is still too explosive to be rendered a showpiece in the backfield.
The Ravens are about to face two of the stoutest run defenses in a span of 5 days. It can be very easy to abandon the running game in these games. But the running game – with Rice leading the way – has to be established to keep these defenses honest and effectively maintain the illusion of their play-fakes.
Perhaps more importantly, passing the ball too many times will lead to turnovers.
1. Press coverage
Last Sunday, the Ravens played things safe in their coverage scheme because they faced a Seattle receiving corps that was big and able to defeat press coverage.
However, against the Bengals, the corners must play more aggressively. While the Cincinnati receivers – especially rookie A.J. Green – are dangerous, the Ravens have to find a way to disrupt the timing of the passing game.
In particular, quarterback Andy Dalton gets rid of the ball quickly. He is mostly a three-step drop passer. Against a quick-hitting attack, the receivers have to be kept from running unabated off the line.
- Jump the underneath routes
Keeping with the theme of playing aggressive on defense, the corners should have some prime chances to jump routes. Again, Dalton is known for getting rid of the ball quickly and the Bengals execute a lot of timing based route combinations in which the receivers run quick curls, hooks or outs.
The Steelers were able to disrupt some of those pass attempts and eventually picked off Dalton a couple of times. If the Baltimore corners take a few chances, there might be a big payoff.
- Pre-snap movement
Over the last few games, the Baltimore defense has been more static than dynamic in their movement before the snap. The defense as a whole has been more conservative. As a result, there has been less pressure and turnovers generated.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano needs to get back to moving his chess pieces around and create some unique blitz packages to keep Dalton guessing. Although the first-year quarterback is intelligent enough to decipher exotic blitzes, Pagano can design some wild looks that will keep any quarterback guessing, let alone a rookie.
There should be a heavy dose of zone blitzes implemented, especially if Dalton reads blitz and looks to cut the ball through a seemingly open void. The goal should be to trip up Dalton in one of these situations.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch
Andrew Whitworth versus Terrell Suggs: This has been a classic battle over the years between two division foes. T-Sizzle has lacked some of the same pop he displayed in the first quarter of the season. Suggs has also had a tough time against Whitworth, who presents a huge obstacle – literally and figuratively. Arguably the best player on the Bengals, Whitworth is a physical blocker who will make Suggs earn his paycheck on Sunday.