Battle Plans: Ravens vs. Bengals

gresham

Offense

1.      Pass from power sets    

It’s clear that without receiver Anquan Boldin in the lineup, the Baltimore passing game is in a state of flux. Moreover, with the potential loss of guard Marshall Yanda as well, the pass protection could be in serious question against a formidable front seven.

To overcome these issues, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron must look to pass from predominant run-heavy fronts. Showing the Bengals run-action, only to pass off the fake could be the most effective move to slow down the Cincinnati rush and spring a few plays.

Look for these plays to pay dividends on first down, when defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will commit to stuffing the run.

2.      Pitta in the slot       

Without Boldin, the Ravens lacked any semblance of an intermediate passing game. The next man up was tight end Ed Dickson, and he proceeded to drop two critical passes that were perfectly placed in his hands.

In Dennis Pitta, the Ravens may have the perfect inside target for Flacco to turn to, especially on third down. He has reliable hands and is an effective route runner. Pitta was adept in this role in a Week Nine matchup against Pittsburgh. He is particularly effective on crossing patterns.
The Bengals may focus much of their attention to taking away deep threats Torrey Smith and Lee Evans. There should be room for Pitta to operate, and he should be featured on Sunday.
 
3.      Balanced attack   
                           

Particularly on the road, the Ravens have been unable to establish an ideal run-to-pass ratio. In all of their road losses, the Ravens have fallen behind and they turned to the pass too soon. Against the Bengals, this strategy won’t cut it.

The biggest key for the Ravens is to maintain a running game throughout the contest. However, they cannot put themselves in a hole by running the ball on first down every time.

This has been their approach in other contests – the Jacksonville game being the perfect example – and converting on third down became an even bigger struggle. The Ravens should keep the running game going and mix it in on apparent passing downs.

Defense

1.      Nickel defense   

Given San Diego’s success spreading the Ravens defense out, Cleveland used the same approach and had mild success, especially on first down. The Browns used a variation of three-wide formations to open up the middle of the defense.

The move also helped running back Peyton Hillis take advantage of a lighter box, as he was able to gash the Ravens on cutback runs.

The Bengals will undoubtedly follow a similar game plan. And what makes the Bengals dangerous is that they can use the three-wide look with tight end Jermaine Gresham as the flex receiver.
The Ravens will need to stay prepared by using the nickel as their base defense on first down.
 
  1.  Hands up        

When these two teams lined up in Baltimore, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton was able to consistently release the ball before the rush could get to him. Dalton anticipated the Ravens’ blitz and stayed discipline with his drops. If the play called for a three-step drop, Dalton released the ball as his back foot hit the third step.

In order to disrupt Dalton’s timing, the front line has to anticipate when he releases the ball, and look to knock the ball down.

  1. Bracket Green

The Bengals might come into this game with a dynamic trio of pass catchers, but make no mistake — A.J. Green is the person of interest. Green is an athletic receiver who can out leap and outmaneuver defenders for the football. Dalton has so much confidence in Green’s ability to get the ball that he’ll throw it into double or even triple coverage.

In a game like this, Green needs to be accounted for on every play. The safeties can’t cheat too far inside and leave the corners hanging out to dry. Conversely, the corners will have to use outside technique to funnel Green to the inside.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch 

Bernard Pollard versus Jermaine Gresham: Depending on how defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano decides to use his safeties, Pollard may figure prominently as a rover defender, especially to help in coverage against Gresham. Gresham looks more like a small forward than a tight end. He is big enough to box out smaller defensive backs. Meanwhile, Pollard is one of the biggest and toughest safeties in the NFL. This should be a physical contest.

 
This entry was posted in Battle Plans, Game Preview by Dev Panchwagh. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh
Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for Ravens24x7.com since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports...more

One Rave about “Battle Plans: Ravens vs. Bengals

  1. Haloti92 on said:

    That is a darn good read. Your suggestions and keys to the game are right on target, straight down the line. Everything you said is true and crucial.

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