Game Preview

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Patriots Wild Card Game

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Offense   1. Quick drops: Against Pittsburgh and Oakland, quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked eight times. In particular, he and the offensive line struggled on third down, against heavy blitz packages.   Enter New England and Bill Belichick’s blitzkrieg scheme. Belichick doesn’t have the edge rushers that he’s had in years past, so he relies on exotic looks to breakdown protection. He’ll bring defenders from every direction, including from the secondary.   Against Baltimore in Week 4, New England blitzed Flacco often, and they will likely recycle the same formula....

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Raiders

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  Offense    1)    Use Asomugha as a decoy: Coming into this game, the Raiders big focus will be to slow down the Baltimore rushing attack. Given that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is able to shut down his side without safety help, Oakland will drop strong safety Tyvone Branch into the box on early downs. If Branch plays close to the line, there will be one-on-one opportunities for the receivers to exploit on the outside. For quarterback Joe Flacco, he must find a way to move the single safety away from cornerback...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Bears

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Offense   1)    Decipher the A gap blitz: Over the years, the inside blitz has been a staple play for the Chicago defense. This design has the inside and weakside backers perched directly in front of the A gaps. The backers will either blitz simultaneously; bluff the blitz; or one linebacker will shoot the gap while the other will drop.   Quarterback Joe Flacco had a tough time with this look against Indianapolis. The inside linebacker did a nice job of disguising his movement to indicate blitz, only to drop into...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Lions

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Offense   1)    Open attack from the start: The Ravens have reached the point where they can no longer afford to start slow on offense. Beginning every game in a two-back, one tight, two-wide set has yielded minimal results.   The team should open from a three-wide, shotgun spread formation. Detroit ranks dead last in pass defense, and the game plan should be to attack through the air on early downs. The offense needs to play with a killer instinct.   Moreover, this is also a game for quarterback Joe Flacco...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Packers

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Offense   1)     Rev up the three-headed monster: The three-headed monster made its return of sorts against Indianapolis two weeks ago. In that ballgame, the trio of Ray Rice, Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee gained 98 yards. The key though was the distribution of carries, as McGahee and McClain logged a total of nine carries.   Against the stingy Steelers, the three backs carried the ball 29 times for 132 yards. The formula was similar; Rice carried the ball 19 times, while McGahee and McClain again received nine handoffs.   As...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Steelers

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Offense   1)    Four-wide spread: Baltimore should take a page out of the Indianapolis game plan from a week ago. Last Sunday, the Colts started the game against the Ravens in a single back, four-wide look, in which tight end Dallas Clark flexed to the slot. With four targets spread evenly, the safeties had to honor the inside receivers. Thus, there were one-on-matchups available for Peyton Manning to exploit on the outside.   When Pittsburgh is in its base defense, the Ravens should pressure the safeties as much as possible. Spreading...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Colts

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Offense   1)    Pass in running situations; run in passing situations: For years, the book on the Colts has been to run the ball right at them. Even during the ‘06 season, in which Indianapolis won the Super Bowl, the unit was dead last in the league against the run. But against Baltimore, it has been a different story. Since 2005, the Colts have limited Baltimore to 309 yards on 92 attempts, for an average of 3.3 yards per carry.   The Colts’ formula has been the same during this quasi-rivalry....

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Browns

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Offense   1)    Diversified portfolio: For five straight games, the Ravens have stumbled out of the gate. The offense needs to play with better efficiency from the start or it will find itself behind the eight ball once again.   In particular, there needs to be a better mix of formations. Starting the game from a two-back, one tight, two-wide set has not worked well for the offense. The pattern of plays has been predictable, and defenses have shut that formation down on first and second down.   Against Cleveland, the...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Bengals

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Offense   1)    Spread attack: In the first matchup between these two clubs, the Ravens emphasized protection first, and executed a conservative game plan. Given the potential mismatches up front, the offense stayed in more base formations and the drops were quicker for Joe Flacco.   With Jared Gaither back in the lineup at left tackle, the protection scheme is back in line. Now, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can trust his front five to pick up the rush without help from extra blockers.   Arguably, the best formation that this offense...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Broncos

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Offense   1)      Fast break offense: In the past two contests, the Ravens started slowly and were unable to establish an early rhythm. They can’t afford to do that again against a Broncos team that feeds off of staying close in every game. The offense will have to play aggressively and look to strike early to establish a lead. The key has to be to force Denver to play from behind; a position that the Broncos have not been in.   Moreover, in this case, the best defense could be the...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Vikings

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Offense   1)      Attack the linebackers: The trio of Minnesota backers is as good a group against the run as there is in the league. They have great gap integrity, tackle well, and pursue from sideline-to-sideline. However, they are not as strong in pass coverage. This is a group that has given up big plays against tight ends. Specifically, Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley put together two of the bigger performances by tight ends this season.   The Ravens will need the same type of effort from Todd Heap. Heap will...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Bengals

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Offense   1)      Maximum Protection: With left tackle Jared Gaither on the mend, the line will have a reshuffled look heading into its matchup against the Cincinnati front seven. Rookie Michael Oher will man the blindside, while Marshall Yanda will take over for Oher on the right side. The two did an admirable job against the Patriots, but it will be a different ballgame against Cincinnati.   In Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers, the Bengals boast a pair of outstanding edge rushers. Both players are big, quick and use an array...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Patriots

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Offense   1)      Ball control: Despite moving the ball through the air more often than a year ago, the offense has remained true to its grind-it-out style. This group has incorporated more underneath pass plays in the form of screens and dump-offs, which have worked as long handoffs to the backs and the receivers. In addition, tight end Todd Heap has controlled the middle of the field, an area that he barely traversed last season. As a result of this expansion of the passing game, and the continuance of a powerful...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Browns

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Offense   1)    Bigs out wide: With tight end Todd Heap part of the passing attack again, and Kelley Washington as a viable No.3 receiver, the Ravens have big targets to turn to downfield. The size advantage could especially come into play against the undersized Cleveland secondary.   The cover duo of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald is solid. They have good short-area quickness and straight-line speed. However, at 5-foot-10 and nearly 180 pounds, both cornerbacks are mirror images who lack the build to man up bigger receivers.   This is...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Chargers

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Offense   1)    Heavy Metal: Last season the Ravens specialized in the use of the heavy package. A heavy package is a grouping that normally includes a tackle-eligible tight end, along with a combination of two backs and one receiver. The sixth lineman is brought in to anchor in the running game.   Last season, in game two against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore used Adam Terry to frustrate linebacker James Harrison. In that game, Terry’s primary responsibility was to attack Harrison in the running game as a means to slow down...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Chiefs

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Offense   1)      Identifying the Outside Rusher: With a new defensive coordinator in place, the Kansas City Chiefs will shift from a static 4-3 front, to a shape-shifting 3-4 base formation. The Chiefs will look to apply more pressure from this scheme to improve upon a dreadful output of 10 sacks in 2008.   The key to applying greater pressure will come from the play of the two rush ends. Kansas City added veteran Mike Vrabel in the offseason to pair with Tamba Hali, who is now a stand-up linebacker. The...

Ravens have notable concerns heading into Carolina

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There have been reports that the Ravens are likely in the market for an offensive tackle, just as they were a year ago at this time before they eventually pulled the trigger on Willie Anderson. Anderson was a perfect fit for what the team needed – a right tackle. This time, the team needs what they had from backup Adam Terry – a swing tackle capable of playing on both sides of the line.   There are some candidates on the open market who could fill that role, including former...

Filling the void left by Derrick Mason

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With wide receiver Derrick Mason’s stunning retirement, the Baltimore Ravens are left in a position to ponder what their next move will be.   Assuming that Mason’s decision is firm and not some negotiating strategy, the front office will have to make a meticulous move to fill their No.1 wideout’s vacancy in the lineup.   The list of available free agent receivers is full of prominent names. Future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison heads the pack, followed by veterans Amani Toomer and Marty Booker, former Titans Drew Bennett and Justin...

Building the Baltimore Ravens

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For any NFL franchise to be successful there needs to be a singular vision between management and the coaches for how to build the roster through the draft. For example, a big part of the unexpected success that the Atlanta Falcons enjoyed in 2008 stemmed from the symbiotic partnership between rookie general manager Thomas Dimitroff and rookie head coach Mike Smith. In an interview conducted with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dimitroff described the relationship.   “We see through similar lenses. It’s settling for Mike and me to know that we perceive...

Ravens’ defensive front looks to apply heat in more traditional ways

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  Even before the 2009 NFL Draft took place, the Baltimore front office knew that it had to add a pass-rushing presence to the defensive front seven. The rush has been formidable as a blitzkrieg attack, but in certain situations it lacked the means to sink the quarterback when the blitz was not in play. Without a consistent rush from the front four, offenses had the opportunity to use three, four and five-wide packages to hit on quick-hitting pass plays.   Enter Paul Kruger, a man who could change the...
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