Game Preview

Without Big Splash, Ravens Passing Game Should Still Improve

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  Despite the early projections, the Baltimore Ravens did not add a highly heralded, go-to wide receiver. The team was pegged as the front-runners for Anquan Boldin, and on the radar for other veterans such as T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Torry Holt. Moreover, rumors were high and rampant that the front office would nab a talented wideout through the 2009 NFL Draft. After all, a number of analysts forecasted this year’s class to be among the deepest in a long time. Instead, the Ravens opted to make other alterations to the...

Battle Plans: Baltimore Ravens v. Pittsburgh Steelers

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Offense   1) Internal Clock: Quarterback Joe Flacco has gotten better with his footwork within the pocket. He has adopted a keen sense of when to move to open spaces, and when to get rid of the ball before the rusher closes in. That said, against the Steelers, his intuitive sense of when to release the ball has to be quicker than ever.   In his past two performances against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense, young Flacco has held the ball too long. Instead of taking the sack, he has made...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Titans ~ Divisional Playoff

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  Offense   1) Draws and delays: When the Ravens faced Tennessee during the regular season they were able to run the ball effectively out of the shotgun set. In particular, in obvious passing situations, the draw play worked well against a hard-charging Tennessee defensive front.   The play sets up well for the offense when it runs away from All-Pro Albert Haynesworth, who will make his return to the Tennessee lineup on Saturday. Specifically, when the action was directed against the right side of the Tennessee line, tailbacks Willis...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Jaguars

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  Offense   1) Backs out of the backfield: When the Ravens faced the Steelers and the Cowboys, the backs and the tight ends were relegated to blocking roles, to help the offensive line contend with ferocious pass-rushing units. Against Jacksonville, the backs and the tight ends should have more freedom to release on pass routes, as the Jacksonville rush can be better contained with just one extra blocker helping the line on third-and-long.   In particular, the tailbacks should be active as pass catchers in this passing game. Given...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Cowboys

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  Offense   1) Backside screens: One of the most innovative plays that the Ravens ran against Pittsburgh was a form of a chip-block screen play to fullback Lorenzo Neal. The play was designed to pull linebacker James Harrison up the field so that Neal could sneak past him and into the flat area.   This type of play could prove fruitful against Dallas as well. Like Pittsburgh, Dallas boasts a tremendous upfield rush that is relentless. To slow them down, the Ravens should use their backs, just as they...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Steelers

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   Offense   1) Blocking the rush ends: When facing Pittsburgh, the primary objective of an offense is to protect the quarterback and pick up the blitz. To extend that point further, an offense must contain the blitzkrieg duo of James Harrison and Lamar Woodley at the outside spots.   As 3-4 outside backers, the two linebackers are essentially rush ends who can put their hands down and move past the outside shoulders of the tackles they face. If extra blockers are used to help the offensive tackles, then they...

Battle Plans: Washington Redskins v. Baltimore Ravens

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  Offense   1) Anticipate the blitz: Despite the success that the Baltimore wideouts have had over the past few weeks, the Redskins will stick their corners on an island against them and take their chances in man coverage, freeing up the underneath defenders to act as blitzers.   There are a number of ways in which the Ravens can combat the Washington blitz. One, they can set up quick-hitting screens to their receivers or backs. Two, quarterback Joe Flacco could operate out of the shotgun, spread formation. By receiving...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Bengals

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  Offense   1) Blitz pick up: Despite the numbers, the Cincinnati defense has been playing better as of late. But the Bengals are still amongst the worst in the league at rushing the passer. The front four has been a incapable of breaking down the pocket.   To compensate, the Bengals will dial up the blitz early and often against the Ravens. Cincinnati will likely try to probe the Baltimore line off the edges, so the tackles will need to be aware of their blitz assignments and the extra...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Eagles

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  Offense   1) Pound the rock: In last Sunday’s contest against the Giants, the Baltimore front line was pushed around all day. This front needs to reestablish their energy against a Philadelphia front seven that is lightning-quick, but lacks the size to hold up for four quarters.   Against the Eagles, the prescription for getting better as a rushing unit will be to make a commitment to pound the middle with guts, dives and slam runs. The Ravens should turn to the their base two-back, two tight and one...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Giants

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  Offense   1) Pass out of power formations: The New York modus operandi is to stop offenses cold on first and second down, setting up challenging third-and-long conversion situations. This is when the Giants unleash hell, so to speak. New York leads the league in the sack department, having already registered 30 and counting.   Clearly, the Baltimore offense does not want to be in too many third-and-long situations against this defense. Not only is the New York front four able to pin its ears back and beat their...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Texans

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  Offense   1) Chipping away: Way back in Week One of the 2008 season, the Ravens successfully executed a chip-blocking scheme against the Cincinnati Bengals. As the man-to-man pass blocking from the offensive line has improved, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has not had his extra blockers chip as much since then, but the plan should be revisited this Sunday.   By chipping incoming pass rushers, not only did the backs and the tight ends do an excellent job of slowing down the rush, but they also became instant outlet...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Browns

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Offense   1) Mixing up the runs: In the first game against Cleveland, the Ravens did a nice job of managing a balanced rushing attack. They bounced plays off tackle to get the defenders chasing, and by the fourth quarter, they drilled the Browns up the middle.   In the rematch, the same type of strategy could work. The Ravens will need to use all three of their backs, and keep the Browns guessing, in terms of whether the ball will go off tackle or up the middle. Primarily, the...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Raiders

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Offense   1. Downfield shots: With quarterback Joe Flacco, the offense has been more conservative, but last Sunday against the Dolphins, the former Delaware signal-caller was given the reins to fire the ball around the field. Flacco was efficient, converting nearly 74% of his passes from a variety of formations, including the empty set.   However, Flacco was unable to hit on any of his shots downfield, and has yet to show the same level of accuracy on his deep throws as he has on the short ones. He may...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Dolphins

Offense   1) Positive yards on first down: Last Sunday against the Colts, the game plan was more conservative on first down than it should have been. The team tried to hammer the undersized Indianapolis from the jump and it failed miserably.   The Colts gave up nothing on first down, which led to longer second and third-down conversion attempts for the offense.   This week, the offense needs to get back to winning on first down. First down, not third down, is the most critical down in football. If...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Colts

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Offense   1) First down play action: Against Pittsburgh, the Ravens were aggressive on first down and used the run-action fake to execute a greater percentage of their pass attempts. Although the offense was unable to hit on any completions downfield, the play action did help to slow down the Pittsburgh run, giving quarterback Joe Flacco enough time to go through all of his progressions.   Considering that the Colts will be keyed in to stop Baltimore’s rush attack, use of play action to get the linebackers and the safeties...

Ravens searching for closure

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Over the last two seasons, the Baltimore defense has been in position to protect leads and win ballgames, but they have blinked too many times. Despite having the numbers and being certified as the No.1 defense in the league, the unit still does not do what a great defense should do — close out opponents.   Going back to the early portions of last year’s throwaway season, the defense cracked more times than they withstood. Remember the near collapses against Arizona and New York? If Justin McCareins could catch, the...

BATTLE PLANS: Tennessee Titans v. Baltimore Ravens

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Offense   1) Unleash Heap: Through the course of three games, Todd Heap has just three catches. That is an alarming statistic to say the least, especially if one considers how ballyhooed Heap’s role in the offense would be prior to the start of the season.   At some point, Heap has to become a factor in the passing attack. His primary role has been as a blocker, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has to find someone else to handle that role.   Whether Heap is motioned, flexed out or...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Steelers

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Offense   1) Run left: Remember those old NFL films clips of Vince Lombardi diagramming the power sweep? Lombardi’s primary objective was to keep coming at a defense with the same play until a defense could stop it. Most of the time, there is no need for a coordinator to be cute to outfox a defense when he can come straight at them until they wilt.   In the last two games, this is precisely the philosophy that Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has adhered to. To finish off the...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Browns

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Offense   1) Three-wide sets: Given the way that the Browns have played defense the past two Sundays, Baltimore may have the means to establish a balanced attack. Cleveland has been hemorrhaging in the secondary and on the front line; Dallas and Pittsburgh were able to make big plays in the passing game to establish early leads, and then finished off the Browns with their ground attacks.   Even though the main focus of the Ravens’ game plan will be to pound the rock, they should try to use more...

BATTLE PLANS: Ravens at Texans

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  Offense   1) Chipping away: Thanks to the execution of a well-devised game plan, quarterback Joe Flacco rarely hit the ground against the Bengals. Among offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s strategies was to have Flacco move outside of the pocket on rollouts and bootlegs; use three step drop pass plays; and implement the chip-blocking scheme.   By chipping incoming pass rushers, not only did the backs and the tight ends do an excellent job of slowing down the rush, but they also became instant outlet receivers for Flacco to turn...