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1. Pounding the rock: As much as the Saints have shown the ability to move the ball and score points, it has been their defense which has been the main cog during a strong 5-1 start to the season. The core of the unit is led by a quick, speedy front seven which creates pressure and forces turnovers. Although the front can cause some problems for an offense, they also are undersized, and a bigger offensive line has a chance to move them off the line-of-scrimmage. This is a game in which the Ravens offensive line must push the pile and win the battle up front. Not only should the Ravens look to establish a power rush attack up the gut, but they should also look to catch New Orleansâ€™ fast ends (Will Smith and Charles Grant) off guard with some draw and delay runs out of the shotgun formation.
2. Double moves and play fakes: Due to the fact that New Orleans front seven has played so well, the Saints secondary players, especially the corners, have not been tested much. When they have, they have been up to the task. That said, an offenseâ€™s best chance to make some big plays against the Saints is through the air. Mike McKenzie and Fred Thomas are savvy veterans, but they are aggressive and take chances in coverage in order to cause a turnover. Using some double move routes and pump fakes could get either corner out of position, and give the outside wideouts a chance to catch a deep pass or two. In the middle, the Ravens should try to attack second-year starter Josh Bullocks. Bullocks has range and does a nice job of disrupting passes, but he can get caught out of position at times because he looks to stop the run, so the Ravens could get him moving away from his landmark by using play-action.
1. Locating Reggie Bush: The Saintsâ€™ jack-of-all trades can confound a defensive coordinator. Bush has the ability to line up in any position on offense. Not only that, but he can win most of his one-on-one matchups. Considering how good the rest of the Saintsâ€™ skill players are on offense, the Ravens cannot devote all of their attention to stopping Bush. They are just going to have to trust that when Bush moves into a position off of motion, the right defensive player is defending him. More times than not, it should be Bart Scott or Adalius Thomas that checks Bush. Those two are the most athletic defenders on the field. And they are also physical enough to disrupt Bush before he releases into his route.
2. Releasing Reed: Ed Reed has yet to make a significant play since the first game of the season against Tampa Bay. He has been placed in many deep coverage situations, shading towards Chris McAlisterâ€™s side to take away a dynamic receiver like Steve Smith or Javon Walker. However, there is no need for double coverage against any of the Saints receivers. While Marques Colston is a deep threat who will be tough to guard down the field, Chris McAlister should fare well in that matchup given that he is used to covering bigger receivers. Reed will still have to help in certain situations, especially if the ball is forced down the field to Colston, but overall the coaches should try to get Reed more involved as a playmaker. He should be used on blitzes to pressure the quarterback and to stuff the run. And his services may be needed in close quarter coverage situations against Reggie Bush, especially because Reed is such a good open field tackler and Bush will be given the ball in space quite often in Sundayâ€™s game. Itâ€™s time for the defensive coaches to trust Dawan Landry in coverage more, in order to move Reed around like heâ€™s a chess piece.
3. Pressuring Brees: The primary reason for the Saintsâ€™ success on offense stems from the offensive lineâ€™s ability to protect Drew Brees. He has only been sacked six times. In games against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, the New Orleans front did not give up a single sack. While it will be a difficult task, the Ravens front seven must break through this iron wall that Brees has in front of him. The best way to accomplish this task is to use a lot of mix-and-match blitzes with just four or five players rushing, allowing the rest of the defense to play zone. In other words, these would be blitzes where the Ravens disguise the rushing defenders at the line. Perhaps on one play Terrell Suggs shows that he is about to rush out of a three-point stance, but at the snap he drops into coverage while the linebacker lined up behind him rushes by coming on a stunt up the middle. Running stunts, loops and twist blitzes using various defenders to create confusion is perhaps the best way to get pressure against the Saints.
One-on-One Matchup to watch: Jammal Brown vs. Terrell Suggs: Jammal Brown had to switch from the right tackle position to the left side, and he has made a seamless transition. Brown has played at a Pro Bowl level so far. He will have to deal with a motivated Terrell Suggs on Sunday. While Suggs has made a few plays here and there, he has yet to take over a game this season. There have been times when he could have gotten a sack or a pressure, but the quarterback was able to get away from him. Against Brown, who is physical and very powerful, Suggs will have to get a great jump off the snap in order to beat Brown around the corner.