BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Titans

Battle Plans BATTLE PLANS: Ravens @ Titans

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1. Five wide: One of the new wrinkles that Brian Billick has installed in the offensive playbook since taking over as the offensive coordinator is the use of five receiver sets. Part of the reason for this expansion of the passing game has to do with Billick catering to Steve McNair’s comfort zone as a passer. In Tennessee, McNair operated successfully out of the spread formation, and so far this season he has been just as successful throwing out of the empty backfield package. The frequent use of this formation to extend the passing game should be a part of the offensive game plan against Tennessee. The Titans will use a heavy blitz attack to disrupt the spread attack, but if McNair is able to locate his hot reads and get rid of the ball quickly, he should be able to complete passes consistently, especially in the intermediate area of the field.
2. A mix of carries: Jamal Lewis wanted more attempts in the running game, and Billick has responded by giving him 31 and 24 carries in the last two games against New Orleans and Cincinnati. While Lewis has run the ball with more tenacity and purpose, he still has not gained the amount of yardage he should gain given the high number of carries he has received. With that being said, Lewis will still get the ball plenty of times against the Titans, especially because Tennessee is so porous against the run. However, if his average per carry stays in the 3.0 ypc range, Mike Anderson and Musa Smith should get to run the ball more, perhaps netting 5-to-6 carries a piece. Both runners bring an extra gear and burst that Lewis has yet to show this season, and they deserve to chance to be involved in the offense.
3. The hot slot: In the last couple of weeks, the Ravens have had success attacking in the passing game using slants and other inside routes in the middle of the field. Demetrius Williams in particular has made a couple of clutch catches in third-and-long situations going over the middle. With Clayton and Williams able to make tough catches in pressure situations, the coaches should continue to use both players in the slot in order to exploit certain one-on-one matchups. Not only are they capable of operating in that part of the field, but they both possess the skills to gain yards after contact.


1. Attacking Young: The best way to rattle a young quarterback is to make him do things that he is not comfortable doing. In the case of Vince Young, when he’s been at his best, he has made plays outside of the pocket either running or throwing the football. When Young has had to make low risk throws off of play-action or off the edges, he has been efficient. When he has had to operate out of the pocket, he has struggled. Forcing Young to be a patient and effective pocket passer should be the Ravens’ goal on Sunday. The Ravens will obviously attack using pressure packages, but they should also be careful with some of the blitzes they use. The strategy should be to play more zone coverage and use multiple fronts and stunts to confuse Young, and get him to make decisions with the football at a quicker rate than he may normally make.
2. Playing the jump ball: There will be a number of instances when Young airs the ball down the field against Baltimore’s secondary in order to either hit on a deep play or draw a pass interference penalty. It will be a lot harder for the Titans to string together long scoring drives against the Ravens, and given that the Baltimore secondary has given up a high percentage of long pass plays throughout the season, it makes sense that the Titans will take their shots down-the-field. It will be important that the Ravens corners are able to neutralize these pass plays because quite frankly, Tennessee really has no other way of moving the ball consistently then to hope for a Baltimore mistake in the back end. Expect to see Young try to use the jump ball in order to give his taller receivers (Drew Bennett and Brandon Jones) a chance to win their one-on-one battles against Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Kevin Mawae vs. Kelly Gregg: Although Mawae has lost a step or two and is not quite as efficient at blocking at the pont-of-attack, he is still one of the more consistent O-line signal callers at the center positon. Mawae is solid because he uses great technique and rarely makes a mental mistake. His opponent will be Gregg, who is quietly having a Pro Bowl season. Gregg is tough to deal with because he stays low to the ground and never stops driving his man off the ball.

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Dev Panchwagh

About 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 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 journalist, but his contributions to sports talk radio were noticed, leading to duties as a regular columnist for the network before joining RSR.  It would be very difficult to find his rare combination of youthfulness, knowledge and insight in all facets of football anywhere else.  Fortunately, Dev brings it here each and every week. 

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