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1) Throwing out of the pocket: So far this season, Kyle Boller has been more of a pocket passer, throwing the ball off of three and five step drops. Boller is a functional quarterback from the pocket, but he does have the ability to improvise and make plays outside of the box. In fact, Boller is a fairly accurate passer on the run.
Moving Boller around against the Bills may be a sound strategy to implement, given how quick and aggressive the Buffalo front is. The pocket could be broken down a number of times on Sunday, so getting Boller to throw outside of it could allow the offense to sustain its offensive plays.
Moreover, the Billsâ€™ ends (Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay) are up-field rushers who could be susceptible to breaking contain off the edges. They may bite hard on run fakes geared to flow to the play side.
2) Draws and delays: Against the quicker, more mobile St. Louis front seven, the Ravens struggled to move the ball on the ground. The Rams were able to split gaps and gain penetration into the backfield. The only instances when tailback Willis McGahee had any level of success running the ball were off the perimeter.
The Bills defense is structured in a similar manner, and there is little doubt that they will try to replicate what the Rams accomplished last Sunday.
The Ravens will need to counter by altering the running plays they call. Draws and delay runs should work well to split the gaps that the Buffalo rushers vacate, especially when Baltimore is in obvious passing situations.
3) Beyond the second level: Last Sunday, the Ravens finally started to attempt a few passes that covered more than 10 yards. Hopefully, they will continue this innovative offensive trend against the Bills.
Buffalo will be aggressive at times with their looks, dropping safety Donte Whitner into the box to help support the run. When Whitner moves closer to the line, Boller will need to check to at least one vertical pass play to exploit the cover one look in the back end.
1) Bait and switch: The Baltimore Ravens traditionally feast on young quarterbacks. However, Buffalo starter Trent Edwards is not an average rookie starter at quarterback.
Edwards is tough, smart and accurate. He has a quick release and he is outstanding at moving quickly through his progressions. If his first and second options are covered, he has no problem dumping the ball off underneath to tailback Marshawn Lynch. The Ravens probably wonâ€™t be able to rattle him early, but they can try to confuse the former Stanford Cardinal.
This is a game in which Rex Ryanâ€™s mad scientist formulas should come into play. Ryan will need to disguise his pre-snap looks to fool Edwards into making the wrong hot route adjustments at the line. Edwards has done a nice job of changing routes to exploit a certain blitz heavy look, so it will be important for the Ravens to not show too much before the ball is snapped.
2) Defending the screen: Despite the fact that the Ravens run such an aggressive scheme, it has been difficult for opponents to execute screens against the Baltimore defense.
The Raven defenders do a nice job of recognizing the play, and even if it is executed perfectly by the offense, a number of the players up front are able to recover quickly and flag down the ball carrier before he gets into the secondary.
The Bills have started to use Lynch more and more in the passing game. Lynch will initially chip block, then run past the incoming pass-rusher and into the open area to catch the ball. Buffalo ran a couple of these tricky screen plays against Dallasâ€™ 3-4 front, and will do the same against the Ravens.
The front seven will need to be aware of Lynch at all times, especially on third-down. He should be jammed and hit as much as possible before he leaks into a passing lane. In order to snuff out the screens, the front seven will need to be in the right spots and not over pursue.
3) Limiting the YAC: The Buffalo wideouts are not big, but they are fast and agile. They are especially dangerous in the open field. Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed are all capable of making defenders miss tackles.
Without Chris McAlister in the lineup on Sunday, tackling may be a sore spot for the secondary. This is a game in which the back-end defenders must play crisp and fundamentally sound. Once the receivers catch the ball, they need to be corralled and limited to minimal gains.
If the defensive backs are not on top of their games, the Bills could spring a number of big plays against the Baltimore defense.
One-on-one Matchup to Watch: Aaron Schobel versus Adam Terry: Terry has battled an ankle injury for the past two weeks, but it appears that he will try to play on Sunday. Terry will be tested against one of the top defensive ends in the league. Schobel is not the most athletically gifted player, but he is relentless and plays with sound technique. Terry has the feet and extension to handle edge rushers, but he can be overpowered if he lets the defender get his hands underneath his shoulders.