1. Control the Blitzkrieg
The biggest staple of Washington’s defense is their all-out blitz game. The Redskins will show a lot of aggressive looks – at times showing Cover 0 where there is no safety help over the top. In other instances, they will bluff the blitz and have the hovering A gap blitzers fan out to clog the inside passing lanes.
For Joe Flacco to be successful, he’ll need an assortment of quick-hitting blitz beaters at his disposal. The ball must be out of his hand quickly and decisively. Moreover, before he releases the ball, he’ll have to be careful to make sure a linebacker doesn’t drop into a spot he thought would be vacated. All in all, Flacco will need to be prepared to see all ends of the blitz spectrum.
2. Play Keep Away
One of the standout aspects of the Giants game plan against Washington was their ability to control the clock. The Giants won the battle by a little more than a seven-minute differential. This may not seem like a big deal, but they were able to limit RG3’s snaps on offense, and keep the game a low-scoring affair.
The Ravens will need to sustain offensive drives in a similar manner if they want to keep the red-hot rookie quarterback on the sidelines. That means finding a way to convert third downs by running the ball and using the short passing game as an extension to the running game.
3. Red Zone Efficiency
It’s amazing to think that after lighting up the Raiders for 55 points, the Baltimore offense has scored just three touchdowns in the weeks after. Offensive drives have stalled for a variety of reasons, including penalties, sacks and poor short-yardage execution.
Whatever the case, the Ravens will have to get their act together when they get inside of the red area. Field goals won’t be enough to compete against a suddenly explosive Washington offense.
1. Don’t Chase the Dive
Much has been made about Robert Griffin III (RG3) and his ability to orchestrate the read-option offense. From a technique standpoint, the concept is simple. If the edge defender chases the running back on an inside move, RG3 can keep the ball himself and run off tackle. If the edge defender stays true, RG3 can hand the ball off and the back will have more space to get rolling downhill.
Again, it’s a simple concept, yet a nightmare to defend. For the Ravens, the onus will be on the OLBs to hold their ground on the edges and let the ILBs take care of rookie Alfred Morris on the inside handoff. If everyone sticks to their assignments and they don’t over pursue, it’ll be tougher sledding for Morris and RG3.
2. Keep your Eye on the Prize
Perhaps the toughest aspect of defending Washington’s version of the read-option is the deceptive ball-handling skills of RG3. His play-action fake is hard to decipher, and he has mastered the ability to hit passes over the middle off of the play-fake. In fact, even when biting linebackers have enough recovery speed to undercut RG3’s throws, he gets enough velocity on the ball to fit it in a tight window.
The best way for the linebackers to defend this play is be prepared to turn their hips and disrupt the inside passing lanes. If the inside backers bite too hard on the inside fake, RG3 will have a field day throwing the ball behind them.
3. Don’t Lose your Man
RG3 doesn’t just put a front seven in a bind. He’s equally dangerous against secondaries. With his ability to get outside of the pocket and buy time with his legs, the rookie flamethrower will extend routes for his receivers.
When RG3 starts to scramble, it’ll be imperative for the back end defenders to stick with their coverage responsibilities. If they break their coverage responsibilities to run down RG3, he will make them pay down the field.
One-on-One Matchup of the Week
Torrey Smith versus DeAngelo Hall
Of all of the Washington defenders, Hall is perhaps the most enigmatic. He can look like a shutdown corner on one play and absolutely overrated on the next. His coverage skills are on the decline, but he still has impressive ball skills and anticipation. Smith is back to being a more consistent factor in the passing attack. He has the speed to make Hall pay for being too aggressive.