MAILBAG: Ravens tip their hand?

Lombardi's Way MAILBAG: Ravens tip their hand?

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Does Ray Rice really trip over the yard lines or does someone tie his shoestrings together? ~ Tom Burns

Ray Rice was once known as an elusive back, particularly in open space and a back that seldom went down on first contact. But now he goes down rather easily and as you seem to suggest, sometimes even on his own. It’s as though his mind is a step or two ahead of his feet and you see the results.

Rice needs to slow down and let the game come to him. He seems to lack patience these days and given the lack of productivity in the running game his anxiousness is understandable. But like the MLB batter who presses at the plate and continues to struggle, Rice needs to relax, slow down, trust in his line and trust his abilities. If not, those shoestrings will become a regular problem.

I have some knowledge of what a “game plan” and a “scheme” consist of, but I hope you can describe what an actual or hypothetical “game plan” and “scheme” would look like in some detail. Thanks. ~ Robert E. Martinaitis

A game plan is designed each week by NFL teams to exploit the perceived weaknesses of the opponent while protecting their own vulnerabilities. Coordinators will call upon the plays in their respective playbooks that they believe will best expose the soft spots on the other side of the football.

Tendencies are heavily considered and help to shape play calling in certain down and distance situations. Audibles are installed specifically for that game based upon those tendencies as are blocking assignments that may change just seconds before the snap. Most of these things are installed in the classroom during the week of preparation leading up to the game.

Matchups are often key to determining where teams might attack. For example the Steelers are well aware of Terrell Suggs because he’s been a menacing force against them. They will roll protection schemes towards him and they might also plan to use bubble screens and slants from the shotgun or with short drops from Ben Roethlisberger to somewhat neutralize Suggs.

Coordinators chart plays in advance to help them sort through game situations in the 25 seconds allowed by the play clock. Some as you know find it more advantageous to make calls from the booth while others prefer to call from the sidelines.

Those calling from the sidelines can have direct lines to the quarterback or defensive player wearing the green dot. Those in the booth must make their calls to a sideline assistant coach who then relays the call to the green-dotsmen.

It’s a process for sure and clearly not as simple (and sometimes not as effective) as telling a receiver to go down to the Pinto and do a button hook.

Why does Joe Flacco pat his butt whenever it’s a run play? Isn’t that a hint to the other team? ~ Deana Munchow

Deana, nice observation and yes it absolutely is a clue for the opponents, particularly if the Ravens keep doing the same things, the same way. Usually when Joe does that he is signaling to his backs that they are changing the direction of the run. That could be based off a line call or something that he sees when under center.

A couple other tendencies that are troublesome – when OT Ricky Wagner entered the game last week 7 times as an eligible receiver (announced by the PA guy) the Ravens ran the ball. You might also notice that when they pass the linemen set up a bit differently.

If you see it and I see it you know that the professionals paid to uncover such tendencies see it. Hopefully the Ravens will use such tendencies against their opponents in the future. This weekend wouldn’t be a bad place to start!

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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