Anticipate Wade Phillips’ aggressive defense
Especially the blitz in third-down passing situations. The biggest vulnerability in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense is the middle of the field. Trestman’s game plan for Joe Flacco will need to be comprised of a lot of three step drops where Joe can get the ball out quickly against the Broncos pressure defense. Route combinations such as Tare (Flat Route and Stick Route), Spacing (Curl Route and Flat Route), Smash-Divide (Corner Route and Hitch Route) and Slant-Flat Routes are all designed to give the Quarterback a quick two level read.
Get the ball out and eliminate the talented Broncos pass rush from collapsing the pocket. The back end of the Broncos secondary is questionable. Flacco can take deep shots down the field. Broncos Free Safety and former Raven, Darian Stewart, is not good in deep coverage. Look for Baltimore to have Aiken stretch the field with deep vertical routes targeting Stewart’s inability to cover deep. Baltimore will surely miss Perriman here. He has the ability to stretch the field easily.
Power runs to split the middle
The Ravens will have to go to the power running game often and run the ball in-between the tackles. A position to target is the Nose Tackle, Sylvester Williams. The recently converted Nose Tackle from Right Tackle has had some difficulties in run defense this preseason. The Ravens can go after Williams with power running plays such as the Wham or Lead Open. Establishing the running attack is a great way to keep the pass rush honest.
Bunches and Clusters to free up receivers
Denver has two talented corners in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Both Talib and Harris are very good in press man coverage. In order to combat press-man coverage, Trestman likes to use Bunch and Cluster formations to free up Smith Sr, Aiken, Brown or Campanaro. Use the formation to free up a receiver through rubs or misdirection. The 3×1 formation or an empty set will also allow Flacco to determine if the Broncos are playing man or zone coverage.
Once Flacco determines the coverage scheme, he can call the right audible if necessary. Adding in a versatile Tight End such as Crockett Gilmore to the formation also helps open up the passing game. There are three main routes run by the tight end in a Trestman offense – Seam, Square-in and the Corner. These routes are designed to attack man coverage and allow Gilmore to win a matchup against the Safety or Linebacker.
Mind games with Manning
One of the issues from the 2013 opener was that the Ravens did not disguise their pre-snap looks. Manning was able to recognize the formation and attack it. Dean Pees will have to coach his players to change their looks pre-snap so that Manning cannot get a good read. The defense can give an A-Gap Blitz look to Manning with Mosley or Smith. At the snap both can bail out into coverage.
Manning will be under center a lot more in Kubiak’s offense. The Ravens will need to blitz when Manning is under center and has to turn his back on handoffs or play-action. Manning is not a very mobile quarterback and the Ravens need to collapse the pocket to make him uncomfortable. The Ravens will need to get the Broncos offense into third down passing situations. Kubiak’s multi-receiver formations aren’t as dangerous and pass protection can be exploited.
Manning will test pass coverage
In 2014, Mosley was targeted 96 times and allowed 83 completions. Both of these were NFL highs for all inside linebackers. Mosley’s pass coverage has to improve this season. Baltimore will be at full strength at the corners with Smith and Webb back on the field. Webb has the ability to play outside corner or inside as a slot corner. Webb and Arrington are both excellent slot corners. Expect Rashaan Melvin (assuming he plays) to receive a lot of targets from Manning. Brady went after him in the playoffs last year with great success. Melvin had difficulty playing Press man coverage last year. Deeper routes, especially those that break outside toward sideline, give him trouble. He can also be burned by double moves. WRs, even those who aren’t necessarily quick, are able to get separation. Will Hill will have to rotate over to Melvin’s side of the field to help out on coverage.
Shut down the run
Kubiak’s offense is predicated on play-action and early down run success. Kubiak’s running attack is based on the zone running scheme and C.J Anderson is a good fit. He has good vision and the one cut mentality that is needed in the zone run. The key matchup is the Broncos interior 3 linemen vs the Ravens interior 3 linemen. The defensive line (Canty, Williams, Davis, and Jernigan) must make tackles at or behind the Line of Scrimmage, force a run to the outside so the edge of the defense (Suggs or Upshaw) can make a play or take on blocks to free up Daryl Smith and CJ Mosley to fill in gaps. If Jernigan can’t play, look for Brandon Williams to slide over to DT and rookie Carl Davis to play Nose Tackle. Both will try to go after the Broncos Center, Matt Paradis.
Matchup to Watch
Demaryius Thomas vs. Jimmy Smith
Will Jimmy Smith cover Thomas 1-on-1? Thomas is a big receiver that uses his body to shield the ball. Will Smith need safety help up top? Leaving Smith on an island with Thomas will allow Will Hill to help Melvin or Webb cover WR Emmanuel Sanders or the TE Owen Daniels.